Most people who read this article will likely consider Tylenol (i.e. Acetaminophen) as being a safe pain reliever for both children and adults.
Yet, one medical doctor has gone so far as to claim that “Tylenol is By Far The Most Dangerous Drug Ever Made.”
Why would Dr. Aric Hausknecht, a New York neurologist and pain management specialist, say this?
Taken out of context, such a sweeping statement may seem to be hyperbolic. The most dangerous drug ever made?
Well, according to Dr. Hausknecht:
“Each year a substantial number of Americans experience intentional and unintentional Tylenol (acetaminophen) associated overdoses that can result in serious morbidity and mortality. Analysis of national databases show that acetaminophen-associated overdoses account for about 50,000 emergency room visits and 25,000 hospitalizations yearly. Acetaminophen is the nation's leading cause of acute liver failure, according to data from an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes for Health. Analysis of national mortality files shows about 450 deaths occur each year from acetaminophen-associated overdoses; 100 of these are unintentional.”
So while most people wouldn't think twice about popping a few pills of Tylenol, the reality is that it can be extremely dangerous and causes significant side effects.
Regular use of acetaminophen has also been linked to a higher likelihood of asthma, infertility, and hearing loss (especially in men under 50 years of age).
Most people don't know about this because the FDA has done a poor job alerting the public to the dangers of acetaminophen.
In my opinion, it is a drug that serves no real medical purpose in the 21st century. Its use should be curtailed or even eliminated entirely.
I say this because acetaminophen is the last remaining member of a class of drugs known as “aniline analgesics” that is still on the market.
The rest of it's family members were discontinued long ago!
This pains me because not only are chiropractic adjustments better at relieving pain than Tylenol, but they help you to avoid the toxic and dangerous side effects of taking over the counters.
History of Tylenol
Hundreds of years ago, doctors of the time figured out that fever reducing agents were contained in white willow bark (which led to the development of aspirin) and cinchona bark.
When the cinchona tree became scarce in the 1880s, people began to look for alternatives.
Two alternative fever reducing agents were developed in the 1880s: acetanilide in 1886 and phenacetin in 1887.
Harmon Northrop Morse first synthesized paracetamol (Tylenol) in 1878; however, paracetamol was not used in medical treatment for another 15 years.
Paracetomol wouldn't be commercially sold until 1955 by McNeil Laboratories, as a pain and fever reliever for children, under the brand name Tylenol Children's Elixir.
In 1956, 500 mg tablets of paracetamol went on sale in the United Kingdom under the trade name Panadol, produced by Frederick Stearns & Co, a subsidiary of Sterling Drug Inc.
Panadol was originally available only by prescription, for the relief of pain and fever, and was advertised as being “gentle to the stomach,” since other analgesic agents of the time contained aspirin, a known stomach irritant.
The U.S. patent on paracetamol has long expired, and generic versions of the drug are widely available under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984, although certain Tylenol preparations were protected until 2007. U.S. patent 6,126,967 filed September 3, 1998 was granted for “Extended release acetaminophen particles.”
How Does Tylenol Work?
According to MedicineNet.com, No one really knows? (that's pretty scary isn't it?)
Tylenol is thought to reduce the production of prostaglandins (chemicals that cause inflammation) in the brain, and reduces fever through its action on heat-regulating centers in the brain; yet no one knows exactly how.
Acetaminophen is very hard on the liver and is known to reduce the liver's store of the important detoxifying aid and antioxidant glutathione.
This is why combining Tylenol with alcoholic drinks, or other compounds that impact your liver including other medications, can cause major liver dysfunction.
Tylenol should definitely not be used in anyone with impaired liver function.
Tylenol is often the drug of choice in children to relieve fever. However, use for fever in the first year of life is associated with an increase in the incidence of asthma and other allergic symptoms later in childhood.
Let's talk about all the problems associated with taking Tylenol.
Tylenol Causes Liver Damage
Overdose with acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the leading cause of phone calls made to poison control centers in the United States and responsible for more than 56,000 ER visits and an estimated 458 deaths every year due to acute liver failure (1).
In fact, more than half of all acute liver failure cases in the US are due to acetaminophen overdose (1)!
Most guidelines would suggest that you take no more than 4,000 milligrams per day (2), but according to a 2006 study publisehd in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 4,000 mg dose taken for four days causes elevated serum alanine (AST) and aminotransferase (ALT), which are markers of liver injury and damage (3).
These concerns are nothing new. In fact, it's been known as far back as 1977, when an FDA advisory board said it was “obligatory” to add warning labels regarding liver damage. It wasn't until 2011 when a statement was issued to manufacturers to limit the strength of each capsule to 325 milligrams and mandated warning labels.
So how does Tylenol cause liver damage?
Acetaminophen depletes levels of glutathione, the body's master antioxidant. Glutathione levels help to protect our cells from damage by free radicals.
So if you regularly take Tylenol, or any medication for that matter, you should strongly consider supplementing with glutathione.
Tylenol Depletes Glutathione Levels
Glutathione is the body’s most important endogenous antioxidant.
Endogenous means that the body produces it (unlike antioxidants from chocolate, red wine or berries, for example) or vitamin C which needs to be ingested.
“Oxidation” is a normal process in the body that happens when we use oxygen to create energy for the cell.
The byproduct of oxidation is the creation of “free radicals” which are unstable molecules.
Free radicals are “bad” because they can damage cell DNA, potentially causing permanent mutations.
The body uses anti-oxidants to “scavenge” free radicals, neutralizing them so they can’t damage the DNA or any other part of the cell.
Glutathione is a molecule that can absorb the impact of many of these free radicals.
Once it absorbs a free-radical, it needs to be converted back to the active form. When the body takes a large oxidative “hit”, it causes the depletion of active glutathione. The result is lots and lots and lots of oxidative damage.
Glutathione is especially important because it is active in the brain, unlike most other antioxidants.
Can you imagine what would happen if you deplete glutathione in the brain? You end up with oxidative damage, inflammation and brain injury.
As previously mentioned, Tylenol is famous for depleting glutathione.
If someone's levels of glutathione are already low, then a “normal” dosage of Tylenol could cause massive damage.
Tylenol, Cardiovascular, Kidney and Cancer Connections
Several studies have made strong connections between acetaminophen’s relationship to the development of cardiometabolic diseases.
One study found that those taking opiates (some of which contain acetaminophen) were 95 percent more likely to be obese and 63 percent more likely to have hypertension (4).
Not only does Tylenol tax your liver (detoxification capacity), but when combined with alcohol, your kidneys take a hit as well. One study found that combining the use of acetaminophen and alcohol resulted in a 2.23 times increased risk for kidney dysfunction (5).
There's also a connection with cancer. A 2013 meta-analysis of epidemiological studies found that acetaminophen was associated with a significantly increased risk of kidney cancer (6). A 2011 study of more than 64,000 older men and women found that acetaminophen use was also associated with several different types of blood cancers, including myeloid neoplasms, non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and plasma cell disorders like multiple myeloma (7).
Tylenol Blunts Emotions and Makes us Socially Numb
Like I mentioned previously, we don't know how Tylenol works exactly, but we do know that it just doesn't impact our physical health.
According to brain imaging studies, Tylenol also seems to dim activity in regions of the brain involved in processing social pain and cues.
As part of the study, participants were given either acetaminophen or a placebo for three weeks. None of the participants knew which one they were given. Each evening, participants completed a Hurt Feelings Scale, designed as a standardized measure of emotional pain.
They were asked to rank themselves on statements such as: “Today, being teased hurt my feelings.” It turned out that Tylenol reduced reports of social pain.
Since that study was published in Psychological Science, a body of evidence has accumulated that points to a range of psychological effects attributed to acetaminophen (8).
For instance, another study published in 2015 found that Tylenol diminishes our emotional highs and lows (9). Another study pointed to a reduction in empathy among people taking acetaminophen (10).
In one recent experiment, published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, scientists found that acetaminophen seemed to make people care less about the mistakes they made when they zoned out (11).
All of these studies should raise concerns about the broader social side effects of using something as easily accessible as acetaminophen.
If a quarter of Americans use this every week, what kind of impact is this having on us as a society?
Tylenol, Genetics, Austism, ADHD and Brain Health
Did you know that a link between Tylenol and Austism/ADHD exists?
Please understand me on this one – not every child who gets Tylenol will get autism. And not every child who has the gene and gets Tylenol will get autism!
I believe that developing Autism and ADHD or anywhere on the spectrum is a combination of genes and environmental insult.
This means that not only do you have to have the genetics, but then be exposed to a multitude of things that deplete glutathione. (This is probably why vinyl flooring, pthalates, PCBs, pollution and GULP… vaccines have all been linked to autism – detoxfying toxins depletes glutathione too.)
I want you to understand that this isn’t just crazy Dr. Daniel offering an opinion (though I’ve been suspecting it for years).
First, how stupid are we to market acetaminophen as safe during pregnancy?
Especially when current research has demonstrated that using acetaminophen can have neurodevelopmental consequences for the fetus.
A 2016 study followed more than 2,000 mother–child pairs from the first trimester of pregnancy and performed several tests of behavior when the children were about five years old (12).
Now there is new research that prenatal and perinatal exposure to acetaminophen is linked to autism (13). There is also research that using Tylenol after the MMR vaccine may cause autism (14)
Even an NIH-funded study found that acetaminophen exposure in pregnancy was linked to higher risks of ADHD and autism (15).
So here’s the bottom line: AVOID acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Do not give acetaminophen before or after your child’s vaccinations. Not only can it trigger autism, it is also linked to a decreased immune response to the vaccine (16).
Alternatives to Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
Hopefully you understand why Tylenol shouldn't be your first choice.
And before I offer a few “natural medicine” suggestions, I'd like to preface it all by saying that pain is a sign of a deeper problem and throwing some pills at it is only putting a band aid on. The best approach is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, optimize sleep, improve your movement and fitness and manage stress appropriately.
But if someone were to ask me for the best recommendations to overcome pain, here's a few things I'd consider:
1. Turmeric. Turmeric is a bright orange-colored spice that has been in use for thousands of years in cooking and medicine. Curcuminoids are compounds extracted from turmeric which have been shown to play a crucial role in maintaining normal inflammatory balance in a variety of bodily systems due to its strong NFkB-modulating properties. I'd suggest 600 to 1200 mg of Turmeric root extract.
2. Magnesium. Three of the most common reasons for taking acetaminophen over the counter are headaches, muscle pain, and menstrual cramps. For many people, magnesium can provide significant relief from these symptoms, often equivalent to or better than Tylenol. I recommend 400 to 1200 mg of Activated or Chelated Magnesium.
3. CBD Oil. Cannabidiol or CBD is the non-psychoactive oil of the cannabis plant that has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. It does not produce the “high” that THC does, and as of now, it is currently sold legally over the counter. After extensive research on CBD products available today, Colorado Hemp Oil by Quicksilver Scientific is my top choice.
4. Mindfulness. Emotional-freedom techniques, yoga, and meditation can all provide short-term pain relief.
5. Chiropractic. Among the holistic options out there for people, chiropractic has emerged as a leading candidate to both reduce pain and improve quality of life. Because of the growing body of research that supports the effectiveness of chiropractic as an alternative for pain management, many healthcare organizations have begun to recommend it as treatment for their patients. Consider that new research has shown that patients who see a chiropractor as their initial provider for low back pain had 90% decreased odds of both early and long-term opioid abuse. Not only can chiropractic care help ease the pain patients are dealing with, but they've also been known to release dopamine-stimulating endorphins and improve body function.
There's no denying the effectiveness of chiropractic care as a means to cope with pain and improve overall quality of life. Chiropractic is both cost-effective and viewed as a viable long-term solution that comes without any of the harmful side-effects of opioids or other pain medications.