Health Watch — Dangerous Drugs: Avoiding Overdose

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about drugs that can be dangerous. Previously, we mentioned the fact that overdosing on acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter pain reliever, can lead to liver failure. What may be surprising is how easy it can be to overdose on this medication.

Dr. William Lee, a liver expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says you can easily overdose when taking medicines for different illnesses. Acetaminophen is found in pain relievers as well as in many multi-symptom cold, flu and allergy products. For instance, you could overdose if you’re taking a pain reliever for arthritis at the same time you’re taking a cold medicine. To avoid overdose, read the labels on any medications you’re taking and don’t take more than 4,000 milligrams of acetaminophen a day. Alcohol makes acetaminophen more toxic, so take even less if you’re drinking regularly.


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May 2007

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