In an earlier Insights, I discussed the dangers of opioid drugs and the epidemic of opioid abuse. At the time, some in the local media dismissed my concerns. Since then, sadly, the truth of my commentary has been made abundantly evident. The most obvious example occurred on April 21 with the death of popular musician Prince at the age of 57. Prince’s death was reportedly related to long-term use of prescription opioid drugs to treat hip pain and back pain associated with years of performing in high heels. Also, Wilmington has now been identified as the city with the highest rate of opioid abuse in the United States. Yes, that is Wilmington, North Carolina. Subsequently, the news has been awash with reports on the dangers of opioid drugs. The public has been warned to use safer drugs. My purpose this month is to alert you that “safer” drugs can also be dangerous.
Case in point is acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol and several other drugs. Acetaminophen is commonly recommended for the treatment of spinal pain, arthritis pain and other aches and pains. In fact, acetaminophen is the most widely used “pain reliever” in the United States. Alarmingly, due to its pervasive use and the false belief that it is harmless, acetaminophen is responsible for 50 percent of all acute liver failure in the United States. Also, acetaminophen consumption causes 56,000 liver-related emergency room visits, 26,000 in-patient hospitalizations, and more than 450 deaths a year in the United States alone.
Adding insult to injury, research shows that acetaminophen fails to relieve back pain or arthritis pain. Research published in March 2015 by the British Medical Journal concluded that acetaminophen is “ineffective in the treatment of low back pain” and provides only “minimal short term benefit with osteoarthritis.” The researchers caution doctors to reconsider recommendations to use acetaminophen for patients with low back pain and osteoarthritis.
The following circumstances create an exceptionally heightened risk of injury or death from acetaminophen use: fasting (as commonly is the case when patients are ill or in extreme pain); dieting; alcohol consumption; mixing medications; liver disease; malnutrition; anorexia; AIDS; and kidney disease. However, it is important to note that even “routine use” and chronic consumption of acetaminophen can cause liver toxicity. Initial signs and symptoms of acetaminophen toxicity are nausea and vomiting. Liver damage in response to acetaminophen consumption may also develop without immediate or obvious symptoms.
You cannot depend on acetaminophen to relieve your pain, but you can be pretty well assured that it will damage your liver. Oh, and it might kill you. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications which contain acetaminophen include Tylenol, Children’s Tylenol, Tylenol PM, Excedrin, Excedrin PM and Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Flu. Common prescription drugs which contain acetaminophen include Vicodin, Darvocet, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet, Ultracet and Midrin. Warnings about acetaminophen consumption generally appear on acetaminophen-containing product labels in print with a font size that can be read by any owner of a giant magnifying glass or microscope.
So acetaminophen is ineffective and potentially dangerous. What to do then? Well, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are a bad alternative as NSAIDs also cause significant health problems, resulting in more than 100,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths each year in the United States. NSAIDs are key ingredients in common OTC drugs including Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Orudis, many cold and flu medications and prescription drugs including Mobic, Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx.
There is good news. Safe and natural solutions for pain do exist. The American Chiropractic Association provides the following options to consider:
Cece Nunn - Jan 24, 2022
Johanna F. Still - Jan 24, 2022
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