Is it OK to break Tylenol in half?
July 3, 2005 5:42 PM   Subscribe

I seem to have accumulated a stock of "extra strength" Tylenol, when often my headaches and other pains really only call for "minimum strength." I don't want to just pop a 500 mg Tylenol whenever I hurt - is it ok to break these in half to get a lower dose?
posted by autojack to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
The term is "scored", which means that the acetaminophen is evenly distributed across the entire pill. Non-scored tablets (such as Viagra) cannot be broken in half with the assumption that only half the dosage will be administered.

Tylenol comes in a myriad of different forms. Is it a capsule, tablet, gelcap, extended release, quick release, etc.? I believe it will be scored if it's a normal tablet. Generic acetaminophen at 250MG is really cheap, I'd suggest going that route if you're unsure they are scored. Of course nothing really bad can come if you take 500MG as long as you're not a heavy drinker or have any kind of liver problems.
posted by geoff. at 6:13 PM on July 3, 2005

If it's in a capsule and has little balls for extended release, you can pretty reliabily measure out half and chew them with the front of your teeth if you really want to negate the extended effects and get proper dosage.
posted by geoff. at 6:15 PM on July 3, 2005

For a normal-sized adult 500 mg is a pretty low dose already; the pediatric dose is 15-20 mg per kilogram. For the typical 70 kg (150 lb.) adult that works out to 1050-1400 mg. On the other hand, if 250 mg works out for you, go for it. All of the above caveats apply, but if you should accidently get more than the 250 mg you are aiming for, you are still well within the safe dose range.
posted by TedW at 6:22 PM on July 3, 2005

The instructions on extra strength tylenol say take two 500 mg pills. I believe regular strength says take two 325 or 250 mg. So 500 mg is actually already a light strength dose.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:30 PM on July 3, 2005

Guidelines may be different in this country, but when I worked at a poison control center in New Zealand, we didn't consider a dose of tylenol potentially toxic until it reached around 125 mg/kg, which was over a packet of 500 mg tabs for an average sized person. (Assuming you're not an alcoholic).
posted by gaspode at 7:20 PM on July 3, 2005

So my point was that 500 mg is not a big deal. I never even knew you could get it in a lower dose (apart from pediatric suspensions) till I moved to the USA.
posted by gaspode at 7:21 PM on July 3, 2005

I guess it didn't occur to me to think in terms of "normal dose." I was wanting to take just one regular strength, but if that's only half a regular strength dose, then one extra strength being the same is OK. My paranoia is mostly with not wanting to become desensitized to the medication I guess. Thanks for dispelling my worries!
posted by autojack at 7:31 PM on July 3, 2005

Well, it's true; you should always take the smallest dose that still results in the desired effect.
posted by trevyn at 8:06 PM on July 3, 2005

The official maximum safe dose is 1000mg, every 8 hours (I think). And as far as I know, you don't desensitize.
posted by abcde at 8:24 PM on July 3, 2005

I just broke my ankle and the ER doc told me that I could safely take up to 4 grams in a 24-hr period (which would be 8 of your 500 mg tablets)... you have no reason to worry!
posted by fabesfaves at 9:22 PM on July 3, 2005

What works great for things like broken ankles is the combination of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). They work on pain in different ways, so you can take both at the same time. It's truly awesome.

As with acetaminophen, you can safely take far more ibuprofen than the label calls for. A doctor once told me to take three Advil every four hours when I had a blocked eustachian tube. (500 mg is the dose they used in the clinical trials that proved the drug's efficacy, or somesuch. The over-the-counter ibuprofen tablets are 200 mg. You do the math...)

And morphine. That stuff really works.
posted by kindall at 10:45 PM on July 3, 2005

posted by ikkyu2 at 11:14 PM on July 3, 2005

kindall writes "naproxen (Aleve)"

Anyone know why we can't buy naproxen in Canada? Every time a friend is down in the States she stocks up and I've always wondered if she's some kind of international drug runner.
posted by Mitheral at 9:36 AM on July 4, 2005

Mitheral, I'm pretty sure you can, but I think it's a prescription drug here.
posted by bonehead at 10:53 AM on July 4, 2005

Maybe that's to balance out the trade in OTC tylenol-codeine going the other way...

FWIW, the harmful dose for acetomeniphen is a lot closer to the therapeutic dose than is the case for most everyday painkillers. So IMHO it's worth being a bit more careful and conscientious with it than with (say) aspirin or ibuprofen, where you have more safety margin.
posted by hattifattener at 1:40 PM on July 4, 2005

IANAD, but the ones I've talked to all say that the doses on OTC painkillers are ridiculously weak. Take the whole pill. Unless you're taking the stuff several times a day, every day, you're not going to do any damage.
posted by mkultra at 8:11 AM on July 5, 2005

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