pillsI am not one to just suffer through aches -- whether that be a headache, sore muscles, or period pain. Needless to say, I keep my medicine cabinet stocked with over-the-counter pain relievers. I know I'm not alone. Well, a new report gives me pause about my (totally legal) pill-popping habit. In the last decade, 1,500 Americans have accidentally died after taking too much acetaminophen -- the active ingredient in Tylenol. It's considered safe at the recommended dosage, but many people take more than the bottle suggests. Of course, too much of anything can be bad for you and cause problems. But death from OTC meds is a scary thought. Especially since you don't have to down the entire bottle to put your life in danger. 

It's especially dangerous when taken with alcohol. But in general, too much of it can damage the liver. Studies reportedly show that there is a thin line between the amount of acetaminophen that helps and the amount that makes it deadly. They offered up the example of a 12-year-old dirt biker rider, a 5-month-old baby, and a fit 23-year-old construction worker. It seems as though the dangers can affect any age, any person. 

Now some groups are calling for better warnings on product labels and stricter dosage rules. In other countries, like England and Switzerland, there is a limit to how much a consumer can buy at a time but there aren't any restrictions like that in the United States. However, the makers of Tylenol have been working on developing an antidote to acetaminophen poisoning that has already saved lives.

It's frightening that something most of us take every day -- without thinking twice about -- can be so deadly. I would have never considered acetaminophen as dangerous as some other drugs, but I certainly will be more careful with my dosage going forward.

Have you ever taken over the recommended dosage of acetaminophen? Are you ever worried about overdosing on OTC medicines?

 

Image via e-Magine Art/Flickr