Is This Common Over-the-Counter Medication Safe?

There is a very common drug that has been sold to millions of people in pharmacies and supermarkets across the country for many years that has been the reason that approximately 50,000 people per year go to hospital emergency rooms. And this particular drug has been the cause of about 500 deaths in the United States every year.

This medication is often used to relieve pains and to get rid of headaches. And there’s a very good chance that it’s in your medicine cabinet today under one of many brand names. It’s there waiting for you or your children to use. And, like any drug, if used indiscriminately, it can kill you.

What is this medication? Its generic name is acetaminophen. It’s what a lot of people take instead of taking aspirin because it’s supposed to be easier on your stomach. However, it is quite easy to take an accidental overdose of this drug. And, if you take this drug and drink alcohol you may be taking a lethal combination.

A study done between 1998 and 2003 found that overdoses of acetaminophen were the leading cause of acute liver damage and liver failure in the United States. About half of all of the acute liver failure cases in the US can be attributed to taking acetaminophen. And almost one third of these cases have ended in death.

Acetaminophen is used in a lot of medications, both over-the-counter as well as prescription. And a lot of people are not aware of how easy it is to accidentally take an overdose of acetaminophen.

To make it even more confusing, acetaminophen often is listed on the ingredient labels of drugs under different names, such as APAP.

In June 2009 the Food and Drug Administration had an advisory committee discuss the problem of the use of acetaminophen being related to liver injury. The advisory committee recommended that the maximum dosage of acetaminophen that someone should take at one time be reduced. It also recommended that combining narcotics and APAP should be prohibited.

Although the committee made these recommendations the FDA has not as of yet implemented any of them.

What is the Current Recommended Maximum Dosage of Acetaminophen?

Currently most manufacturers have set 4 grams of acetaminophen per day as the maximum safe dosage. If you are taking the 500 mg extra-strength capsules this would be the equivalent of taking eight of these per day.

A number of people have recommended that you shouldn’t take in excess of two to three grams per day, especially if you drink three or more alcoholic beverages a day.

Next, if you or a loved one has suffered from an overdose of acetaminophen contact
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