Warning: This Common Painkiller May Cause Liver Damage

by | January 17, 2014 at 1:32 PM | Health

(iStockphoto)

What you take for headaches, aches and hangovers maybe devastating to your health in the long run.

By Amy Capetta, iVillage.com

Serious stuff — the Food and Drug Administration has announced that doctors should limit prescribing combination meds that contain acetaminophen since an excess of this drug may cause severe liver damage, which could lead to liver failure and even death.

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“There are no available data to show that taking more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per dosage unit provides additional benefit that outweighs the added risks for liver injury,” the statement read, as reported by FoxNews.com. “Many consumers are often unaware that many products (both prescription and OTC) contain acetaminophen, making it easy to accidentally take too much.”

Acetaminophen is a type of drug that is frequently used in pain meds, such as Vicodin, Percocet and even Tylenol. In fact, three years ago the FDA asked the drug manufacturers to limit the prescription drug combinations to 325mg per tablet or capsule by this month. While some companies followed the new recommendation, some of the higher dosages continue to remain on the market.

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However (as of now anyway), this warning does not apply to OTC drugs containing acetaminophen. According to CNN.com, the FDA recommends no more than 4,000 milligrams per day for the average adult. It sounds like a lot until you consider the fact that one tablet of Extra Strength Tylenol contains 500mg.

And liver damage is not the only “side effect” from acetaminophen. It may also cause a potentially deadly skin rash called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome — a warning the FDA announced back in August. So the next time you self-medicate a toothache or back pain, it would be in your best interest to read the label to see if the OTC contains acetaminophen, which may be labeled as the abbreviation APAP. And if your doctor writes you a prescription for pain meds, speak up and ask about the dosage.

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In other words, be your own advocate.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.