Author: James Anderson

Acetaminophen and alcohol: Safety and risks

acetaminophen and alcohol

Secondly, the CYP2E1 liver enzyme breaks down around 5-10% of the drug. In response, the liver produces an antioxidant called glutathione, which the body uses to remove the toxin before it can build up and cause liver damage. The liver is responsible for breaking down acetaminophen and alcohol. Due to this, excessive consumption of both alcohol and acetaminophen can have dangerous side effects.

When you recommend or prescribe a medication that can interact with alcohol, this scenario presents a natural opening to review or inquire about a patient’s alcohol intake. The potential for a harmful interaction may provide a compelling reason for patients to cut down or quit drinking when warranted (see Core articles on screening and brief intervention). Otherwise healthy people without existing liver disease can follow the recommendation to moderate—rather than restrict—alcohol intake when taking Tylenol. Mixing alcohol and medicines puts you at risk for dangerous reactions. Protect yourself by avoiding alcohol if you are taking a medication and don’t know its effect. To learn more about a medicine and whether it will interact with alcohol, talk to your pharmacist or other health care provider.

acetaminophen and alcohol

But Dr. Gray says it’s important to understand the potential risks. In particular, mixing Tylenol and alcohol can increase the risk of liver damage because both substances are processed and broken down by the liver. Consuming both at the same time can essentially force your liver to work overtime and make it harder for this essential organ to perform its usual functions. They mainly occur when people take acetaminophen alongside certain opioid drugs in an attempt to relieve pain.

Ready to give up the lead vest?

These pains often go hand in hand with drinking, so you may have even used alcohol and acetaminophen at the same time. If you were left wondering about your safety, know that the combination isn’t dangerous if you don’t misuse either one and don’t have certain risk factors. It is not safe to take acetaminophen (paracetamol, Tylenol) while drinking alcohol. Together, acetaminophen and alcohol can irritate the stomach and, in severe cases, cause ulcers, internal bleeding, and liver damage. The best way to avoid complications is to take the right amount of acetaminophen for a safe length of time and to drink only moderate amounts of alcohol. If you have liver disease or increased risk factors for liver disease, talk to your doctor about other pain remedies that are safer for you.

Depending on what kind you take, side effects include damaging your liver, making you more likely to bleed in your gut, and slowing down your central nervous system. However, there is no scientific evidence that people with AUD who take the recommended dose of acetaminophen increase their risk of liver damage. In combination with alcohol, acetaminophen can cause side effects or severely damage the liver. This can also be the case when people who drink alcohol regularly take too much of this medication. The type of liver damage from misuse of alcohol and acetaminophen is called acute liver damage. Symptoms of acute liver damage can be severe and happen within a few hours.

  1. Essentially, combining the two substances makes it harder for your liver to perform its usual detox process and counteract the damage.
  2. It’s always a good idea to ask for medical advice or check with your pharmacist about the safety of combining Tylenol with other drugs.
  3. Some medications—including many popular painkillers and cough, cold, and allergy remedies—contain more than one ingredient that can react with alcohol.
  4. If you binge drink or frequently drink a lot of alcohol, you’re also at increased risk of liver damage.
  5. They won’t judge you, and they need to know the truth so that they can make the best recommendation for your health.

NSAIDs can often be used interchangeably with Tylenol to treat pain and fever. You probably didn’t do damage, if you took the recommended dose of Tylenol and only had one drink. But technically, mixing alcohol and acetaminophen (sold over the counter as brand-name Tylenol) can cause problems for your liver. For example, research suggests chronic alcohol consumption can worsen liver damage from acetaminophen overdose.

Medications typically are safe and effective when used appropriately. Your pharmacist or other health care provider can help you determine which medications interact harmfully with alcohol. Your body converts a very small byproduct of metabolized acetaminophen into a toxic substance that can be harmful to your liver. Luckily, a secondary substance called glutathione helps minimize the toxic effects. Acetaminophen overdose can cause acute liver damage, failure, and death in the most severe cases.

As it does for many medications, your body metabolizes acetaminophen in the liver. When you take the recommended dosage, most of it is converted by your liver into a benign substance that’s removed in your urine. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.

Alcohol And Acetaminophen Risks

If you binge drink or frequently drink a lot of alcohol, you’re also at increased risk of liver damage. It’s important to be honest with your doctor about the amount of alcohol you drink. They won’t judge you, and they need to know the truth so that they can make the best recommendation for your health. Many people have also taken acetaminophen (Tylenol) to relieve minor aches, pains, or fever.

acetaminophen and alcohol

Fortunately, educating patients about the risks of combining medications with alcohol may help them avoid negative outcomes. Here, we describe briefly how alcohol and medications can interact, and we provide a few examples of common medications that could interact negatively with alcohol. We provide links to resources to help you mitigate these risks, including a consensus-developed list of potentially serious alcohol-medication interactions in older adults.

The bottom line: Stick to the recommended dose and moderation

National Library of Medicine, taking acetaminophen can be dangerous for people who regularly drink alcohol. Acetaminophen alone can cause toxic damage to the liver, which is called acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity. This toxicity is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the U.S. However, most negative side effects occur due to excessive consumption of both. It is typically safe to drink a small amount of alcohol while taking this pain reliever.

Taking acetaminophen at high doses or together with alcohol can cause several side effects. This risk of severe side effects may be higher for people with alcohol use disorder (AUD). In this article, we outline the side effects and risks of taking acetaminophen and alcohol together and give tips on how to stay safe. However, for people who take too much of the drug or who have existing liver problems, the damage can be lasting and even cause death. Your liver is a large organ in the upper right side of your abdomen.

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

Chronic, prolonged use of alcohol can cause damage to vital organs. Long-term alcohol use can contribute to kidney toxicity, cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, heart failure, brain damage, and a physical dependence. Someone with an alcohol use disorder may already have a compromised liver, and combining Acetaminophen with more alcohol can worsen the risk of irreparable damage. They are at an increased risk of having kidney or liver failure and should not combine the two.

It also helps with blood clotting, and it filters out any toxic or dangerous chemicals in your blood. Damage to your liver can reduce its ability to perform these functions. It can also lead to increased pressure in your brain or abnormal bleeding and swelling. If you’re taking medications to manage your pain, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any reactions that may result from mixing them with alcohol. In general, if you’re going to drink at a party or other social event and you take a couple of doses of acetaminophen the next day for your headache (again, no more than 4000 mg in a day), you should be fine. In fact, both acetaminophen and alcohol utilize glutathione in the liver to temper their toxic effects.

Alcohol also decreases glutathione production, meaning NAPQI is more likely to build up in the liver in dangerous concentrations. Talk to your doctor before using acetaminophen if you’re not sure if you drink too frequently to use this drug. Many enzymes in your body break down acetaminophen and other drugs so your body can use them. Drinking in moderation and using acetaminophen as directed can help minimize your risks.