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New Precautions Against Liver Damage

New Precautions Against Liver Damage

When someone is abusing drugs or alcohol, he or she rarely takes time to think about the damage he may be causing to his body. Liver damage from substance abuse remains as a troubling thought tucked back into the minds of many alcoholics, but they’re not the only addicts causing themselves damage. The risk of incurring permanent liver damage also exists for those who use opiates or cold pills. Early in 2014 the Food and Drug Administration reissued its precautions against taking excessive amounts of acetaminophen and will curtail approval of medication formulations that include acetaminophen in excess of 325mg per tablet.

Cirrhosis of the liver has long been identified as a risk that alcoholics take but the term really refers to end-stage liver disease from any cause. The liver is a regenerative organ that can take a lot of damage, but cirrhosis results from liver cells killed off over time, with excessive scarring that will never heal. 

Alcohol. The fourteenth American president, Franklin Pierce, died from cirrhosis caused by alcoholism, as did writer O. Henry. Famous people whose cause of death was not identified as cirrhosis but rather from alcoholism include William Holden, Billie Holiday, Jack Kerouac, Veronica Lake, Jim Morrison, and Dylan Thomas. Sometimes death can result from an alcoholic binge, which happened with Amy Winehouse. The late great John Barrymore’s death was listed to be from multiple causes, but he certainly struggled with alcoholism throughout his life.  So you already know how harmful alcohol is: But what about the alcoholic who wakes up the next day with a horrible headache?  He’s ratcheting up his health risks if he simply pops two acetaminophens. He may be fixing his headache, but his liver is howling.

Opiate Pain Medication. Those addicted to pain pills need to realize that many of them combine some kind of opiate medication with a boost of acetaminophen. Percocet in the 5 mg formulation contains only 325 mg of acetaminophen with the hyrocodone, but the 10 mg contains either 325 or 650 mg. Both Tylenol number 3 and number 4 contain 300 mg of acetaminophen, but the codeine is doubled in the number 4 tablet. But let’s be honest here: how many abusers routinely stick to taking just one or two tablets of whatever it is they’re using? 

Cold Pills. Teenagers comprise the demographic group most likely to abuse cough and cold medications. They will take up to 20 or more tablets at a time trying to get high, and they never stop to think of the damage they’re doing to the liver.

Dealing With the Aftermath. Most medications are metabolized through the liver, and so when a person actually makes the decision to seek treatment for substance abuse, he has often already brought the liver to the brink of ruin. That means that abstinence-based therapy without use of any benzodiazepines to relieve withdrawal anxiety constitutes the best treatment option for people who suffer liver damage from substance abuse.

Today’s news reinforces the risk of liver damage from acetaminophen overload, and addicts are unlikely to recognize the harm they are doing themselves. If you are abusing alcohol, pain pills, or cough and cold preparations, you need medical attention to assess how well your liver is managing. Whether or not you go into treatment for your addiction, you need to have your doctor check your liver’s ability to function. Why not call a rehab center today for more information? 

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