What Is Acetaminophen
Acetaminophen is a very common ingredient found in more than 600 drugs sold at common medicine counters across the globe. It can be used as a pain reliever, fever reducer and for many other smaller purposes such as relieving one of cough, cold and allergy infections and also aiding in sleep. One important property of this drug is that unlike aspirin which is used for similar purposes, acetaminophen is not a blood thinner and hence can be prescribed to patients who suffer from coagulation disorders.
Although acetaminophen is considered as a wonder drug yet it has some side effects but when taken in doses as prescribed by a registered medical practitioner, the effects are negligible but in case you take more than that which is considered safe in medical standards, it can adversely affect your liver and cause digestion problems in most individuals. You should always remember not to take two medicines containing acetaminophen at the same time. In acute cases it may lead to liver failure and is common in many western countries. The risks associated with it are heightened in case you are an alcoholic.
As it can be used as a pain reliever, hence it is administered by doctors to relieve headache and in some cases to relieve more serious pain like post-surgical pain. In case it is used to relieve post-surgical pain, it is combined with opioid analgesics. Medical studies reveal that the onset of analgesia takes almost 11 minutes after it is taken orally and it has a half-life of almost 3 to 4 hours.
One should also know that acetaminophen cannot be used in certain cases such as if pain lasts for more than a week or if fever lasts for a long time or if pain is accompanied with redness and swelling. In case pain is accompanied with inflammation, it should never be used as it cannot help in reducing inflammation. The most common cases where it can be used are headaches, arthritis, toothache, premenstrual or menstrual cramps, backaches and muscle aches.
In order to understand how this drug works, we need to understand what causes pain in case of cell damage. The prime cause of pain is prostaglandin which causes pain in the central nervous system and also in the brain which gives us the sensation of pain. It also increases the mean body temperature above and over the normal level in order to prevent any infection. Acetaminophen works by blocking cyclooxygenase which acts as the catalyst in converting fatty acids to prostaglandins and hence the production of prostaglandins in the peripheral and central nervous systems reduces which ultimately leads to reduction of fever and pain. It is a weak analgesic and does not contain anti-inflammatory properties and hence cannot be used effectively to reduce inflammations arising due to muscle sprains. It falls in the category of non-opioid analgesics.