Acetaminophen & Acute Liver Failure

The number one cause of acute liver failure and liver damage is overdosage with tylenol and other pain medications that contain acetaminophen.

The maximum adult daily dosage is 4 grams per day, but some people unknowingly take more because they are combining tylenol for pain with other over-the-counter cold medication that also contains the drug.

In the emergency room, N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) is 100% effective at preventing liver failure from acetaminophen overdose if administered in adequate doses and within 8 hours of ingestion.



NAC is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in the body. When taken as a supplement, it has been shown to increase levels of liver protecting glutathione – perhaps the body’s most important anti-oxidant.

In the emergency room, a 150 lb adult would be given 9.5 grams of NAC as a loading dose followed by seventeen 5 gram doses every four hours.

Side effects of oral NAC? None.

600 to 1200 mg per day is considered an effective NAC dosage for health concerns it is commonly used for. The daily cost of these doses is about 30 to 60 cents per day.

The Bottom LIne:

If taking regular doses of acetaminophen or short-term high doses, doesn’t it make sense to take some liver-protective NAC?   While there are no studies to my knowledge to support this position, I think it does.

Be Well,


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