Monday, August 19th, 2019

New Research Surfaces Spelling Bad News For Tylenol: It Doesn’t Just Kill Pain!

Published on December 11, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

Arjun Walia

Researchers from Ohio State University have discovered that the commonly used pain reliever, acetaminophen, has a previously unknown side effect:

It kills positive emotions.

In the study, participants who took acetaminophen reported feeling fewer strong emotions when they were shown very pleasant or very disturbing photos, compared to those who took placebos.

You might be thinking correlation doesn’t mean causation, but when you use the Bradford Hill criteria, and examine all of the other studies done regarding the psychological effects of over the counter pain killers, the picture becomes clearer. (source)(source)

Acetaminophen is the main ingredient in the commonly used pain reliever Tylenol and has been used for more than 70 years in the United States, but this marks the first time that this “side effect” has been documented. It’s the most common drug ingredient in the United States, found in more than 600 medicines, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. (source)

“In all, rather than being labeled as merely a pain reliever, acetaminophen might be better described as an all-purpose emotion reliever… [and] it is apparent that using acetaminophen for the treatment of pain might have broader consequences than previously thought.” –  Geoffrey Durso, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in social psychology at The Ohio State University. (source)

Again, the conclusions of the study suggest that acetaminophen “has a general blunting effect on individuals’ evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence.” (source)

This is not the only research that has been conducted on acetaminophen’s effects beyond just mitigating physical pain. Studies have shown that it does indeed have some sort of psychological effect, and as Durso states, “this study takes those results one step further by showing that it also reduces how much users actually feel positive emotions.” (source)

The researchers also mentioned that:

These results build on recent psychological research illustrating that acetaminophen can blunt the intensity with which individuals experience negative events that originate from physical, social, or cognitive sources (DeWall et al., 2015; DeWall et al., 2010; Randles et al., 2013). Further, these findings expand on the research to date to show that acetaminophen blunts positive evaluations in like fashion.” (source)

It’s also important to note here that the use of pain killers (like aspirin and ibuprofen) has been associated with heart failure risk. A review of 754 clinical trials( published in Lancet) found that pain killers (ibuprofen in particular) have been estimated to be a contributing factor in the deaths of thousands of people each year. According to the lead researcher of that review, long term use of these drugs caused thousands of heart attacks as well as sudden cardiac deaths that occurred between 1999-2003. In this case, the drug Vioxx was singled out. (source)(source)

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