What actually occurs when you combine Tylenol and alcohol is as follows:
There are times when we are surrounded by revelry and our brains begin to pound after a few drinks. Some individuals are concerned about taking acetaminophen, more commonly known as Tylenol®, for a headache after consuming alcoholic beverages because they believe it is harmful.
Christina Lindenmeyer, MD, is a hepatologist who can provide the answers.
What role does your liver play in the metabolism of medicines and alcohol?
Acetaminophen is metabolized in the liver, just as it is for many other medicines in your system. The vast majority of the medication you take is transformed by your liver into a harmless chemical that is excreted in your urine when you take the appropriate dose.
It is possible for your body to convert acetaminophen byproducts into a poisonous chemical that is damaging to your liver if the amount of byproducts is too tiny. Fortunately, a secondary molecule known as glutathione helps to reduce the toxicity of the drug.
It is possible that the toxic metabolite will accumulate and cause significant liver damage in the event that you take an excessive dose or if your liver does not have an adequate supply of glutathione. If you take an excessive dose or if your liver does not have an adequate supply of glutathione, this can happen.
The liver cells are also responsible for the metabolism of alcohol. In reality, both acetaminophen and alcohol make use of glutathione, which is found in the liver, to help them to be less harmful.
Dr. Lindenmeyer explains that prolonged, excessive alcohol use depletes the liver’s glutathione reserves over time, which may result in difficulties when acetaminophen is added to the mix.
Will taking Tylenol after a few beers have a negative impact on your liver?
The use of a standard dosage of acetaminophen (no more than 4,000 mg per day) following a single night of heavy drinking should not typically result in liver damage.
However, frequent, heavy alcohol use (more than one drink per day for women and more than two drinks per day for males) coupled with repeated daily doses of acetaminophen puts the liver at risk for acetaminophen-associated toxicity, which may be fatal.
To summarize: If you plan to drink at a party or other social event and take a couple of doses of acetaminophen the following day to relieve your headache (remember, no more than 4000 mg in a day), you should be OK.
When it comes to alcoholic beverages, however, it’s advisable to take acetaminophen only in extreme cases and avoid daily dosages higher than 4,000 mg if you routinely consume more than the authorized amount of alcoholic beverages per day.