Acetaminophen and Alcohol: Interactions, Effects & Risks
Last Updated: November 15, 2023
In excess, taking Tylenol (acetaminophen) while drinking alcohol can lead to liver damage and other negative side effects.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is estimated to send 50,000 people to an emergency department in the United States each year. Many of these visits are because numerous combination products sold over the counter contain acetaminophen, and people may accidentally mix it with other substances, such as alcohol.
What Is Tylenol (Acetaminophen)?
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is an over-the-counter medication for pain and reducing fevers. While the exact mechanism for how acetaminophen works is unknown, it appears to treat pain and fever similarly to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, and is classified with them. These medications all reduce prostaglandins, which cause pain and fever.
It is important to note that acetaminophen is frequently combined with other medications, so accidental overdoses are possible. Always consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for guidance about mixing over-the-counter or prescription medicines.
Can You Take Tylenol While Drinking Alcohol?
While taking Tylenol after drinking in moderation is generally considered safe, the best answer is to avoid this combination. If you drink alcohol and want to take Tylenol, always ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for the most customized recommendation about your specific scenario.
Tylenol and Alcohol Interactions
Tylenol and alcohol are both metabolized by the liver. As a result, the amount of Tylenol you take and the amount of alcohol you drink determines whether this combination is safe for you. If you take Tylenol after drinking excessively or consistently over a long period, your liver may be less effective at metabolizing. This could result in acetaminophen toxicity, so it is best to avoid mixing acetaminophen and alcohol.
Dangers of Combining Tylenol and Alcohol
If you regularly drink alcohol and/or take high doses of Tylenol, you may be at higher risk for liver damage. There are many signs and symptoms of liver damage, including:
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Abdominal swelling
- Losing weight
- Dark urine
How Long After Taking Tylenol Can You Drink?
For someone who is otherwise healthy, it is generally acceptable to have up to two drinks for men or one for women after taking a dose of Tylenol. When taken in moderation, this should not be enough to overwhelm the liver and cause toxicity. However, if you drink heavily or have been taking high doses of acetaminophen, it is best not to mix the two.
How Long Should You Wait To Take Tylenol After Drinking?
If you have a hangover after a night of drinking, you may be looking for something to help. Unfortunately, it is best to avoid taking Tylenol for your hangover until the effects of alcohol have worn off — usually after 24 hours.
Always ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for information about your specific situation or safe alternatives to Tylenol.
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Gerriets, Valerie; Anderson, Jackie; & Nappe, Thomas M. “Acetaminophen.” National Library of Medicine, last updated September 18, 2022. Accessed May 7, 2023.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Symptoms & Causes of Cirrhosis.” Last reviewed March 2018. Accessed May 7, 2023.
MedlinePlus. “Hangover treatment.” Last reviewed April 24, 2021. Accessed May 7, 2023.