Jen notes that people have a tendency to over-medicate themselves:

Take headache pain, for instance. Your head is splitting. You take four of those nice Tylenol or Excedrin or Aleve, thinking that a double dose of the pain killer will kill the pain faster. But think about it Рwhether you took two pills (the normal dosage, as recommended on the bottle) or four pills, it̢۪s going to take the same length of time for those pills to dissolve and assimilate into your body. And you̢۪ve essentially wasted those other two pills, not to mention the potential long term (if not short term) health risk of the overdose.

There is a reason why pharmaceutical companies post meticulous instructions on their OTC medication bottles. Those instructions are not just something they print for fun or to clutter up the pretty labels. They are INSTRUCTIONS.

True enough. Of course, I’d take them more seriously if they didn’t tell me that I should take exactly the same dosage as a 12-year-old girl.

Considering how lawsuit averse pharmaceutical companies have to be, the “adult” dose that they recommend for anyone over 12 has to be incredibly weak. They have to figure out the weight of the tiniest 12-year-old and then factor in the reactions of the most sensitive of the sensitive. Somehow, I’m not sure that dosage is appropriate for a 190-pound man.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    Thanks for the link.

    I see your point about body weight. However, very often, I (and I weigh, well I’m not going to say exactly, but it is more than 150 pounds) usually take a half dose because I have found it sufficient for my ills.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Have to be real careful about overdose with acetaminophen. The line between okay dose and overdose is very sudden and the effects are very bad, from what I’ve been told, hence the conservative dosage recommendations.

  3. Maniakes says:

    I have been told independantly by several medical practitioners that it is safe and beneficial for a normal-sized adult (I weigh about 160 lbs) to take 3-4 advils instead of the recommended 1-2. Most of them did caution, however, that it is best not to take large doses on an empty stomach.

  4. I have heard simialr recommendations from doctors on advil (ibuprofen).

    Indeed, “prescription strength” ibuprofen is normally the equivalent of 4 pills, versus the 2 that the OTC directions suggest.

    Indeed, my wife was once prescribed ibuprofen for menstrual pain, and the dose was for what be four generic ibuprofen tabs, and she is 5′ 2″

  5. Matt says:

    Since a very large percentage of your run-of-the-mill headaches are caused by dehydration, you can usually skip the painkillers altogther. Or maybe that’s just me.

  6. Jim Henley says:

    In the cases of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, we know that the prescription doses are twice the OTC recommendations, so we’re not operating in a knowledge vacuum.

    Now, a related anecdote. After minor surgery one time, I got a percoset presciption and was told I could take “one OR two every four hours.” It wasn’t hard to figure out that taking one every TWO hours would: dose me no higher at any one time than two every four hours; avoid that agonizing period between the last dose wearing off and the next dose kicking in. Worked like a charm!

  7. Michael says:


    You are EXACTLY right. In fact, people would be surprised how many of their ills are caiused by not drinking enough water.

    Oh, and as an aside: People would also be surprised, as I have learned, that just because beer is made of water, it does not mean that it IS water.

  8. bryan says:

    Those new advertisements in the comments are REALLY annoying.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Gone! I placed them in the pop-up template by accident. I never access comments via the pop-ups, preferring the inline display, so missed them.

  10. bryan says:

    Well, when I’m the first or second to comment on something, I prefer the pop-up. Also, the inline comments come up in a really tiny font size in my browser.

    And I note for the record that I’m glad you haven’t become a total ad whore. 🙂