Oct. 8, 2001 -- Several warnings have come out recently about the popular pain reliever acetaminophen, Tylenol being the best known brand. But a new study shows that although we still need to exercise caution when taking this and any other drug, acetaminophen does appear to be quite safe even in people who are most at risk of having problems.
Acetaminophen has been used for many years and is generally thought to be a safe over-the-counter medicine. But when taken at high doses, acetaminophen can cause problems, especially for people at high risk of having liver damage such as long-term alcoholics.
So researchers at the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in Denver wanted to determine if acetaminophen, when given at the maximum recommended daily dose to long-time alcoholics, would lead to any further liver problems. Theoretically, if this dose were safe in alcoholics, then it could be presumed to be at least as safe, or even more so, in those without liver damage.
The researchers gave either acetaminophen or placebo to 200 long-term alcoholics who currently were not drinking alcohol. The acetaminophen was given at a dose of 1,000 milligrams -- equal to two extra-strength Tylenol -- four times a day for two consecutive days.
Study author Edwin K. Kuffner, MD, and colleagues found that those taking acetaminophen suffered no more liver injury than those taking placebo. Their study is published in the Oct. 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
It is important to repeat that this dose is within the recommended dose on the bottle and was only given for two days. This study is not able to tell us if taking this much acetaminophen would lead to problems if it were taken for longer than this.