Possible Kidney Risks from Tylenol and Alcohol Combo

Acetaminophen paired with alcohol led to significantly increased risk of kidney dysfunction

(RxWiki News) People taking Tylenol may need to think twice before they wash it down with an alcoholic drink. New research looked at the health risks of this combination.

A recent study used responses to a health survey to see how acetaminophen — most commonly known by the brand name Tylenol — and alcohol affected a person's risk of developing kidney problems.

The researchers found that taking acetaminophen or drinking alcohol alone did not lead to any significant kidney harm. However, taking the two together steeply increased the risk for kidney dysfunction.

"Before taking any medications, read the labels completely."

Harrison Ndetan, MSc, MPH, DrPH, led this study to see how acetaminophen and alcohol affected the kidneys.

Acetaminophen is an over-the-counter pain reliever. It is sold by itself and is also often included in other medications, like over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

The labels on acetaminophen bottles discourage mixing the medicine with alcohol. This study showed just how harmful the combination may be.

The study used data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included responses from more than 10,000 participants.

The participants answered questions about their medication usage, including acetaminophen, and alcohol consumption habits.

A total of 2.6 percent of the participants reported taking therapeutic amounts of acetaminophen while consuming light to moderate amounts of alcohol. Of these people, 1.2 percent developed kidney dysfunction.

Kidney dysfunction happens when the kidneys stop filtering the blood as efficiently as they should. It can result in unhealthy bones, increased risk of heart disease and other serious health problems.

In other words, participants who took acetaminophen and alcohol together increased their risk of significant kidney damage by 123 percent compared with those who did not take the two substances together.

Normal doses of acetaminophen and light to moderate alcohol consumption alone were not associated with significant increases in kidney dysfunction risks.

The researchers concluded that combining acetaminophen and alcohol could lead to hazardous health problems, so doctors should advise patients who take acetaminophen to avoid pairing it with alcohol.

This research was presented on November 4 at the American Public Health Association's 141st annual meeting. The researchers did not declare funding sources or any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 1, 2013