Sunday, December 3, 2017

Acetaminophen: Killing More Than Pain

When was the last time a doctor recommended you take acetaminophen, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or one of the common NSAIDs for pain and inflammation? This week? 

Me too.

Did your doctor mention the common side effects? Mine didn't.

Consumer Reports wrote about a recent study in Scotland where researchers found that, while we all know that overdosing on acetaminophen can be fatal, a toxic overdose can also be caused over time when people consistently take a little more than the daily maximum. 

This isn't just a problem for people who knowingly overdose or abuse drugs. Just as many people are seen in the ER due to accidental overdose. Why?

Two main reasons:

1. The FDA and the pharmaceuticals manufacturing OTC drugs don't have the same definition for a "Daily Maximum". Is it 1,000 mg, or is it 4,000 mg? Nobody seems to know.

2. Acetaminophen is used in over 600 other OTC medicines, from allergy and cold meds to sleep aids and fever reducers. It's really easy to take more than you intend to.

What are some of the most common problems acetaminophen can cause?

This particular drug is so popular because it doesn't present the same stomach damage potential that drugs like Ibuprofen do. However, Tylenol (acetaminophen) does not decrease inflammation, can be toxic even slightly over the daily max dose, and, combined with alcohol, can cause liver failure. 

Learn more about the pros and cons of 4 of the most common pain killers.

What does this have to do with herbal remedies and pain salves? 

Herbs like turmeric, cayenne pepper, arnica, frankincense, and Devil's Claw are all effective in decreasing inflammation. A knowledgeable herbalist will also tell you that you can't take frankincense internally, but it is very effective in a topical application. The others are safe and effective both internally and externally. Overdosing on herbs is nearly unheard of, both because of common sense and practicality. 

Comfrey is one of the only herbs that includes some warnings and probably shouldn't be taken internally (though not everyone agrees on this). The point is that nature's provisions are just as powerful and plentiful as those created in a lab, and oftentimes more so. 

We all have options when it comes to our health, and it's not a pills-or-pain world. You can advocate for yourself by educating yourself, not just on alternatives to western medicine but also how certain drugs will affect your body. Doctors know a lot, but they don't always know what's best for us.