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Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Poisoning

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Poisoning Overview

Acetaminophen is one of the most common medications found in households. It is used for the treatment of pain and to lower fever. However, the drug manufacturer has recalled preparations of Tylenol this year (2011) due to problems in its manufacturing process and as a result, many stores in the US have no Tylenol available (Nov., 2011). In addition, the new recommended maximum dose per day is being dropped from 4000 mg to 3000 mg because of people taking other medications that have acetaminophen as an added compound. Inadvertently, people taking maximum Tylenol doses were overdosing because they were also taking other medicines at the same time that contained acetaminophen. Tylenol plans to have these new recommended lower doses listed on their products by about January of 2012.

Over many years, it has been used countless times by many people and it has proven to be a safe and effective medication. However, if taken in excess amounts (overdose, whether on purpose or by accident), acetaminophen can cause life-threatening illness.

  • Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol. It is also found in many other over-the-counter medications people can buy at the drug store and in many prescription drugs as follows:
    • Common drugs include Actifed, Alka-Seltzer Plus, Benadryl, Butalbital, Co-Gesic, Contac, Darvocet, Excedrin, Fioricet, Lortab, Midrin, Norco, Percocet, Robitussin, Sedapap, Sinutab, Sudafed, TheraFlu, Unisom With Pain, Vick's Nyquil and DayQuil, Vicodin, Wygesic, and Zydone (and others).
  • Acetaminophen in overdose can seriously damage the liver. If the damage is severe, a liver transplant may be necessary in order to save a life.
    • The antidote to acetaminophen overdose is N-acetylcysteine (NAC). It is most effective when given within 8 hours of ingesting acetaminophen. Indeed, NAC can prevent liver failure if given early enough. For this reason, it is absolutely necessary that acetaminophen poisoning be recognized, diagnosed, and treated as early as possible.
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Toxicity, Acetaminophen »

Acetaminophen is the most widely used pharmaceutical analgesic and antipyretic agent in the United States and the world; it is contained in more than 100 products.

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