Cannabis Vs. OTC Medications: Acetaminophen
There’s been a lot of talk and press over cannabis’s potential to replace the need for long-term painkiller use, as well as many other prescription medications like benzodiazepines and barbiturates. There’s also the possibility that, for some people, it may replace or reduce the ingestion of alcohol and other recreational substances. However, few people have talked about cannabis’s potential to replace even the more benign, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol). So, could getting an MMJ card really help you reduce your intake of even OTC drugs?
Now, you may be asking, “Tylenol? Really?” To which it is reasonable to say, “Yes, really.” Tylenol, in which the active ingredient is acetaminophen (chemical formula C8H9NO2), is perhaps one of the most commonly used drugs the world over. Acetaminophen is usually used for reducing fever and the relief of mild-to-moderate pain arising from osteoarthritis, back pain, headaches, postoperative pain, dental pain and many other kinds of acute or chronic pain.
So, how dangerous is acetaminophen, and how many does it kill every year? Now, here’s the thing: for the numbers of people who use acetaminophen, it is not necessarily dangerous in small doses. However, in large doses, it can cause fatal liver damage and in some cases kidney damage. Skin reactions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome are rare, but still possible. There are also some potential links between asthma and paracetamol use. Many experts claim that doses of up to 4,000 mg of acetaminophen a day are relatively safe for most people.
However, the safety and efficacy of paracetamol is very much up for debate. To quote from this study:
“Paracetamol is ineffective in the treatment of low back pain and provides minimal short term benefit for people with osteoarthritis. These results support the reconsideration of recommendations to use paracetamol for patients with low back pain and osteoarthritis of the hip or knee in clinical practice guidelines.”
Studies like this are backed up elsewhere as well. This review by Cochrane UK also comes to a similar conclusion:
“We found high-quality evidence that paracetamol (4 g per day) is no better than placebo for relieving acute LBP in either the short or longer term. It also worked no better than placebo on the other aspects studied, such as quality of life and sleep quality. About one in five people reported side effects, though few were serious, and there was no difference between intervention and control groups.”
As for how dangerous acetaminophen is, the two pieces from ProPublica here (‘Only Use as Directed’) and here (‘Behind the Numbers’) also paint an interesting picture, as they take several major studies from different organizations to arrive at a figure. To quote from ProPublica’s ‘Behind the Numbers’ :
“Data obtained from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 300 people die annually as a result of acetaminophen poisoning.
To read the rest of the original article, please link to doctorfrank.com