A look at the shelf space devoted to Tylenol (acetaminophen) in drug and discount stores gives the impression that everyone is popping them like candy, and you should be too. Tylenol is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter drugs taken worldwide for treatment of pain and fever. But that bubble seems to be bursting as more research documents the pitfalls of our love affair with this common drug solution. Keep reading to discover true acetaminophen side effects.
The latest is the finding published this year in JAMA Pediatrics that acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol), the active ingredient in Tylenol, may raise the risk of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), behavior problems, and hyperkinetic disorders by up to 40% in children whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy. And the more Tylenol taken, the greater the increase in risk.
Previous findings from several investigations have shown that acetaminophen is a powerful hormone disruptor, and abnormal hormonal exposure during the fetal period may negatively influence brain development. Tylenol may also be neurotoxic to developing brain cells.
A study published in late 2013 found that women who took acetaminophen during pregnancy had a 70% increased risk of their children exhibiting serious behavior problems by the age of three.
Not surprisingly, the manufacturer is denying the value of these findings, and claiming that Tylenol has “one of the most favorable safety profiles”. This statement is laughable in light of the evidence to the contrary.
Tylenol is Safe – Really?
A study by the University of Copenhagen has concluded that the risk of cryptorchidism (undescended testicles), which can cause fertility problems later in life, is dramatically increased by maternal use of acetaminophen or other painkillers. The increase in risk is related to the volume and frequency of painkiller use, and the part of the pregnancy during which painkillers are taken.
Is acetaminophen use responsible for the escalating rates of autism? A study published last year in the journal Environmental Health explored the relationship, identifying country-level correlations between indicators of prenatal and perinatal use of acetaminophen exposure and autism spectrum disorder.
Like all ecological analyses, their data cannot provide strong evidence of causality. But a growing body of experimental and clinical evidence linking acetaminophen to metabolic pathways shown to be important in autism and related abnormalities was revealed. Taken together, this evidence strongly suggests the need for further study.
Further adding to acetaminophen side effects, an earlier study published in JAMA found that after healthy adults took the maximum recommended dose of Tylenol for only two weeks, 40% of them suffered liver damage. The co-author of the study, Dr. Neil Kaplowitz of the University of Southern California said, “I would urge the public not to exceed 4 grams a day. This is a drug that has a rather narrow safety window.” He added that those drinking alcohol should not exceed 2 grams a day.
The U.S. Acute Liver Failure Study found that 50% of all liver failures are caused by acetaminophen. Other studies of continuous use show that 60% of participants suffer hearing loss and compromised immune systems.
Hepatoxicity (liver poisoning) from acetaminophen can be acute enough to cause quick death, or chronic to the point of resulting in kidney degeneration and cancer.
According to a review of data published in 2012, the association between acetaminophen use and asthma prevalence and severity in children and adults is well established. A variety of observations have suggested that acetaminophen use has contributed to the recent epidemic of asthma in children.
The research specifically cites:
- Strength of association
- Consistence of association across age, geography and culture
- Dose-response relationship
- Correlation between increased acetaminophen use and the asthma epidemic
- Relationship between per capita sales of acetaminophen and asthma prevalence across countries
Teenagers who take acetaminophen are more than twice as likely to have asthma compared to teenagers who do not. This was the finding from a study in 2010. More than 322,000 children ages 13 and 14 from 50 countries participated.
The researchers concluded that those who used acetaminophen at least once a month were a whopping 250% more likely to have asthma than those who did not use it. Those who used acetaminophen only once a year had a 43% greater chance of having asthma compared to those who did not use it.
Aches and pains are very common, but that does not mean automatically reaching for dangerous painkilling drugs. Instead try rest and relaxation, improving your diet, getting fresh air everyday, using heat or cold packs, easing pain with aromatherapy, or buying one of the herbal preparations on the market for pain. Here are 16 of nature’s best natural pain killers.
Overview of True Acetaminophen Side Effects:
- Acute liver failure and liver damage
- Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
- Behavior problems
- Hyperkinetic disorders
- Hormone disruption
- Potential fertility issues