Thursday, December 01, 2005


This is not "new" news, but an important story to remember.

THURSDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Overdosing on acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is now the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States, accounting for at least 42 percent of all cases seen at liver centers, researchers report.

About half of these cases are due to unintentional poisoning as opposed to attempted suicides, the researchers added.

Compared to the millions of acetaminophen tablets taken by Americans every day, the number of poisonings still remains low. But the fact that the percentage of cases of acute liver failure linked to the drug almost doubled from 28 percent in 1998 to 51 percent in 2003 is troubling, the researchers said.


Acetaminophen is best known by the brand name Tylenol, but is found in more than 100 over-the-counter products, including cold and cough remedies such as Benadryl, Contac, Robitussin and Sinutab, and medications for menstrual cramp such as Midol and Pamprin. According to background information in the study, more than a third (36 percent) of Americans take the drug in one form or another at least once a month.


While intentional overdoses resulting in acute liver failure generally manifest right away, unintentional overdoses are, in a way, more insidious and are often not recognized until later.

Overall, 80 percent of people who develop acute liver failure will die, Larson said. About 30 percent of those who develop acetaminophen-related acute liver failure will die, which is still a fairly high proportion, and some will need transplants in order to survive, she added.


The median dose ingested was 24 grams, or the equivalent of 48 extra-strength tablets. Some patients, however, reported taking significantly less than this, suggesting that smaller doses may also be hazardous.

People who had unintentionally overdosed tended to be older, were taking several medications containing acetaminophen and waited longer to seek help. Most were taking the medications for pain and many also had depression and were taking alcohol or narcotics.

More than a third (38 percent) of those who unintentionally overdosed took at least two acetaminophen preparations at the same time and almost two-thirds (63 percent) used narcotic-containing compounds, according to the study.

The majority within this group (81 percent) were taking acetaminophen and/or other analgesics for pain.

A third of the patients (35 percent) died, and 27 percent died without undergoing a transplantation. Eight percent underwent a liver transplant, the study found.
I learned of this phenomena while training to be a therapist. People, often teens, use Tylenol in hysterical suicide attempts not realizing that without immediate medical treatment they will in fact kill their livers.

It's important to recognize that because a medication is available at Costco over-the-counter, doesn't mean it's totally safe.

Besides. If I'm gonna kill my liver, I'd much rather do it slowly with a good cabernet.


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