Does Panadol / Tylenol stay in our body for 5 years, destroying our kidneys and liver?
Take a look at the viral message, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : Panadol / Tylenol Stays In Our Body For 5 Years!
This viral message has been circulating for more than a decade now, but always gets revived every year or so.
My husband was working in a hospital as an IT engineer, as the hospital is planning to set up a database of its patients and he knows some of the doctors quite well.
The doctors used to tell him that whenever they have a headache, they are not willing to take PANADOL / PARACETAMOL.
There is even a Malay version :
Suami saya bekerja sebagai Jurutera IT di sebuah hospital, di mana pihak hospital sedang menyiapkan pengkalan data untuk pesakitnya. Dia mengenali rapat doktor tersebut.
Doktor memberitahu suami saya, apabila mengalami sakit kepala, mereka sendiri tidak sanggup mengambil Panadol atau Paracetamol. . Sebaliknya, mereka akan mencari ubatan herba Cina atau mencari altenatif lain.
Truth : Panadol / Tylenol Does NOT Stay In Our Body For 5 Years!
This is yet another example of medical fake news that people keep sharing on Facebook, WhatsApp, and emails.
Let me tell you what the facts really are…
Fact #1 : They Are Paracetamol / Acetaminophen
Panadol is a GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) trade name for paracetamol, which is also known as acetaminophen in the United States, Canada, Japan, Venezuela and Columbia.
Tylenol is the trade name owned by McNeil, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, for the same drug – paracetamol or acetaminophen.
Due to its longevity and popularity since it was introduced in 1955, the names Panadol and Tylenol have been genericised.
Many people now call all forms of paracetamol / acetaminophen “Panadol” or “Tylenol”, whether it comes from GSK or McNeil or another company. In other words :
Paracetamol = Panadol = Tylenol = Acetaminophen
Fact #2 : They Have A Short Half-Life
Both Panadol and Tylenol have a short half-life of about 2 hours. That’s why we take them up to 4 times a day.
If paracetamol or acetaminophen can stay in our body for 5 years, heck, we would only need take one tablet and it would last for the next few years!
Fact #3 : They Don’t Reduce Your Pain Threshold
Paracetamol or acetaminophen do not reduce your pain threshold. In fact, it INCREASES our pain threshold by reducing nerve-sensitising prostaglandins in the brain and spinal cord.
However, this increase in pain threshold is only temporary, and wears off in a few hours. See Fact #2.
Fact #4 : Doctors Practice Evidence-Based Medicine
The funniest part of the hoax is the claim that doctors refuse to take paracetamol for headaches, and prefer herbal medicine instead. It’s such an unbelievably bold LIE.
Doctors practice evidence-based medicine, and paracetamol / acetaminophen are part of their toolkit – drugs that have been proven to work, at specific dosages for specific purposes.
No doctor worth his/her salt is going to advocate herbal medicine with uncertain effects and properties, over the known effects and properties of paracetamol / acetaminophen.
Fact #5 : They Can Be Toxic, Like Any Other Substance
Paracetamol / acetaminophen (like any other substances) can be toxic when taken in excessive amounts. Even water can be toxic, for the matter.
Overdosing on paracetamol can damage the liver. Excessive amounts of its metabolite, NAPQI, will deplete the liver’s glutathione and damage its cells.
How much do you need to consume to overdose on paracetamol? Usually taking 10 grams at one go – that’s 20 tablets of standard 500 mg paracetamol, or 6 grams or 12 tablets a day.
Alcohol consumption increases the risks of liver damage, so the maximum dose should be cut in half for those who consume alcohol.
Excessive, prolonged use of paracetamol can also cause SICK (small, indented and calcified kidneys). How much is excessive? That’s 300 grams a year – 600 tablets a year, or 50 tablets a month.
Now, how many of us actually consume enough paracetamol to run the risk of liver or kidney damage? Everyone knows the recommended limit is 2 x 500 mg tablets every 6 hours, which is 4 grams per day. Usually, we all make do with just 2 to 4 tablets a day.
The fake news creator is right that we should think twice before popping a pill into our mouths, but we should also think TWICE and VERIFY before forwarding such messages.
Please help fight fake news by SHARING this fact check with your family and friends!
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
He continues to devote countless hours every day writing about tech, medicine and science, in his pursuit of facts in a post-truth world.
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