Tylenol and Alcohol: Is It Safe To Drink While Taking Tylenol?

Moderate alcohol consumption while on Tylenol should be safe. However, it is always best to get advised by a healthcare professional before mixing alcohol with any medication.
Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Neuroscientist at the University Of Cambridge.

A blue image with text saying "Can you drink alcohol while taking Tylenol?"

What is Tylenol?

Tylenol, which is also referred to as acetaminophen, is a commonly used pain reliever in the world. It helps with reducing moderate pain and fever[1, 2, 3]. However, it is not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), so it does not reduce inflammation [3]

The active ingredient in Tylenol is called acetaminophen. It is found in over 600 other medications, ranging from medication for infants, children, and adults [2]. It is a non-narcotic pain reliever, thus it does not cause physical dependence on the drug, which some other pain relievers do [3].

The mechanism by which Tylenol relieves pain is not fully understood. However, it is thought that the mechanism operates based on increasing the body's threshold, which results in feeling less pain [3]. In addition, research suggests that the active ingredient in Tylenol is inhibiting a form of enzyme cyclooxygenase-3, which is believed to be involved in pain [4].

Although Tylenol is widely used and its normal dose is generally referred to as safe, misuse or Tylenol overdose can cause unwanted effects. This includes liver problems, which may result in liver failure [5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. Therefore, it is crucial to follow the instructions from your healthcare provider or according to the package instructions.

Can I drink alcohol while taking Tylenol?

It is natural to ask whether one can drink alcohol while taking Tylenol. However, to answer such a question, we need to consider multiple factors.

According to the University of Illinois, you can drink alcohol in moderation if you follow the instructions on Tylenol use obtained from a medical professional. Moderate alcohol consumption refers to not having more than three standard alcoholic drinks per day [10].

Saying this, it is important to keep in mind that both alcohol and Tylenol are metabolised in the liver. Therefore drinking alcohol while on Tylenol, may impact liver health, especially when the gap between taking Tylenol and consuming alcohol is not sufficient [11].

However, should you suffer from chronic alcohol consumption, heavy alcohol use or have a history of alcohol addiction, the combination with Tylenol may increase your liver injury [12, 13].

What will happen if I take alcohol while taking Tylenol?

Combining alcohol and Tylenol can have varying effects depending on the amount of alcohol drunk and the individual's health status. 

As we mentioned above, moderate alcohol use does not cause any severe side effects and is considered as safe [10]. However, if you have a history of alcohol abuse or history of liver problems, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol while on Tylenol [14]

Although the studies are conflicting, it is believed to be because it can lead to an increase in an enzyme called cytochrome CYP2E1 in the liver which may lead to irreversible liver damage [15]. One study found that administration of a normal dose of 4g/day of Tylenol appeared to be safe in newly abstinent patients who abused alcohol [16]. However, another study showed that patients with chronic alcohol use developed liver failure within 3-5 days after stopping alcohol use and being treated with 4g/day of Tylenol [17].

What should I do if I drank alcohol while taking Tylenol?

In case you have consumed alcoholic beverages in moderation while on Tylenol (acetaminophen), you should not experience any severe side effects [10]. However, it is still important to monitor your symptoms. 

Excessive alcohol consumption is not recommended and should be avoided. Always bear in mind that the timing of alcohol and Tylenol intake is critical [18].

If you experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or yellowing of the skin or eyes, seek medical attention immediately. These could be signs of liver damage [17]. Should you observe any negative side effects, contact a healthcare professional immediately. 

Interactions of Tylenol

Tylenol (acetaminophen) also interacts with other medications which may lead to potential risks. 

Local anesthetics such as bupivacaine and chloroprocaine interact with Tylenol. Further, Tylenol interacts with rheumatoid arthritis medications such as leflunomide, cholesterol-lowering drugs like lomitapide, anticancer drugs like pexidartinib, and multiple sclerosis medication like teriflunomide. Another substance that Tylenol can interact with is sodium nitrite [19].

Moreover, drugs that contain acetaminophen can interact with Tylenol causing acetaminophen overdose. Acetaminophen overdose can cause acute liver failure or kidney damage. These drugs include generic acetaminophen, NyQuil, DayQuil, Sudafed PE Sinus Pressure + Pain, and Panadol Extra Strength[19].

It is always recommended to consult your medications with your healthcare provider before combining them with Tylenol to avoid potential complications.

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Frederika Malichová

Frederika Malichová

Frederika is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Cambridge, where she investigates new biomarkers for Frontotemporal Dementia and other tauopathies. Her research has been published at prestigious conferences such as the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2023. She obtained her BSc in Biomedical Sciences from UCL, where she worked closely with the UK Dementia Research Institute.