Over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers are widely used to offer relief for everything from headaches and muscle pain to the treatment of fevers. The active ingredient in more than 600 of these medicines, be they Tylenol, Percocet or Vicodin, is acetaminophen. Although it is generally considered safe when taken in accordance with the recommended dosage instructions, ingesting even a small amount more than is directed can lead to serious health risks.
Acetaminophen has been found by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cause serious liver damage, acute liver failure and even deaths as a result of taking too much of the drug. The FDA advises patients not take more acetaminophen than is directed, as well as to avoid taking more than one acetaminophen-based medicine at once. It is also advised that consumers should avoid drinking three or more alcoholic beverages per day while taking acetaminophen medications. These actions put the user at a risk of serious liver damage.