Taking one of the most popular painkillers out there maybe linked to a decreased ability to empathize with others. A new study suggest taking Tylenol has been shown to lower levels of emotional understanding in people when they are listening to someone else talk about physical and emotional pain. The study was conducted by having some people take Acetaminophen, and others a placebo solution.
Acetaminophen is the main ingredient in Tylenol and other various aspirin labels that all cause this same effect in the brain. Acetaminophen serves as a painkiller and numbing agent when ingested. It is one of the most common active ingredients in many different drugs sold across United States.
This compound is actually found in more than a staggering 600 medicines according to the consumer healthcare products association. It is estimated that each week around 52 million people in the US alone use a medicine that contains acetaminophen.
So, does this really come as a surprise?
There are so many factors in this world that make us want to just numb out. The extreme amount of pain, suffering and injustice on this planet is enough to drive everyone crazy, then numb that feeling with Acetaminophen.
It is not uncommon for people to take 2 to 6 Tylenol pills a day for their headaches, body pain or stress. Doing this daily drastically alters the chemicals in our brain and can also wear our stomach lining over time.
This study had 40 healthy college students drink a liquid containing 1000 mg of acetaminophen. The maximum recommended amount for adults over a course of 24 hours 3000 mg or six pills a day. Then, another 40 students drank a placebo solution with no drugs in it.
After an hour the students read short scenarios were people were suffering from a physical or emotional pain. The scenarios were like someone describing an experience where they were cut by a knife or someone mourning the recent death of their father.
The students were then asked to rate the intensity of the pain that they thought matched the descriptions. Lo and behold the people who took acetaminophen rated the pain as much lower and less severe than the people drank the placebo drink.
The second part of the experiment had 114 college students who had either taken Acetaminophen or the placebo replacement. The students had 4 two second blasts of loud music and were asked to rate how unpleasant they sounded. They were also asked to rate how unpleasant it would be for other people to experience.
Once again, the people who took Acetaminophen said the blast was less unpleasant to themselves and speculated it wouldn’t be that bad for other people to experience. This study was published in May, in the journal of social cognitive and affective neuroscience.
Researchers concluded that they don’t exactly know why the substance lowers empathy and not just pain levels. Is it not perhaps that this is essentially an agent to numb our senses? And everything is a lot more connected than we can quantify with our limited understanding of science? It is a drug to take away pain, and for some people couldn’t that pain be linked to their emotional awareness as well?
There are many alternate solutions to Tylenol, some may be as easy as simply giving yourself a break. When we are constantly bombarded with stress, the solution is never to take a pill to numb the symptoms. It is your body telling you it needs a shift, and that shift is what will ultimately solve any problems that Tylenol only covers up.