Popular Painkiller Reduces Empathy for Others

Image: propublica.org

The adage, “I feel your pain” may be genuine but not if that person has just taken a common pain reliever.

Researchers at The Ohio State University found that when participants who took acetaminophen learned about the misfortunes of others, they thought these individuals experienced less pain and suffering, when compared to those who took no painkiller.

The results were published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Acetaminophen – the main ingredient in the painkiller Tylenol – is the most common drug ingredient in the United States, found in more than 600 medicines, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group.

Each week about 23 percent of American adults (about 52 million people) use a medicine containing acetaminophen, the CHPA reports.

The research team has revealed that if you are having an argument with your spouse and you just took acetaminophen you might be less understanding of what you did to hurt your spouse’s feelings.

A 2004 study scanned the brains of people as they were experiencing pain and while they were imagining other people feeling the same pain. Those results showed that the same part of the brain was activated in both cases.

The researchers are continuing to study how acetaminophen may affect people’s emotions and behavior. They are also beginning to study another common pain reliever – ibuprofen – to see if it has similar results.

The study was supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.



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