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Is It Safe to Take Tylenol?

Acetaminophen is almost always safe for use at recommended doses. The Food and Drug Administration has recently laid out new guidelines for single doses and daily consumption. It advises users to take no more than 1,000 milligrams (mg) per single dose, and no more than 4,000 mg per day for adults. That amount is reduced if a user is also drinking alcohol to only 2,000 mg per day. While overdoses of acetaminophen cause potentially fatal liver damage, it is safe when taken following the FDA's guidelines.

For decades, Tylenol has been a staple in homes across the country. In recent years, however, scientific studies and the FDA have concluded that acetaminophen can cause serious liver damages even in dose amounts previously thought to be safe. Acetaminophen overdoses are the number one cause of liver failure in the industrialized world. They make up the majority of drug overdoses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The most common way to accidentally overdose on acetaminophen is to take multiple medications—whether prescription or over-the-counter—containing the drug. Tylenol is the most famous acetaminophen-based product, but there are more than 200 types of medications that also contain the drug. When starting a new course of any medication, whether over-the-counter or prescription, ask if it will interfere with any other acetaminophen-based products you might be taking. It's sometimes difficult to tell whether a product contains acetaminophen because it is often shorted to the abbreviation APAP in the list of ingredients. Learn about some of the most common medications that contain acetaminophen here.

Tylenol has also suffered from safety issues in the past, resulting in three large recalls that pulled millions of packages of medicine from stores throughout the nation.

In1982, seven people died after consuming extra-strength Tylenol which had been deliberately laced with cyanide. All of the deaths occurred within the Chicago metro area. Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol, pulled 31 million bottles of the medication from shelves across the country within a week. It was one of the first major recalls in American history. The crime was never solved, but it spurred the development of tamper-proof pills, gelcaps, and the introduction of tamper-evident packaging.

Two further recalls occurred in 2010, after Johnson & Johnson received complaints about moldy-smelling bottles, and after an FDA inspector reported than one of their pharmaceutical production facilities at Fort Washington, Pennsylvania had violated sanitary standards. The first recall affected 53 million bottles of over-the-counter products including Tylenol, Motrin and Rolaids, Benadryl and St. Joseph's Aspirin. The second was issued for 40 different products, including liquid infant and children's pain relievers, Tylenol, and Motrin and allergy medications Zyrtec and Benadryl.