Most people who drink alcohol know that it may interact with other medications, especially prescription drugs. However, many people are unaware of whether it’s safe to take Tylenol while using alcohol.

Tylenol is one of the most commonly used and widely available over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications. When most people refer to Tylenol, they are actually referring to acetaminophen — the active ingredient in Tylenol. Tylenol is a brand name for acetaminophen, and there are several other types of medications that are made with the brand name Tylenol, such as Tylenol PM. Most of these other medications are mixtures that combine acetaminophen with other drugs.

Is it a good idea to mix alcohol with acetaminophen? Ultimately, it’s best to avoid combining these substances. Alcohol and acetaminophen both affect the liver, and mixing them together can negatively affect the organ. That being said, significant negative effects are unlikely to occur if a normal dose of acetaminophen is taken with light and infrequent alcohol use.

Why Would Someone Mix Alcohol and Tylenol?

Alcohol can cause hangovers, and many people consider using Tylenol to treat the headache that often accompanies a hangover. While hangovers are probably the most common reason that Tylenol would be mixed with alcohol, Tylenol may be used to treat headaches or joint pain caused by the weather. It can also be used for headaches caused by dehydration or sun exposure. Someone may also have medical conditions and use Tylenol for pain control.

Those who use Tylenol and also drink alcohol may inadvertently mix the two without realizing they have done so.

What Are the Risks?

The risks of mixing alcohol and Tylenol vary significantly based on how much of both are used, as well as how frequently and heavily someone uses alcohol. Someone who drinks two or more standard drinks a day may have a greater risk of having problems when the two are mixed.

A “standard drink” refers to a drink that contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. The idea of a standard drink helps people to understand how much alcohol they have had. A standard drink for different alcoholic beverages would generally be:

  • 12 oz of regular beer
  • 8–9 oz of malt liquor
  • 5 oz of wine
  • 1.5 oz of distilled spirits (gin, rum, whisky, vodka, etc.)

If you drink two or more standard drinks a day or drink several standard drinks in one sitting (called binge drinking), then you may be at greater risk when using Tylenol.

Liver Damage

Alcohol is a toxin, and the liver processes alcohol to help the body get rid of it. Alcohol use can cause liver damage, especially when larger amounts of alcohol are used. Tylenol is also processed in the liver. While the liver does not typically struggle to process normal doses of Tylenol, taking too much or using it chronically can lead to liver problems.

While alcohol and Tylenol can both cause liver damage on their own, the effects can multiply when both substances are used together. The liver has a finite ability to process chemicals, and when both substances are combined, they multiply the stress on the liver. This can lead to not only a greater buildup of toxins but also permanent liver damage.

Kidney Disease

While Tylenol usually does not significantly affect the kidneys, it can in large doses. Alcohol use is dehydrating, and less hydration being supplied to the kidneys also raises the risk of damage to the kidneys. When these two factors are combined, alcohol can make the kidneys more susceptible to the effects of Tylenol, leading to acute or chronic kidney injury.

What Increases the Risks?

The risks of mixing Tylenol and alcohol are higher when larger doses of either substance are used. You should always use Tylenol (or any other medication) either how the label says to use it or as instructed by your doctor. Even Tylenol by itself can lead to irreparable liver damage when used in large doses.

Mixing While Drinking Occasionally

If a person does not use alcohol every day and then takes a normal dose of Tylenol with one or two drinks, they will usually not experience harmful effects. This is not to say that it is safe — there can still be harmful effects, even when used in this more limited situation. People who are underweight, are older or have underlying kidney or liver problems may be at a greater risk of developing long-term problems in this situation.

Mixing With Excessive Drinking

When Tylenol is used by someone who drinks excessively, the risk becomes much more substantial. Excessive drinking often leads to liver problems, and Tylenol use in addition to heavy alcohol use will only accelerate potential damage to the liver. If you are considered a heavy drinker, you should avoid using Tylenol without consulting a doctor first.

Drinking During Prolonged Use of Tylenol

When a healthy person is using Tylenol for prolonged periods of time, drinking a small amount of alcohol is generally safe if the Tylenol is being used in the amounts and frequency described on the label. However, it may still lead to health problems, especially in someone who has underlying health problems or is older.

Reducing the Risk

Avoiding the combination of Tylenol and alcohol is ultimately the only way to prevent potential risks. While this is the only way to remain completely free from effects, there are ways that people who use both substances can at least reduce the risks. These include:

  • Not drinking more than two standard drinks per day for men or one per day for women
  • Not taking more than 4,000 mg of Tylenol in 24 hours
  • Not taking more than 1,000 mg of Tylenol in 4–6 hours
  • Waiting at least 24 hours after using alcohol to use Tylenol
  • Waiting at least 24 hours after using Tylenol to drink
  • Consulting with your doctor about your specific situation

By following these tips, you can make mixing Tylenol and alcohol safer than it would be otherwise. However, it is still best to avoid mixing the two if possible.

Getting Help For Alcohol Abuse

Sometimes, people find it difficult to cut back or control their drinking, making it harder to avoid mixing alcohol and medications. If you are struggling to cut back on your alcohol use or stop drinking altogether, then you may need to consider seeking professional help to reach your goals. At The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, our team of experts can help you stop using alcohol and support you on your path to a healthier and more fulfilling future. Contact a representative today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.