You may have heard the joke about the mother who takes her son to the good ol’ country doctor and asks what’s wrong with the boy. The doctor says, “Well, ma’am, I’m sorry to say, but he’s just not very bright.”
The outraged mother says, “I demand to get a second opinion!” The doctor thinks for a moment, then replies, “To tell the truth, he’s kind of homely too.”
Well, researchers have come up with a similar second opinion on acetaminophen (better known by the brand name Tylenol). Although this second opinion isn’t so subjective, it’s just as ugly. And it’s no laughing matter.
Experts have already long concluded that excess doses of this toxic drug are the No. 1 cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.1
And now, a large new study reports that acetaminophen is actually worse than placebo sugar pills at relieving pain.2
Tylenol prolongs pain
The new research involved 1,643 people with lower back pain—the most common cause of pain and disability in working age Americans and something that nearly two-thirds of Americans have experienced at some point in their lives.3
The study participants were divided into three groups. For four weeks, the first group took six 500-mg acetaminophen pills a day, and could potentially take another two pills on an “as-needed” basis for pain. (500 mg of acetaminophen is the dosage in one Extra Strength Tylenol tablet.)
The second group also took six 500-mg acetaminophen pills daily, but their “as-needed” pills were actually placebo sugar pills. The third group was given only sugar pills.
The researchers found that people in both of the acetaminophen groups suffered an average of 17 days before recovering from a bout of disabling back pain. But patients taking a sugar pill took only 16 days to recover.
You read that right—people taking the drug actually spent an extra day in pain. And if you are one of millions who have had back pain, you know that every day of suffering can seem like an eternity.
So in the end, all you get for the trouble and expense of taking Tylenol is the risk of liver failure—and less pain relief than a sugar pill.
But why is Tylenol so ineffective when it comes to relieving pain? Well, I suspect acetaminophen is a metabolic poison that actually interferes with your body’s normal ability to heal naturally and safely.
And yet, universal medical practice guidelines scandalously call for this toxic, ineffective drug as a first-line treatment for low back pain. You have to wonder where that idea came from. In fact, as the researchers of this new study point out, there has never been any good evidence to support using Tylenol for back pain—despite the “universal” acceptance.
So, as the good ol’ country doctor from that joke might say, using acetaminophen is just plain dumb—as well as ugly.
But unfortunately, avoiding acetaminophen isn’t always as simple as bypassing the bottles of Tylenol on the grocery or drugstore shelves.
Sneaky sources increase your risk
Acetaminophen also hides out in numerous combination prescription pain relievers.
The theory seems to be that a pharmaceutical company can sell a worthless pain reliever like acetaminophen by adding it to a second ingredient that should actually have some pain-relieving potential. Then, when the combination works (based on the other ingredient) the company can claim the product is effective.
The problem is, people can easily end up getting “too much” Tylenol when it’s hiding out in these prescription drugs. (Although, of course, any amount of this toxin is too much in my book.)
The FDA, which is supposed to regulate drugs so that they are safe and effective, has finally seen fit to try and stop this practice.
In January, the FDA recommended that doctors stop prescribing combination pain relievers that contain more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per tablet or capsule.4 (Some of these drugs contain as much as 750 mg of acetaminophen.)
The FDA first asked manufacturers to reduce the acetaminophen in these combination pain relievers back in January 2011, and gave them three years to comply. But as of January 2014, only about half of the manufacturers had done so. Hence the new recommendation. The FDA also issued a warning that it intends to initiate proceedings to remove approval of these combination drugs in the “near future.”
Of course, Congress asked the FDA for new good manufacturing procedures for dietary supplements in the “near future” back in 1993. It took 13 years for those procedures to be finalized. Hopefully it won’t be another unlucky 13 years for consumers before these combination pain relievers are finally banned.
But regardless of how long it takes the government authorities to do their job, you can start protecting yourself and your loved ones today.
If you’re suffering from low back pain, the best relief doesn’t actually come from a drug—or a supplement—at all. Research has proven that spinal manual therapy (SMT) administered by skilled chiropractors and physical therapists is the most effective therapy for low back pain. SMT is safe, doesn’t have any side effects, and is widely available. And, best of all, it really works, and works fast.
There are also better, safer ways to relieve other types of pain. These options are natural, effective, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg (not to mention your liver—or your life). I discuss all of these safe, natural alternatives in detail in my report, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to PILL-FREE Pain Cures. If you don’t already own a copy, you can purchase it on my website, www.drmicozzi.com.
1Acute Liver Failure including Acetaminophen Overdose. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2504411. Accessed August 7, 2014.
2Williams CW, et al. Efficacy of paracetamol for acute low-back pain: a double-blind, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 24 July 2014
3American Physical Therapy Association. Low Back Pain by the Numbers. http://www.moveforwardpt.com/LowBackPain/Infographic/Default.aspx. Accessed August 7, 2014.
4U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Acetaminophen Prescription Combination Drug Products with more than 325 mg: FDA Statement – Recommendation to Discontinue Prescribing and Dispensing. http://www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch/safetyinformation/safetyalertsforhumanmedicalproducts/ucm381650.htm. Accessed August 7, 2014.
5Evidence that Increased Acetaminophen use in Genetically Vulnerable Children Appears to be a Major Cause of the Epidemics of Autism, Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity, and Asthma. http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/eng/Acetaminophen.asp. Accessed August 7, 2014.