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I felt the need to write this article due to yet another sad, tragic, senseless, preventable death due to acute liver failure from accidental overdose of acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen is the generic drug better known as Tylenol. It is very, very toxic to the liver if taken in overdose and can and does cause death due to acute liver failure.

A 19 yr. old college student died yesterday morning in my local hospital's ICU from accidental ingestion of almost 20 grams (20,000 milligrams) of acetaminophen from multiple over the counter meds to treat his sore throat and chest cold. He consumed 20 grams within about 8 hours.

He took a liquid sore throat medicine, a liquid chest cold medicine, a liquid pain medicine, a liquid cough medicine and a couple others. He did not exceed the dose of any of these over the counter meds. He even was concerned enough that he waited at least a half hour or so between taking each med. He bought and consumed an over the counter med for each symptom he had as he was really, really feeling miserable and sick.

What he failed to do was to read the active ingredients of each med and sadly each med contained acetaminophen and the maxium amount per dose which is 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) and instructions to take every 4 hours. He failed to realize that over the counter meds are real meds, with dangers and warnings and just because you don't need a prescription doesn't mean you can get sloppy.

The problem is that most over the counter cold, cough, sore throat, sinus, pain meds contain acetaminophen, and most in the maximum amount allowed per dose which is 1 gram (1,000 milligrams. A healthy person can take only a maximum of 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) per day spaced at least 6 hours apart and even at this dose it's only for ten days unless directed to continue longer by a doctor.

So if someone is taking the maximum dose of many different products when they are sick with a chest cold, sore throat, cough etc. this is what happens.

The problem is that most people don't read labels and even those who do don't know that acetaminophen is a very liver toxic substance.

It's a shame and it happens more often than what the general public ever knows. I work in an office in a hospital. It happens to people of all ages and both men and women but younger males tend to die more from accidental acetaminophen overdose-acute liver failure due to a more carefree attitude about over the counter meds and not reading labels.

Please read labels and don't consume more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) of acetaminophen each 24 hour period and don't do this for more than a week.

Please take over the counter medications seriously as they are very real and while they can and do help they also can and do kill if one is not attentive.

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For many years now I have been railing against the uncontrolled sale of acetaminophen in the U.S. All I have asked is that we follow the guide of the United Kingdom, and allow sales in packages no larger than 36. If a physician wishes to prescribe 100 or more, a prescription should be written. I do not think that I am asking too much.
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