Tylenol (Acetaminophen) and Alcohol
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Last Updated - 2/17/2023View our editorial policy
Acetaminophen, more commonly known by its brand name Tylenol, is a common pain medication that can cause liver problems in high doses. Because alcohol also affects the liver, many people wonder if it is safe to use Tylenol and alcohol at the same time.
What Is Tylenol?
Tylenol is a non-opioid pain and fever medication that you can purchase over the counter. Acetaminophen, the active ingredient of Tylenol, is included in many different medications. It can be combined with anything from flu medicines to opioid pain medications to enhance their effectiveness.
What Is Tylenol Used For?
Tylenol works to inhibit chemicals in your body called prostaglandins. These chemicals cause pain and fever, and suppressing them can help reduce high body temperature and pain. Tylenol is used primarily to treat fevers or pain because of this effect.
While Tylenol can help bring a fever down, it is more commonly used to treat pain. Tylenol is best for treating light to moderate pain and can be purchased without a prescription. Many people use Tylenol for things like joint pain or headaches, which are relatively minor pains when compared to severe pain caused by surgery or an accident. These more intense types of pain typically require treatment using more powerful pain medications. Sometimes, Tylenol is combined with powerful pain medications to augment their potency.
Can You Drink on Tylenol?
Combining acetaminophen and alcohol is generally considered to be something that should be avoided when possible. However, most experts consider it relatively safe to take Tylenol while drinking in moderation. While it may be permissible to mix these two substances in lower doses, it is generally best to avoid doing so.
The reason most medical experts recommend avoiding Tylenol while drinking alcohol is that both of these substances impact your liver. Alcohol is processed in the liver and puts additional stress on it while being metabolized. Tylenol also is processed in the liver and is very toxic to it in higher doses.
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Alcohol and Tylenol Interactions
Alcohol and Tylenol are both processed in the liver. The liver has a finite ability to process chemicals. This means that when both substances are present, it can take the liver longer to process each of them. When this occurs, the substances may stay in the bloodstream for longer. These effects place extra stress on the liver, increasing the potential for damage from either Tylenol or alcohol.
Are Tylenol and Alcohol Bad for Your Liver?
If Tylenol is used only as directed and combined with light to moderate alcohol use, most healthy people will not experience any severe liver-related effects. However, there is an increased possibility of harm to the liver when one of these substances is used in excess. The same is true for people who combine alcohol and Tylenol but have underlying health issues.
Signs of Liver Damage
The liver is able to compensate pretty well for the initial damage it sustains, and liver damage may not initially cause any symptoms. As liver damage progresses, however, there are several signs that may develop. Signs of liver damage include:
- Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Itchy skin
- Weight loss
- Bruising or bleeding
- Increased sensitivity to alcohol or Tylenol
If you suspect you may have signs of liver damage, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible to be evaluated and treated if necessary.
Can Tylenol and Alcohol Kill You?
Combining Tylenol and alcohol could kill you, but typically only if you are using one or both in excess. Combining both may increase how long it takes your liver to process both substances, which can cause your body to have higher than normal levels of both alcohol and Tylenol for prolonged periods of time. If these levels get too high, it could lead to an accidental overdose.
Can You Overdose on Tylenol and Alcohol?
It is possible to overdose on Tylenol or alcohol by themselves, and overdosing on either can be fatal. When combined, however, the likelihood of an overdose can increase. Since the liver takes longer to process these substances, they can stay in your bloodstream for longer. This can cause alcohol to make you more drunk than normal and increase the risk of an overdose.
How Long After Drinking Can I Take Tylenol?
If you are drinking two or fewer drinks per day as a man or one or fewer per day as a woman, then you should be able to take Tylenol whenever you normally would. If you drink heavily or binge drink, it is best to avoid taking Tylenol until the effects of the alcohol have worn off. This can take 12 to 24 hours, depending on how much alcohol was used.
When To Seek Medical Help
If you or someone you know has used a higher-than-recommended amount of Tylenol, you should immediately seek medical attention — even if symptoms are not present. When Tylenol damages the liver, it will not cause any symptoms until the damage is far advanced. This makes early treatment important, even when there are no symptoms.
If you or someone you know has combined alcohol and Tylenol, you should seek medical care if signs of severe intoxication develop. Someone having difficulty walking, talking or staying awake may be experiencing alcohol poisoning and should seek medical help immediately.
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment in Columbus, OH
People who are at the greatest risk of developing problems from combining alcohol and Tylenol are those who struggle to control their alcohol use. Alcohol addiction can lead to many different health problems, and it significantly increases your risk of alcohol poisoning and liver damage.
The Recovery Village Columbus provides medical alcohol detox and rehab programs to help you safely quit alcohol and begin learning how to maintain lifelong sobriety. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve lasting freedom from alcohol abuse and addiction.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Acetaminophen.” MedlinePlus, January 15, 2022. Accessed August 3, 2022.
Ricciotti, Emanuela; FitzGerald, Garret A. “Prostaglandins and Inflammation.” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, May 2019. Accessed August 3, 2022.
Williams College. “Alcohol and Tylenol (or other pain relievers) Don’t Mix.” Accessed August 3, 2022.
NHS. “Symptoms: Alcohol-related liver disease.” Accessed August 3, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Hangover treatment.” MedlinePlus, April 24, 2021. Accessed August 3, 2022.