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The Dangers of Abusing Acetaminophen

What is Acetaminophen?

Acetaminophen is a non-opioid pain reliever and is the main active ingredient in hundreds of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription painkillers. For medications that treat allergies, cough, colds, and flu, acetaminophen is combined with other active ingredients to help the individual ease suffering from mild illnesses. In prescription drugs, acetaminophen is combined with stronger active ingredients to help the individual experiencing more severe health problems.

Acetaminophen doesn’t have the worst reputation because it’s found in Tylenol, which isn’t seen as a dangerous drug. Tylenol is usually popped in an individual’s mouth without any thought because it’s “just” an OTC drug and is known to get rid of fevers and pain rather quickly. Although, individuals don’t realize that taking lots of drugs containing acetaminophen over time can be extremely dangerous for their physical health.

What Can Acetaminophen Be Combined With?

Since acetaminophen is a non-opioid pain reliever, it can be mixed with opioid-pain relievers in some medications to ease pain and fever. Two opioid medications that acetaminophen can be combined with are codeine and hydrocodone.

  • Codeine — Codeine is an opioid pain medication. The combination of acetaminophen and codeine, also known as acetaminophen cod 3, can be found in Tylenol with Codeine #3. The acetaminophen increases the effects of codeine to relieve moderate to severe pain.
  • Hydrocodone — Hydrocodone is an opioid medication that affects how the brain responds to pain. When combined with acetaminophen, fever and suffering can be reduced.

Why Do People Take Acetaminophen?

In addition to just treating pain and fever, individuals may consume acetaminophen for a variety of other reasons, such as:

Young men taking it to relieve pain so they can perform better in sports

  • Women taking it for menstrual cramps and other pain that comes along with menstruating
  • Individuals taking it for tooth, head, and muscle aches
  • Using it to commit suicide

What are the Side Effects of Acetaminophen?

The major long-term side effect of acetaminophen is permanent liver damage. When a person takes excessive amounts of acetaminophen over the course of their life, especially when combining it with alcohol, the liver can suffer as a result.

Milder side effects of acetaminophen include nausea, changes in eating patterns, itching, rashes, headaches, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). Severe itching and rashes, dizziness, and trouble breathing are signs that you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the drug.

Can You Become Addicted to Acetaminophen?

Like all drugs, it is possible to develop an addiction or dependence to acetaminophen, especially when the acetaminophen is combined with an opioid-pain reliever such as codeine or hydrocodone. Tylenol 3, for example, can be taken in larger doses than prescribed or longer than prescribed. The opioid in the drug may result in dependence or addiction.

  • Dependence — Drug dependence occurs when the individual’s body becomes dependent on the drug in order to function properly. Without consumption of the drug, the person will experience withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking, nausea, or fatigue. Taking the medication too often or in larger doses over time can result in the body becoming dependent on the drug.
  • Addiction — Drug addiction occurs in individuals when the physical dependence on the drug goes one step further. When a person’s personal life and mental health become affected by medications, addiction may be present. Addiction consumes the person’s entire life and requires help from medical professionals to treat. Addiction cannot be treated independently.

If you or a loved one is suffering from acetaminophen addiction, call A Forever Recovery at our toll-free number as soon as possible. A Forever Recovery wants to help individuals suffering from substance addiction by providing them with the tools they need to achieve long-term sobriety. Call A Forever Recovery today to get started!

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