An FDA panel this week recommended that the use of the popular prescription painkilling drugs Vicodin and Percocet be banned because they are hard on the human liver. The pair of drugs rely partly on acetaminophen, which is the leading cause of liver damage in this country. Acetaminophen, as you probably know, is also the active ingredient in Tylenol and Excedrin and a number of other over-the-counter medications.
Now, we are not by any means recreational, habitual, or even occasional users of either painkiller. But it strikes us that there is a pattern emerging here: Modern life, in general, is bad for your liver. Let’s walk through this: Alcohol is bad for your liver. Taking Tylenol to help your hangover is terrible for your liver. Painkillers that help you after broken limbs or for chronic pain are bad for your liver. There’s a risk for liver damage after eating delicious raw oysters and steak tartare, drinking too much caffeine (and forget Diet Coke), or taking countless non-painkilling prescription drugs. Several sexual activities are out, too, because of hepatitis risk. Being overweight is bad for your liver, but so is taking some diabetes and cholesterol-reducing drugs to help you deal with it.
Now, we’re not saying the liver never did anything for us. If anything, modernity has turned against it, rather than vice versa. If we were to run into our liver at a party, for example, we’d totally let him drive us home at the end of the night. But up until then, in front of our friends, we might have to pretend we don’t know him.