Press Your Luck with Tylenol

Christina Lasich, MD Health Pro July 13, 2009
  • Remember that game show called "Press Your Luck" where contestants would battle the game of chance in order to win money. Land on a "Whammy" and all that money would be gone in an instant. Many chronic pain patients also battle the game of chance by taking way too much Tylenol each day. Only this "whammy" could cost a life.


    Sometimes taking these chances is by accident because Acetaminophen is in so many products with various names like NyQuil, Vicodin, Percocet, Lortab, and the list goes on and on. The problem is that the amount of Tylenol adds up with every product consumed daily. Some people still do not realize that APAP, Acetaminophen and Tylenol are all the same thing. This lingo can be deadly to those unaware. However, some people are very aware that they are taking too much Tylenol. They choose to press their luck. Some give explanations for this reckless behavior like, "I've been O.K. so far" or "My doctor checks my liver test periodically". Someday these excuses will turn to pleas for being placed on a liver transplant list. People might take more responsibility for their actions if extraordinary healthcare treatments like organ transplants were denied based on fault of the owner. Instead, society seems to need governmental agencies to protect the masses from the big "whammies".

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    What is society to do with all these potentially dangerous products? Eliminate Tylenol from the market? That makes as much sense as banning vehicles because some people get killed in accidents. At least, the threat of banning certain medications got everyone's attention and raised public awareness. Companies are also moving towards consistent labeling with clearer guidelines and ingredient names. However, rules, regulations and guidelines are not the only answer to this dilemma. Doctors need to be stricter when it comes to prescribing products that contain Tylenol. Doctors also need to take the time to inquire about other over-the-counter Tylenol products and educate patients about quantity limits. Schools can also get involved in the Tylenol problem. But sadly, health education seems to be relegated to the six-o-clock news. Not so long ago, health education classes used to part of school curriculum. Without these classes, young Tylenol consumers are not taught about responsible use of Tylenol.  Here is an idea. Instead of eliminating perfectly useful products, maybe the government should reinstate health education in schools. Now, that makes perfect sense.


    Ultimately, life is a game of chance and "big brother" cannot protect people from everything. When a "Whammy" hits, the consequences need to be accepted. The rest of us learn and move on to the next round. Those who are concerned about surviving another day should talk to a doctor about all the medication products consumed. Tylenol doses really should be personalized for personal situations because those who have weakened livers from hepatitis, alcohol or other conditions may require a lower quantity limit of Tylenol. Despite these warnings, some people will continue to press their luck with Tylenol; but, that is no reason to declare "Game Over" for everyone and pull the plug on a perfectly good pain reliever.