The pharmaceutical industry has produced significant advancements in societal well-being, enabling individuals with previously debilitating conditions to lead healthy and happy lives. With such progress, however, arises potentially harmful side effects, as much is still unknown of the origin of numerous pathogens and their responses to treatments – or, for that matter, the possible effects of the treatments themselves. One widely trusted medication – Acetaminophen – is now embroiled in controversy over whether it can adversely affect unborn children when taken by pregnant women.
According to a groundbreaking study published in the scientific journal Pediatrics, use of the popular painkiller Tylenol for over seven days by expectant mothers significantly increases the risk of the offspring developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This analysis was the first to account for possible confounding variables, including maternal age, education, BMI, marital status, depression, smoking, and parent’s ADHD symptoms.
Acetaminophen, also known as paracetamol, is the substance responsible for the pain-relieving qualities of Tylenol. Under the recommended dosage, physicians have long believed the medication to be an effective and safe alternative to opioids for treating fevers and minor aches and pains. When ingested for less than seven days, scientists found that acetaminophen is, in fact, a safe pharmaceutical for expectant mothers. However, the newly discovered risks are startling for thousands of families, as nearly 70% of pregnant women in the U.S. use this drug to treat the various aches and pains that often accompany pregnancy.
According to psychologist Dr. Kay Trotter in her comprehensive review, ADHD is a neurological condition of presently unknown origin that hinders one’s ability to sustain attention, control urges, and maintain an accurate sense of time. She explains the hypothesis that those with the disorder may have abnormal receptors in the brain for the neurotransmitter dopamine. The chemical is mainly responsible for feelings of reward, meaning that insufficient dopamine levels may cause impulsivity in seeking out pleasurable activities.
To combat the deficiency, doctors often prescribe the stimulants Ritalin and Adderall, which produce permanent alterations to brain chemistry, as reported in a previous article by Liberty Nation. The possible consequences of regular Tylenol intake during pregnancy are overwhelming, as they may contribute to the already increasing prevalence of the condition in the U.S. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 5% of children are believed to experience the syndrome.
The study out of Pediatrics would not mark the first controversy faced by the makers of Tylenol. According to LN, one experiment exposed infant rats to paracetamol in utero, resulting in decreasing fertility levels. Furthermore, some have linked the drug with a heightened chance of developing autism. It is important to note that the reports did not control for confounding variables as this more recent one did, and thus had limitations, causing the conclusions to remain unclear.
Expectant mothers widely rely on Tylenol to treat fevers and minor pains. In light of these recent studies, families may become hesitant in its regular consumption. Americans currently look to further research, as scientists continue working to uncover the effects of acetaminophen on developing minds in the hopes of reaching a definite conclusion. Is it safe after all? Families and physicians need the answer to make well-informed decisions for the care of their children.
Editor’s note: You can watch Gabby Fiorino discuss these troubling findings on Liberty Nation TV!