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Tylenol Restrictions Have Consumers Worried

The government is proposing restrictions on acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, due to liver problems associated with excessive use of the pain killer.

The proposed changes, which have yet to be adopted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), would lower the maximum single dose of Tylenol to an as yet unspecified dose.  They would also ban Vicodin and Percocet, two narcotic painkillers that contain acetaminophen.

With nearly 50 million U.S. adults and children currently taking acetaminophen in any given week, implementation of these restrictions could leave many people wondering where to turn for pain relief.

The proposed restrictions are leading consumers to ask if it is safe for them to be using Tylenol.

If you are currently using Tylenol for pain relief, there is no cause for worry as long as you are using it judiciously and following current daily dose recommendations.

However, if you are taking more than the current daily maximum of 4 grams (12 regular strength Tylenol pills) you could be putting yourself at risk for liver damage.

Acetaminophen overdoses are the leading cause of liver failure in the United States, sickening more than 50,000 people yearly and causing at least 200 deaths.

Some common symptoms of liver problems include nausea, vomiting and upper abdominal pain.  With immediate treatment, permanent liver damage can be prevented.

Opponents of the new restriction such as Dr. Gil Fanciullo, a pain management specialist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, say that there would be a "stampede" to the doctors to try to find alternative pain treatments because Tylenol is so widely used.

Fanciullo thinks better labeling of medicines that have acetaminophen is a much better answer than the proposed restrictions.

The FDA said they are considering the recommendations and any final decisions are months away at the very least.

To avoid potential liver damage, be sure to carefully read medicine bottles because acetaminophen is sometimes a "hidden ingredient" and mixing Tylenol with other medicine can add up quickly. Also avoid taking Tylenol with alcohol and avoid taking more than the current recommended maximum of 4 grams daily.

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