Hey Laura, can I have coffee when I’m on pain medication?

Leslie (whose special privileges got him bumped to the head of the question line) asks:

What’s the best pain killer if I want my morning cup of coffee? There is a lot of conflicting research on the subject. I understand you are not a medical professional but you are good at digging up general internet consensus. Specifically I’m trying to choose between Aleve, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen.

****That’s right, Leslie, I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL!*****

So, there’s this study by University of Washington that found Mixing Tylenol with Caffeine may Increase the Risk of Liver Damage. However, this is preliminary research and, as this article notes, the study results are based off of enormous amounts of caffeine (the equivalent to 20 cups of coffee) - more than an average person is likely to consume in a day.

What we do know is that large amounts of acetaminophen (even therapeutic doses spread out over time) can cause liver damage. But that goes for any painkiller! They are not for recreational or even casual use. When you pop a pain pill, you really need to make sure that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Nothing I read in the research makes me believe that you (a healthy, non-immune-compromised individual) are going to suffer from liver failure if you have caffeine with your pain meds. A lot of migraine medications are actually a combination of caffeine and various painkillers because, it turns out, caffeine acts as an analgesic adjuvant (makes it work better, faster)!

So if anything, I’d tell you that drinking a cup of coffee with your painkiller of choice will actually make you feel better! :)


Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, can I have coffee when I’m on pain medication?

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