What are the risks of taking too much acetaminophen?

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
Acetaminophen is a widely used medication and is safe when using the proper dosage. In this video, I will explain that too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage and even death.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Acetaminophen is one of the most popular painkillers in the country. It’s mostly known as the active ingredient in Tylenol; however, it can be found in other over-the-counter products like Dayquil, Midol, and Excedrin. If you take all of these products, you may be overdosing on acetaminophen, which can endanger your liver.

Classic medical cases of acetaminophen overdosing has led to severe liver damage, requiring a liver transplant, or death. The medical term for this extensive liver damage is fulminant hepatic necrosis, or rapid liver cell death.

However, the latest research shows that taking slightly too much acetaminophen over a period of several days could damage your liver. Your liver cells are in charge of processing medications and chemicals that is absorbed through the GI tract. As the enzymes in your liver cells process acetaminophen, a toxin is released that damages liver cells. This toxin, N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI), binds to important functional enzymes and obstructs the liver’s antioxidant abilities. It literally becomes an anti-antioxidant. In high doses, it can cause liver failure.

If you show signs of liver damage, like yellowing skin, itchy skin, or darker urine, see medical treatment immediately. There is an antidote for acetaminophen damage that can be used at the hospital.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.