The morning after a night of bar hopping and parties can vary from person to person. Some feel fine while others are left feeling sluggish, tired, and/or overcome by a blistering headache. Products such as Motrin and Tylenol are seen as safe for individuals wanting to alleviate common symptoms such as muscle aches, fevers, and headaches. So, after you get out of bed in the morning with a massive headache from a night of drinking, you first go to your medicine cabinet and see two bottles: Motrin (Ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen)…which one do you choose? (Hint. Hint. Choose the Motrin). You may remember your parents/friends advising you to take Motrin rather than Tylenol to “cure” your hangovers. But they don’t know what they’re talking about right? Yes, they do. Your safety is their No. 1 concern.
“These products are available to anyone, so I can take as much Tylenol as I want right?”
Not quite. These products have recommended dosing and maximum daily allowances to ensure your safety. On the packaging, the warning section includes information about alcohol use and the effects that it may have. Individuals who take Tylenol after a long night of drinking may end up in dark waters. To understand why, let’s dive deeper into how Tylenol works within our bodies. When Tylenol is ingested, it reaches the liver to be broken down by enzymes that allow it to be filtered out of the body by the kidneys. When excessive amounts of Tylenol are taken, the liver’s ability to break down this medication is compromised. This can lead to an accumulation of Tylenol leading to liver failure and death.
“How does this pertain to alcohol and hangovers?”
Research has shown that alcohol increases the amount of enzymes that are responsible for breaking down Tylenol. As more of these enzymes are produced, the more Tylenol is broken down into its toxic biproduct leading to its accumulation. Excess amounts of this biproduct can kill liver cells.
“How is Motrin or (ibuprofen) any different?”
Motrin is removed from the body by the kidneys and has little impact on liver function. This makes Motrin a good therapeutic option for helping alleviate hangover headaches. However, this does not mean you should take excessive amounts of Motrin, as this can damage your kidneys. Always remember to take medications as they are prescribed by a health care provider or recommended by the drug manufacturer. Everyone reacts differently to these medications, so it is always best to start at a low dose and see how you feel after. Be sure to consult your primary care provider or local pharmacist for any questions you have about taking over-the-counter medications.
Alcohol can increase the amount of enzymes that breakdown Tylenol resulting in an accumulation its toxic biproducts
Motrin (ibuprofen) does not have the same effect on the liver as Tylenol does
Take any medication based on the recommended dose and do not exceed these limits without consulting a health care provider first
-Riley T. Mohr, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2022