The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
Many people drink alcohol occasionally as part of a generally healthy lifestyle. While moderate drinking is not associated with known short or long-term risks, it can be challenging for some people to stop drinking when they want to. Millions of people live with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or alcohol use disorder.
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications may interact with alcohol and cause unwanted, sometimes dangerous complications–and some of these drugs may surprise people.
For example, mixing Tylenol and alcohol may have a dangerous effect on your liver. This article will explore the dangers of mixing Tylenol and alcohol, how to recognize a more serious problem, and how to seek treatment if you cannot stop drinking on your own.
Reach out to the Mandala Healing Center specialists to learn more about our holistic approach to substance abuse treatment or to find support at any stage of your recovery journey.
How Does Tylenol Affect Your Body?
Tylenol is a brand name for acetaminophen, an over-the-counter pain reliever. People take Tylenol to reduce fever and mild to moderate pain. Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory drug. Instead, it relieves pain by working in the brain and spinal cord to increase the body’s pain tolerance.
Tylenol can effectively reduce symptoms related to many conditions, including:
- Muscle aches
- Pain from cold and flu
- Sports injuries
- Teething (in babies)
Young children can take Tylenol in some cases. You must consult your doctor before taking any new medications, including those sold over the counter.
The Dangers of Mixing Tylenol and Alcohol
The liver is primarily responsible for processing Tylenol and alcohol. Tylenol is especially hard on the liver when used improperly. Taking large doses of Tylenol can cause liver damage.
Mixing Tylenol and alcohol can be especially damaging to the liver, especially if you consume large amounts of alcohol. It’s important to be aware that the active ingredient of Tylenol–acetaminophen–is present in many other medications, such as other painkillers and cough medicines.
Healthcare providers often advise people to avoid or limit alcohol consumption while taking Tylenol or medications that contain acetaminophen. People with previous liver damage or fatty liver may also be advised to avoid Tylenol and use other forms of pain management.
Recognizing the Signs of Liver Damage
Your liver is a large organ that helps you digest food and filter toxins from your bloodstream. When your liver is healthy, it works efficiently to keep your entire body safe from outside contaminants and working as it should. A damaged liver cannot perform these essential tasks. As a result, people with liver damage often experience serious, sometimes life-threatening effects.
Some symptoms of liver damage include:
- Pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Unusual bleeding and bruising
- Jaundice–yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
Acute liver damage can occur quickly from mixing Tylenol and alcohol, with symptoms developing within just hours and peaking in just a few days.
Liver damage that occurs from mixing Tylenol and alcohol can generally be reversed in just two weeks. However, people with liver damage from heavy drinking or other causes may sustain lifelong damage.
Risk Factors for Liver Damage
One of the most significant risk factors for liver damage when taking Tylenol is drinking alcohol. If you take Tylenol, you should not consume alcohol. But what if it’s hard to stop drinking?
Some people struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol and may have drinking habits that lead to physical dependence or alcoholism. If you or someone you love drinks heavily or can’t stop drinking, even if you want to, you may need professional alcohol use disorder treatment.
But how can you know if your drinking habits are unhealthy? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines for alcohol consumption. According to the CDC, people who choose to consume alcohol should drink in moderation. It defines moderate drinking as:
- For women, consuming one or fewer alcoholic drinks per day
- For men, drinking two or fewer alcoholic drinks daily
A “drink” doesn’t mean any beverage containing alcohol. A “drink” is defined as:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
By the CDC’s guidelines, some standard beverages served in bars and restaurants may contain several “drinks”. For example, a pint of beer is 16 ounces, meaning it would be considered more than one drink. Similarly, many restaurants serve wine in carafes or large glasses that hold several 5-ounce servings. It’s important to be realistic about how much alcohol you consume–it’s easy to underestimate.
Heavy drinking is associated with many serious consequences, including a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. People who drink heavily may be more likely to experience depression and insomnia, be the victim of a crime, and be injured in accidents.
If you or someone you love struggles with heavy drinking or alcohol addiction, seek treatment immediately.
Get Help Now
If you are concerned about the risks of mixing Tylenol and alcohol or need substance abuse treatment, contact the Mandala Healing Center specialists now for guidance. Learn about our holistic approach to addiction treatment and begin your recovery journey today.
- National Library of Medicine: Acetaminophen, Retrieved September 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482369/
- National Institutes of Health: The role of alcohol consumption on acetaminophen-induced liver injury: Implications from a mathematical model, Retrieved September 2023 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33333080/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol, Retrieved September 2023 from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm