Taking just a little ‘too much’ Tylenol over the course of days or weeks can be even more deadly than massive overdose, according to new research. Instead of the instant effects associated with single overdose of acetaminophen (Tylenol), death from lower doses may not be recognized due to a lack of concrete side effects. The findings bring to the light the dangers of acetaminophen, one of the most commonly used drugs in the world.
If even just a little too much can kill you, what is the regular dosage doing to your body? It is important to remember that there have been more deaths from painkillers than cocaine and heroin combined.
Over 28 billion doses of acetaminophen were purchased in the United States in 2005 alone. Taking even slightly higher doses than recommended can cause liver damage that is potentially fatal. In fact, Tylenol overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S., creating 26,000 hospitalizations and around 500 deaths each year, according to research provided by the Food and Drug Administration.
In the study, researchers led by Dr. Kenneth Simpson of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland examined 663 hospital patients who had suffered from acetaminophen overdose between 1992 and 2008. Of the participants, 161 had taken a staggering overdose (a little bit more than recommended over a period of time), incrementally increasing their use of acetaminophen-containing painkillers to relieve the pain of common conditions such as toothaches, headaches, and muscle pains.
While the common conditions were not deadly, the painkillers they used were. Shockingly, the fatality rate of those who take a single overdose is actually less than those who take slightly more than the suggested dose over time.
Around 37% of people who took a staggered overdose died from it, in comparison to the 28% of individuals who died from a single overdose.
“They haven’t taken the sort of single-moment, one-off massive overdoses taken by people who try to commit suicide, but over time the damage builds up, and the effect can be fatal,” said Simpson in a statement.