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Y’all know this shit is dangerous, right?

I don’t indulge in many conspiracy theories, but I’m sure there’s something weird behind the dramatic shift from aspirin to Tylenol that happened…when was it? The Eighties? I know aspirin has some issues — stomach bleeding mostly, Reye’s syndrome is extremely rare — but it’s cheap and it works and it has awesome side benefits.

Tylenol (acetaminophen in the US, paracetamol in the UK) doesn’t work (honestly, it doesn’t do jack for me) and is extremely dangerous in overdose, causing acute and sometimes fatal liver failure. Worse, overdose can be as little as twice the normal dose, particularly if you’re washing it down with alcohol (which soaks up liver enzymes you need to deal with the OD). Worse, it’s really easy to get an overdose, especially if you have a cold, because they put it in everything from Nyquil to cough medicine.

I don’t mean to be patronizing. I’m sure you know this. You may not share my hate-on with the stuff, but I trust you know to be careful. Only, an acquaintance of ours is currently dealing with acute liver failure that was very likely caused by doubling up her paracetamol to deal with aches and pains. She didn’t know.

Coincidentally, did you see this? It’s all over the web today: dumbass British kids on Twitter daring each other to OD on paracetamol. It’s got the breathlessness and lack of detail characteristic of social media moral panics. In other words, I’m hoping it’s complete bullshit.

But damn — how did this stuff become the ‘safe’ over the counter painkiller?


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: May 27, 2015, 10:21 pm

I *have* to take Tylenol now. I’m on Coumadin blood thinner (a.k.a. ‘Warfarin’) and can’t take aspirin or Advil or anything that additionally thins your blood like anti-inflammatories.

Having said that, occasionally I do sneak an Advil when I get a serious headache that Tylenol won’t touch (frak ’em :+)

Tylenol isn’t that great a painkiller, but it *is* pretty good at breaking a fever.

Aspirins always kinda upset my stomach.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: May 27, 2015, 10:28 pm

I have taken Excedrin (aspirin, acetaminophen, and caffeine) my whole life. I’m nearing 70 and for more than twenty, maybe thirty years take it multiple times daily for aches and pains. It will probably kill me eventually. For the last twenty years I get really bad headaches, migraine like headache that even Excedrin won’t touch.

Like the fictional Vir Cotto in Babylon 5, I just want to live long enough to see a certain person’s head on a pike.

Comment from Timothy S. Carlson
Time: May 27, 2015, 10:42 pm

Two aspirins a day – one in the morning, one at night – as a blood thinner so I don’t stroke out anymore. Maybe. Been 5 years since the last stroke, so I guess it’s working.

I won’t touch tylenol. My old man had the issue with an OD shortly before his death. Wasn’t the OD that took him – skin cancer and dementia did that.

I take my medicines with milk, so no issues with the stomach upset.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: May 27, 2015, 10:49 pm

I hate the stuff too. I have a friend, a retired nurse, who said one of the saddest duties she has undertaken is bidding farewell to teenagers who walk out of hospital after a suicide gesture, on their feet and quite bright, while she knew they’d be be back in, dead, in a few weeks following inevitable liver failure.

I don’t share the high opinion of modern medicine that many enjoy (note: that is ‘classic British understatement’ at work)and I am quite sure that the relentless promotion of this stuff will be on the charge sheet when the time comes.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: May 28, 2015, 3:45 am

Dangerous indeed. I think at the very least, you should have to sign for Tylenol, and that it should be kept behind the counter so the pharmacist has to sell it to you. It makes my skin crawl and I swear it makes my brain itch. But I can’t take any OTC pain relievers and very little prescription pain drugs—only morphine and demerol.

And while we’re sharing—ibuprofen can be dangerous too. Most people don’t know that long-term ibuprofen use can cause substantial hearing loss and garbled hearing—where you can’t understand what is being said. The ibuprofen paralyzes/destroys the tiny hair cells in the cochlea.

Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: May 28, 2015, 3:58 am

I had gallbladder surgery in March. During the whole process they discovered I have a fatty liver. I don’t fit the demographic. I’m thin, exercise quite a lot and don’t drink. They think it’s from Advil use. As a runner I pop those things like candy. Well, not any more. I hurt a lot now but I’d rather not need a liver transplant. Ice and heat are now my best friends. Tho I have a love/hate going with the ice.

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: May 28, 2015, 6:16 am

The Army and VA issue Ibuprofen like it was candy. I recall taking obscene amounts of Ibuprofen when I was active. I’ve been really working to cut down on the amount of OTC drugs I take for pain. Yoga and Acupuncture are my new friends. That and a pro-grade heating pad by Battle Creek Equipment. They’re expensive but oh man, oh man is it the bee’s knees. I take it with me everywhere I go.

Comment from Stark Dickflüßiᵹ
Time: May 28, 2015, 1:05 pm

Yeah, people look at me like I’m crazy when I say tylenol is deadly shit.

“But you can just buy it OTC. Why would they let something that dangerous be sold without a prescription?”


I think it actually is a conspiracy. But I think it’s aided by the fact that there basically aren’t any side effects. People take the drug, their liver takes its damage, but they eventually die of something else, since the liver is pretty good at taking damage most of the time.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: May 28, 2015, 1:36 pm

I seem to recall my mother bringing some Tylenol home from the hospital where she worked, in the late Sixties or early Seventies — it wasn’t in the stores yet, I don’t think. It worked to a degree on the sinus headaches (I call ’em that, not knowing what really caused ’em) I dealt with every month or so from age 13 until age 43. They stopped occurring so often when I stopped drinking, and quit entirely after a course of treatment with that prescription deal with the horrific amounts of caffeine — it’s not sold any more, and I can’t think of the name. Began with an “s,” I think.

I stick with ibuprofen and aspirin now.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: May 28, 2015, 4:44 pm

Had a friend who was an alkie. She’d take acetaminophen for the hangovers, and blew out her liver.
Ibuprofen has a limit where it will do more harm than good. It’s a non-selective prostaglandin inhibitor, which means it inhibits good prostaglandins as well as the inflammatory ones.

Comment from Can’t Hark My Cry
Time: May 28, 2015, 5:02 pm

I had severe menstrual cramps every month from the age of about 12 and there was absolutely NOTHING that would even slow them down (except birth control pills, but they had their own drawbacks). Until Ibuprofen. Which they started marketing when I was in my mid to late twenties, and I took it religiously for a day or so a month until I hit menopause. In the 15 or so years since then I’ve probably taken painkillers at most once a year. I never liked having to take them.

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: May 28, 2015, 5:18 pm

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: May 28, 2015, 4:44 pm

. . . Ibuprofen has a limit where it will do more harm than good. It’s a non-selective prostaglandin inhibitor, which means it inhibits good prostaglandins as well as the inflammatory ones.
Something about that makes me think I should renew my Viagra script, stat.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: May 28, 2015, 7:55 pm

I find it mildly odd no one has mentioned naproxen sodium (Aleve). I’ve found it quite effective in at least blunting arthritic pain and the occasional head-ache and ear-ache. Anybody have any informed, or amusingly uninformed, comments on the stuff?

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: May 28, 2015, 8:19 pm

Uncle Al, I’ve been using the Naproxen now and then, one pill for 12 hours. Seems to work okay. (That was probably amusingly uninformed, but I’m not a chemist, though I was married to one once.)

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 28, 2015, 9:43 pm

I remind you all that I can buy Ibuprofen and codeine here. Over the counter.


Comment from QuasiModo
Time: May 28, 2015, 10:35 pm

I actually have hearing trouble of the type exactly described above…I have at times taken quite a lot of Ibuprofen. I have trouble understanding people…much worse when they have an accent. I have to use headphones and a headphone amplifier to watch TV.

There were a couple of times I had pneumonia and took *a lot* of pills (the fevers were killing me)…if I were to point at causal episodes, those would be the times.

The thing is, my hearing loss comes and goes, it’s often affected by the barometer, or like right now, sitting in an air conditioned room. It seems sometimes to be more like swelling in my middle ear…I can hear myself talking fine, more like I have water in my ears. I used to get wicked attacks of vertigo but much less now that I’ve cut way back on caffeine and quit smoking.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: May 28, 2015, 11:23 pm

@QuasiModo—Re: Vertigo. Do you know about Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)? here is a link you might find useful. http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/bppv/bppv.html

I developed crippling vertigo when I was getting chemotherapy for cancer. I would vomit so quickly and violently—rapidly flinging myself over for the trash can I kept between my knees—that I messed up my middle ear. But someone bends over or looks up a lot (perhaps on the job—think car mechanic, or inventory puller, cook, etc) can trigger the disorder. Lots of info online though if you want to research it. I still get it occasionally, for rolling over too fast in bed, of all things. But I do the exercises and it goes away.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: May 29, 2015, 12:10 am

@Deborah HH – Yes, I’ve heard of BPPV…a hearing doctor I went to gave me some exercises to help it…didn’t do much. Got an MRI, didn’t show anything. One of my hearing doctors said maybe Meniere’s disease, but that is pretty much a blanket term for ‘I don’t know’. Anyway, the vertigo is pretty much gone now since I eased up on caffeine and quit smoking and mostly quit drinking too :+) …the hearing loss is still there though…I can hear my blood pumping in my right ear…right ear is worse than left ear…the dizziness seemed to come from the right side too, when I had it. The vertigo was pretty awful…way worse than the worst drunk spinnies I ever had. Being in a closed office environment was hell on it…all the ozone from the printers and lack of ventilation made it much worse. I work at home now and always have the window open a crack, even in winter :+)

One thing about looking up is that I work on a computer all day and I do tend to have to look up at the monitor…I always kinda wondered if that might be bad…like babies sleeping on their backs tends to give them ear infections. One of these days I’m going to try and arrange it so that I can look down on the monitors (I have a dual monitor system).

Hope your chemo was a success after all that…my Ma just started taking it a couple of days ago for a spot in her lungs…supposed to do 5 weeks of that then 5 days a week radiation treatments for a while.

Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: May 29, 2015, 1:05 am

Sooooo, if I’m in the UK and need a little something I can just go into Boots and pick some off the shelf?

Comment from Feynmangroupie
Time: May 29, 2015, 2:11 am

Uncle Al,

I get really bad reactions within 15 minutes of taking Naproxen-violent dizziness, shakes, nausea. Needless to say, I refuse to take it.

Comment from mojo
Time: May 29, 2015, 3:52 am

Yeah, my brother in law had a friend that OD’d on that crap, liver just shut down, bang, gone.

Nice OTC meds.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 29, 2015, 7:36 am

Mrs C: not exactly. It’s behind the counter and you have to ask. If the pharmacist is gone to lunch, they won’t give it to you until she comes back (it’s usually she, and she’s usually African. Don’t ask me why). But it comes in two flavors: ibuprofen and codeine and paracetamol and codeine.

When I first started coming here, they also sold codeine cough syrup over the counter. But that became scarcer and scarcer and they started giving you the hairy eyeball for asking and eventually it stopped.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: May 29, 2015, 2:07 pm

@QuasiModo—Yes, my chemotherapy was a success, combined with surgery and radiation. My 5-year anniversary is in July. Share with your Mom if she has trouble with liquids: All I could stand to drink was tonic water with fresh lime squeezed into it. Like a gin & tonic without the gin. Water tasted awful, and I couldn’t stand anything sweet either. But the slightly fizzy, slightly tart tonic and lime tasted ok.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: May 29, 2015, 6:04 pm

@Deborah HH – Thanks for the tips, I will pass them on. Glad to hear of your successful recovery, congratulations :+)

Comment from JuliaM
Time: May 30, 2015, 6:36 am

Worry not, Snopes confirms that the #ParacetamolGame is indeed pure undiluted bullshit.

Sadly, our dim police farce (well, Scotland’s, but I expect Welsh & English farces to follow suit) has given it the imprimatur of reality by putting out official warnings.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: May 30, 2015, 10:31 am

Ah, I shoulda thought of Snopes, Julia. It had all the hallmarks of bullshit.

Comment from Just me
Time: May 30, 2015, 5:29 pm

Next Up: Beware Jenkem !!!!1!!!!2!!!!!!!

Comment from David Gillies
Time: June 2, 2015, 2:50 am

They deliberately put acetaminophen in with oxycodone (hence percocet). Percodan is the one with aspirin, and it’s impossible to get. The reason for putting acetominophen in with what is one of the stronger opioid analgesics isn’t to make it work better. Oh no, that would be sensible. It’s to kill people who are addicted to oxycodone. It’s as bad as the Feds deliberately adulterating alcohol during Prohibition. That put paid to 10,000 or so people. It’s incredibly wicked.

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 2, 2015, 11:41 am

Oceania says don’t fucking touch it.

Sweasel might have some Neanderthal DNA – or failing that … Asiatic ….

Comment from Farmer Joe
Time: June 18, 2015, 7:17 pm

I can only take Tylenol since my stomach operation. I limit myself to 2. It seems to work OK for me. If I have pain it can’t cope with, I’ve got leftover oxycodone.

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