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From time to time, FarmGate gleans news releases that we
think might be
of interest to both urban and rural people who live in or around
the Region of Ottawa Canada.
We offer no editorial comment nor take
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April 13, 2015
Your pain reliever may also be diminishing your
Acetaminophen reduces both pain and pleasure, study finds
Ohio State University
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers
studying the commonly used pain reliever acetaminophen found it has a
previously unknown side effect: It blunts positive emotions.
study, participants who took acetaminophen reported less strong emotions
when they saw both very pleasant and very disturbing photos, when compared
to those who took placebos.
Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in the
over-the-counter pain reliever Tylenol, has been in use for more than 70
years in the United States, but this is the first time that this side effect
has been documented.
Previous research had shown that acetaminophen
works not only on physical pain, but also on psychological pain. This study
takes those results one step further by showing that it also reduces how
much users actually feel positive emotions, said Geoffrey Durso, lead author
of the study and a doctoral student in social psychology at The Ohio State
"This means that using Tylenol or similar products might
have broader consequences than previously thought," Durso said.
"Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an
all-purpose emotion reliever."
Durso conducted the study with Andrew
Luttrell, another graduate student in psychology at Ohio State, and Baldwin
Way, an assistant professor of psychology and the Ohio State Wexner Medical
Center's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. Their results appear
online in the journal Psychological Science.
Way said people in the
study who took the pain reliever didn't appear to know they were reacting
differently. "Most people probably aren't aware of how their emotions may be
impacted when they take acetaminophen," he said.
Acetaminophen is the
most common drug ingredient in the United States, found in more than 600
medicines, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a
Each week about 23 percent of American adults (about 52
million people) use a medicine containing acetaminophen, the CHPA reports.
There were two studies of college students. The first involved 82
participants, half of whom took an acute dose of 1000 milligrams of
acetaminophen and half who took an identical-looking placebo. They then
waited 60 minutes for the drug to take effect.
viewed 40 photographs selected from a database (International Affective
Picture System) used by researchers around the world to elicit emotional
The photographs ranged from the extremely unpleasant
(crying, malnourished children) to the neutral (a cow in a field) to the
very pleasant (young children playing with cats).
After viewing each
photo, participants were asked to rate how positive or negative the photo
was on a scale of -5 (extremely negative) to +5 (extremely positive). They
then viewed the same photos again and were asked to rate how much the photo
made them feel an emotional reaction, from 0 (little or no emotion) to 10
(extreme amount of emotion).
Results in both studies showed that
participants who took acetaminophen rated all the photographs less extremely
than did those who took the placebo.
In other words, positive photos
were not seen as positively under the influence of acetaminophen and
negative photos were not seen as negatively.
The same was true of
their emotional reactions.
"People who took acetaminophen didn't feel
the same highs or lows as did the people who took placebos," Way said.
For example, people who took the placebo rated their level of emotion
relatively high (average score of 6.76) when they saw the most emotionally
jarring photos of the malnourished child or the children with kittens.
People taking acetaminophen didn't feel as much in either direction,
reporting an average level of emotion of 5.85 when they saw the extreme
Neutral photos were rated similarly by all participants,
regardless of whether they took the drug or not.
These findings seem
dramatic, but one possibility is that acetaminophen changes how people judge
magnitude. In other words, acetaminophen may blunt individuals' broader
judgments of everything, not just things having emotional content, Durso
So the researchers did a second study in which they had 85
people view the same photos and make the same judgments of evaluation and
emotional reactions as in the prior study. Additionally, participants in
this second study also reported how much blue they saw in each photo.
Once again, individuals who took acetaminophen (compared to placebo) had
evaluations and emotional reactions to both negative and positive
photographs that were significantly blunted. However, judgments of blue
color content were similar regardless of whether the participants took
acetaminophen or not.
The results suggest that acetaminophen affects
our emotional evaluations and not our magnitude judgments in general.
At this point, the researchers don't know if other pain relievers such
as ibuprofen and aspirin have the same effect, although they plan on
studying that question, Durso said.
Acetaminophen, unlike many other
pain relievers, is not a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. That
means it not thought to control inflammation in the body. Whether that fact
has any relevance to possible emotional effects of the drugs is still an
open question, Durso said.
These results may also have an impact on
psychological theory, Way said. An important question in psychological
research is whether the same biochemical factors control how we react to
both positive and negative events in our lives. A common theory is that
certain factors control how we react to the bad things that happen in life
-- for example, how devastated people feel when they go through a divorce.
But this study offers support to a relatively new theory that says that
common factors may influence how sensitive we are to both the bad as well as
the good things in life.
That means the person who is more devastated
by a divorce may thrive more than others when they get a promotion at work
or have some other extremely positive event happen.
In this study,
acetaminophen may have tapped into the sensitivity that makes some people
react differently to both positive and negative life events.
is accumulating evidence that some people are more sensitive to big life
events of all kinds, rather than just vulnerable to bad events," Durso said.
Contact: Baldwin Way, 614-292-3348;
Written by Jeff