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Mixing Alcohol and Tylenol (Acetaminophen)

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Tylenol (the brand name for acetaminophen) is used by over 60 million Americans (1) each week. This non-prescription medication is used throughout the world for the treatment of pain, swelling, and fever. Though it is considered safe when used as directed, it can become potentially dangerous when alcohol is present. Mixing alcohol with Tylenol can decrease effectiveness, increase side effects, and even cause long term health consequences.

Many times, mixing multiple substances can be one of the signs that a substance use disorder is present. If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, contact Guardian Recovery today. Our nationwide network of treatment facilities operate at the highest standards of care to ensure that you receive the treatment that you need. Call today to speak with a treatment advisor to review your treatment options. Your journey to recovery can start today.

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What Is Tylenol?

Tylenol (2) is the brand name for the generic substance acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is commonly used for the treatment of minor pain and the reduction of fever symptoms. It is available over the counter with no prescription necessary. Tylenol reduces feelings of pain by elevating the body’s pain threshold and reduces fever symptoms by helping the body eliminate excess heat. It is available and considered safe for children, adults, and seniors.

Tylenol is not an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). This category of pain relief medication is often associated with Tylenol due to similar pain relieving properties. These medications include Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and Naproxen sodium.

Common Side Effects of Over the Counter Tylenol & Cold Medicine

Many of the side effects from Tylenol are related to a possible allergic reaction. These side effects can include:

  • Red, peeling or blistering skin.
  • Rash.
  • Hives.
  • Itching.
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Long term tylenol use can lead to a host of liver issues as well. Tylenol is the most common (1) reason in the United States for liver failure and the second most common reason worldwide.

Alcohol Can Influence Effectiveness of Medications & Can Increase Side Effects

Substances like Tylenol are designed to impact the body for a very specific purpose. When alcohol is introduced, it can not only cause issues with the effectiveness of these medications, it can also cause issues with removing these medications once they have served their purpose. Alcohol and medications like Tylenol both place stress on the liver. If this stress is compounded, it can lead to a host of medical complications.

Does Alcohol Interfere With the Effects of Cold Medicines?

A popular Tylenol product is Tylenol PM (3). This product is designed for the relief of cold symptoms while also providing the user a sleep aid. It does this by including a chemical compound called Diphenhydramine. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine and causes drowsiness. When combined with alcohol, its effects can be compounded causing dangerous levels of sedation or potential overdose.

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What Happens if You Drink Alcohol With Tylenol?

Both alcohol and Tylenol (4) place significant stress on the liver. This vital organ is responsible for being the primary filter of the body. It removes waste from everything that is ingested into the body after it has been metabolized. The liver produces special enzymes to break down Tylenol after it is used. These enzymes release toxins but normally at a level in which the body is able to process. However, when combined with alcohol, the toxic byproducts are unable to filter out of the body as easily causing the liver potential damage.

How Tylenol & Alcohol Interact in the Body

While considered safe in moderation, alcohol and Tylenol used in combination can mean disastrous results for many parts of the body. Aside from possible liver damage, this potent combination can also result in stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.

Can Drinking Alcohol While Taking Acetaminophen Cause Adverse Symptoms?

Though many of the symptoms will not be felt immediately, chronic use of alcohol and Tylenol together can lead to significant health issues. The stress that both of these substances place on the body can have a negative impact. This impact is compounded when they are used in combination with each other. Though considered safe in moderation, continued mixing of alcohol and Tylenol can result in long term health problems for both the liver and the stomach.

Can Mixing Alcohol With Tylenol & Cold or Flu Medications Be Dangerous?

Many cold and flu medications contain some sort of sedative element to them. Many times this is found in the form of an antihistamine. When alcohol is combined with these already potent sedatives, it can have a compounding effect. Many users have found that when mixed with alcohol, their normal dose of cold or flu medication was enough to cause potentially dangerous results.

Is Mixing Tylenol & Alcohol Bad for the Liver?

The liver is the predominant organ impacted by an alcohol and Tylenol combination (5). The liver is responsible for providing a filter for the body. As Tylenol is filtered, a toxic byproduct is released. Alcohol will hinder the liver’s ability to process this byproduct leading to a host of potential liver problems.

How Long Should You Wait to Consume Alcohol After Taking Tylenol?

In most circumstances, it is recommended to wait at least 24 hours after the last dose of Tylenol before consuming alcohol.

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Seeking Treatment For Substance Use Disorders

Many times, combining substances can be a potential warning sign of a substance use disorder. If you or someone you know would like to seek treatment for a substance use disorder, contact Guardian Recovery today. Our team of treatment advisors is available day or night to answer any questions you may have about the treatment process. Our nationwide network of quality treatment facilities provides a location nearby regardless of your location. Your journey to a lifestyle of recovery can start today.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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