Acetaminophen (Tylenol), or N-(4-hydroxyphenyl) acetamide, has been proven effective as a pain reliever as the primary active ingredient of pain medications and as a co-ingredient in narcotic medications, including Vicodin (Hydrocodone-acetaminophen).

Here are some of the key benefits acetaminophen has over other pain relievers.
  • It does not cause stomach problems such as stomach upset or vomiting.
  • Very few people have allergic reactions to acetaminophen, compared to NSAIDs.
  • Tolerance and dependence is not associated with acetaminophen.
Acetaminophen, which includes Tylenol as one of its brand name manufacturers, is one of the most effective non-narcotic back pain relievers for mild to moderate pain, and generally has shown fewer side effects than other NSAIDs when taken at safe doses. Most pharmacies, as well as any grocery store that you can buy groceries, will have Tylenol in stock, or one of the generic versions of acetaminophen. Unlike aspirin and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications), acetaminophen does not have an anti-inflammatory effect. Acetaminophen relieves pain by acting directly on the pain centers of the brain to make the brain less sensitive to the perception of pain. Safe doses of this medication may include up to 1,000 mg every 4 hours, and as not exceeding 4,000 mg in a 24 hour cycle. Patients exceeding this recommended dose may be subject to damage of the hepatic cells (liver cells) and liver damage.

Acetaminophen, in comparison to other NSAIDs: Acetaminophen rates roughly the same as a pain-relieving and fever-reducing medication, but unlike NSAIDs such as naproxen, ketoprofen, and ibuprofen, it has less anti-inflammatory activity. So why take it? Why not take a drug that does both in reducing pain and reducing inflammation of the joints, which causes pain. the answer lies in the side effects involved with each individual medication. Acetaminophen has almost no adverse effects on the stomach. People who experience gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach upset and indigestion, while taking NSAIDS, often experience far less of these symptoms while taking acetaminophen. And acetaminophen fares well, compared to the majority of NSAIDs, in relieving arthritis symptoms of the knee, the pain of osteoarthritis, and low back pain.

Patients shouldn't get too comfortable taking high single doses of this drug, or continued long term use, just because they don't experience immediate side effects, however. The consumption of large doses of acetaminophen for long periods carries some risks, including liver and kidney damage. While continued use of acetaminophen is less likely to cause GI tract problems, it has been associated with an increased risk of developing kidney disease.

A single overuse of this medication of a greater than 15 gram dose may be able to cause irreversible liver disease. Risks associated with long term use of this medication, are uncertain, but they appeared to be associated with fewer side effects as long as patients do not exceed the recommended doses. Risks associated with the use of acetaminophen may increase with the concurrent use of other types of medications, and especially when consuming alcohol when acetaminophen is still in the system. If you are taking other medications, you should consult with your doctor if considering the use of acetaminophen simultaneously. Patients should not take acetaminophen on an empty stomach or during fasting.

Acetaminophen is processed and cleared through the liver, so patients with liver problems should consult with their doctor before using this medication.