How many strikes does Tylenol get?

Doctors frequently recommend pregnant women use Tylenol (acetaminophen) for aches and pains. And that’s just terrible advice.

Acetaminophen is one of the most dangerous drugs on the market. In fact, a brand-new study found that pregnant women who take it have children who run a higher risk of developing serious behavior problems. Including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And hyperkinetic disorder, a more severe form of ADHD.

Researchers published these disturbing findings last month in JAMA Pediatrics. I’ll tell you more about the study in a moment. But first let’s recap what we already know about acetaminophen…

This “safe,” OTC drug holds a terrible distinction. It’s the leading cause of liver failure deaths in the U.S. (Actually, it’s held that terrible distinction for decades!) It also has a track record of causing problems in children.

Last November I told you about a report by William Shaw, Ph.D. that links acetaminophen to autism. Dr. Shaw is a metabolic and endocrine expert who formerly worked for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). He believes certain children who receive acetaminophen prior vaccinations run an increased risk of developing autism. Of course, doctors encourage parents to give the drug to their children to prevent fevers caused by vaccinations.

But it can also deplete the child’s glutathione levels–never a good thing. You see, your body needs glutathione for many functions. Including brain function. But when glutathione levels drop, you can experience toxic overload. Young children are especially vulnerable to experiencing this build-up.

According to Dr. Shaw, this build-up of toxins triggers brain changes in children who are otherwise healthy, but genetically or metabolically susceptible to autism. (This effect also explains the frequent liver failures, since the liver is on the front line of detoxification for the body.)

Not one of these problems surprises me. You see, acetaminophen is a metabolic poison. And according to the new study, it’s a hormone disrupter as well.

As I explained earlier, researchers in the new study wanted to see if children born to women who took acetaminophen during pregnancy ran an increased risk of developing ADHD or hyperkinetic disorders (HKD).

The study included 64,322 children and their mothers who were part of the Danish National Birth Cohort. The researchers followed the children from birth up to age 18. And they gathered results in three ways:

1.   They asked parents to report on their child’s behavior at age seven using the Childhood Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

2.   They looked for HKD diagnoses in the Danish Psychiatric Central Registry.

3.   They looked for ADHD prescriptions (mostly Ritalin) in the Danish Prescription Registry.

More than half of all mothers reported acetaminophen use during pregnancy. And the children exposed to the drug in utero were up to 27 percent more likely to exhibit ADHD-like behaviors at age seven. They were up to 59 percent more likely to be diagnosed with HKD at a hospital. And they were up to 44 percent more likely take ADHD drugs.

Children exposed during the first trimester had a much stronger tendency toward these negative outcomes. And the more often a mother used acetaminophen during her pregnancy, the stronger the trend.

Clearly, this study just scratches the surface. And we need more research. But if the research bears out, it means acetaminophen is an even bigger public health problem.

Of course, Johnson & Johnson makes the Tylenol brand of acetaminophen. The company also makes well-known and trusted baby products. But clearly our babies aren’t safe from all Johnson & Johnson products. Far from it. And it’s going to take a lot more than a Band-Aid to fix it.

A few months back, the FDA issued more stringent requirements for warnings labels on products that contain acetaminophen. But what it really needs to do is ban this poison altogether.

I guarantee if a dietary supplement had anywhere near this effect, the FDA would show up with “lawyers, guns and money” to shut it all down pronto. In fact, the FDA regularly brings out the big guns against harmless natural ingredients. Without having a scrap of scientific evidence.

In the April issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, you will learn about the false charges brought against the ancient herb kava. (If you’re not yet a subscriber to my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, now’s the perfect time to get started.)This herb is popular in the South Pacific as an anti-anxiety agent.

Well, about 10 years ago, a handful of patients who took kava showed some abnormalities on liver function tests. So, in Europe, they completely banned it for years. In the U.S., many manufacturers voluntarily took it off shelves.

Eventually, research found kava wasn’t to blame. These patients had also been taking any of a number of drugs that are toxic to the liver.

On the other hand, we have clear, consistent, and documented problems with acetaminophen. Each year it causes hundreds of deaths due to liver failure. It causes liver toxicity in thousands more each year. It shows clear links to autism. And now, to behavior problems in children.

So what, exactly, is the FDA waiting for? How many strikes does Tylenol get?

Bottom line?

Never take acetaminophen for anything. Ever. Period.


1. “Acetaminophen Use During Pregnancy, Behavioral Problems, and Hyperkinetic Disorders,” 1Department of Epidemiology, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles
2Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
3Arizona Respiratory Center, the BIO5 Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson
4Global Clinical Epidemiology, Drug Safety, and Epidemiology, Novartis Farmaceutica SA, Barcelona, Spain
5Department of Health Care Management, College of Healthcare Administration and Management, National Taipei University of Nursing Health Sciences, Taipei, Taiwan
6The Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark

JAMA Pediatr, published online ahead of print 2/24/2014