The dangers of overdosing with Tylenol

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 1st Mar 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

Many consumers are not aware that a person can over dose on over the counter medications. Most consumers do not measure the medication levels they are taking altogether. They do not include over the counter medication with prescription medication in their calculations.


Montrealers like many North Americans are habitually taking over the counter drugs for our various aches and pains. It has gotten to the point that we don’t even think anymore, we just reach for the bottle and pop the pills. The concern then becomes, do we really know what we are taking and what it does to our bodies or are we clueless?

We rely on the big manufacturers to tell us their products are safe, yet do we ever read the instructions on the labels, or do we calculate how much medications we are taken?

Do we even realize that over the counter drugs can be dangerous?

Of course there are informed consumers and then there are those who are not.

This article contains some information you need to know about a product, that has become a household word – Tylenol.

McNeil Laboratories, which is a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, produces the Tylenol brand. Tylenol is one of the most sought after over the counter drugs in North America. We take this pain reliever to fight fever, colds, allergies, coughs, and headaches and pains.

What is Tylenol?

Tylenol is a drug like any other drug and it contains what we call acetaminophen here in the United States and Canada and paracetamol everywhere else in the world.

There is regular strength Tylenol and extra strength Tylenol distributed for the adult population and there is Children’s strength Tylenol as well.

In Canada there is another Tylenol product called Tylenol 1, this product contains codeine and can be purchased without a prescription.

A prescription would be in the required in the USA because of the codeine content.

Drug content:

Tylenol 1

Acetaminophen – 325mgs

Caffeine – 15mgs

Codeine – 8mgs

Tylenol 2

Acetaminophen – 300mgs

Codeine – 15mgs

Tylenol 3

Acetaminophen –300mgs

Codeine – 30mgs

Tylenol 4

Acetaminophen –300mgs

Codeine – 60mgs

To be continued

Montreal Poison Control Center

History of Tylenol Use in North America

Acetaminophen is not a new drug, it has been around since 1893, and slowly it became known to be a safer drug alternative than acetylsalicylic acid better known as aspirin. It is hard to tell if this is so when you learn that one of the chief spokesperson campaigning for acetaminophen was Dr. James Roth, a gastroenterologist and consultant for McNeil Laboratories.

In 1953, acetanilide was discovered to be a toxic substance (drug of choice) and this metabolite of acetanilide (acetaminophen) was considered safer. Shortly afterward, in 1955, McNeil Laboratories introduced Tylenol Elixir for children.

IsTylenol and acetaminophen a safe product?

Perhaps the answer lays more in the way we use the product rather than give it a black and white safe or not safe evaluation.

Montrealers and North Americans alike are consumers who use and overuse almost anything under the sun. Most people ignore the “use in moderation warnings” on drug labels. However, we are not the only people in history who have a tendency to overuse, it seems that this is the natural of human beings on the whole. Way back in 410 B.C. we have Socrates, the great Greek philosopher warning about overdoing it when he cautions “nothing in Excess.”

It seems nothing much has changed in three thousand years. We North Americans consume over the counter medication, and other substances like it was candy.

Safety Issues

There is no current regulation set in place for the use of over the counter medications. There are no guidelines and no backing for pharmacists to limit the purchasing of these products. Therefore, a consumer can buy as much of these drugs as they care to. Once the drugs are purchased there is no way of knowing if consumers are heeding the warnings on the labels or not. There is no way of knowing just how much a single person is consuming in a single setting or how much they are consuming across time.

Overdosing on Tylenol

There are many cases of Tylenol overdoses reported by the medical profession, but not all of the reasons for overdosing are due to not reading labels, or deliberating misusing the product.

Relief from aches and pains

First off, consumers are misusing the product, however it is not deliberately done. Consumers do not realize Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory drug whose primary function is reduce pain and swelling; therefore, they continue to take more and more Tylenol tablets hoping to get relief from their aches and pains.

After all, Tylenol is advertised to reduce pain, when actually anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen may really be more effective for reducing certain kinds of pain such as dysmenorrhoea (menstrual pain), bone pain, thrombosis and more.

Yes, there is Tylenol for arthritis, that is true, but some people claim using Tylenol does not reduce their arthritic symptoms and so they take more and more tablets to get the pain relief they so desperately want.

Reading labels is not so easy

The other overlooked reason for overusing Tylenol is that people do not understand the labels in the first place. The recommended daily dosage for acetaminophen products is four grams a day (65mk/kg). However, what is not clearly understood is that the dosage on the Tylenol jars means total dosage from any product containing acetaminophen.

Not only Tylenol must be taken into to the count, every medication taken must be taken in account.

People often take Tylenol in combination with cold medications and they too can contain acetaminophen. Typical medications, which include acetaminophen:

Neo Citrine,
Excedrin and
Nyquil and so on.

Even Alka Seltzer can cause a drug cocktail with harmful results.


Over 56.000 Americans yearly, end up in hospital emergency wards, victims of Tylenol abuse. The sad part is that 16,000 of these victims will actually die from medical complications.

The Food and Drug administration launched a study in 1998-2000 looking at 258 patients who ended up with liver failure because of Tylenol poisoning. Their findings concluded that 60% of the overdosing was in deed unintentional, and 38% were botched suicide attempts.

Several studies show the link with Tylenol, other acetaminophen products, and liver damage. Massive liver failure occurs because glutathionen, an antioxidant necessary to fight off liver damage is unable to overpower the metabolized acetaminophen contained in the liver. The damage to the liver is so quick that it can result in less than a week after the overdosing. This is especially so, when acetaminophen products are taken with alcohol. Liver toxicity can result in liver failure and death.

According to a 1995 study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Texas, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, accidental overdoses of acetaminophen is more dangerous than intentional suicide attempts. They found that accidental overdoses produced severe liver damage and these victims were more likely to fall into a hepatic (liver) coma. These accidental victims were also heavy drinkers.

What are the symptoms of acetaminophen overdose?

The symptoms can include: itching and or hives, sore throat, red spots, decreased urination, blood in the stools, fever, and yellowish skin and eyes.

Tylenol and other acetaminophen products overdosing have caused the deaths of both adults and children in the United States.

To avoid serious complications read the labels on everything you purchase.

See a doctor if you have liver or kidney problems after taking Tylenol or any other acetaminophen product.

Consult with a doctor if you already you know you have kidney or liver problems to find out if Tylenol or acetaminophen products are safe for you.

Note: Children and infant strength Tylenol are not the same. The dosage is different. Too many babies end up in the hospital because they were given the children’s liquid dosage and not the infant drops.

All photos are taken from the public domain

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Over Dosing, Over Dosing On Over The Counter Drugs, Over The Counter Medications, Overdose, Tylenol

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Jennifer Dombrowski
1st Mar 2015 (#)

I loved how you wrote down all those numbers for Tyleiol 1 with codein. I THINK we in the in the United States call it Tylenol with codeine and it does need a prescription. aai also liked how you added the other medicines that are similar to Tylenol. Personally, I must admit I am omn a lot of prescription medication and ALWQAYS call the pharmacy to see if I am allowed to take a vitamin or supplement I want to take. Thank you so much for the warning! Great article!

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author avatar Retired
1st Mar 2015 (#)

OTC drugs contain substances that are dangerous too. Very true. I completely agree with you.
Good article.Thanks for sharing it with us.

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author avatar Retired
1st Mar 2015 (#)

Excellent article! Being careful always with taking medication, whether is prescribed or over the counter.

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