When taking medication, one of the most important things to check is the warning on the label. In the case of Tylenol, there is a clear warning to avoid alcohol while taking the medication because of the devastating effects it has on your liver.
According to NutritionMD, the website of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the liver is the body's filtration system--it filters out drugs and toxins from the body. While it is doing this, the liver can become damaged from some of the toxins, a condition called hepatotoxicity. Illegal drugs, medications, alcohol and herbs are the most common causes and among them, alcohol and drugs, legal and illegal, are the leading causes of liver damage and disease.
Tylenol is one of the brand names of a drug called acetaminophen, which is found in other medications like Nyquil, Vicodin and Excedrin. It is one of the most popular pain-relief medications on the market. The Hepatitis C Support Project, or HCSP, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education about liver-related illnesses, says acetaminophen metabolizes in the liver--which means that it is broken down by the liver.
Acetaminophen and Alcohol
A combination of acetaminophen and beer or any other alcohol can be deadly to the liver. If you consume more than three alcoholic beverages, it is not a good idea to take acetaminophen, because when the two are combined in the liver, there is a toxic byproduct created called N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine, or NAPQI, that can kill liver cells.
If you drink on a regular basis, you should be extremely careful about taking medications like Tylenol that have acetaminophen. While the liver can regenerate itself up to a certain point, people who drink regularly are very susceptible to permanent liver damage even if they have not been drinking when they take acetaminophen.
HCSP mentions there is a risk of liver damage even if you take Tylenol or other acetaminophen products hours before or after drinking. Basically, if there is alcohol in your system and you take Tylenol, it overwhelms your liver's ability to filter out toxins and creates a toxic metabolic byproduct that damages your liver. Over time, this becomes permanent damage, as cirrhosis of the liver. Consult your doctor if you are drinking and taking pain medication on a regular basis to avoid permanent damage to your liver and other organs.