Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Acetaminophen Relieves Pleasure Too

Tylenol is a popular over the counter pain-relieving drug used by the public to diminish physiological pain.  It has become a staple in our society for its efficiency in alleviating headaches quickly. When you offer somebody medication for a headache you may even call it Tylenol when it is actually an Advil or something else, its that widespread.

Tylenol is popular for its pain relief but did you know it also relieves emotional pain as well? Studies on Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, have found that as it affects physiological pain it may also be effective in reducing emotional pain and anxiety. This is not necessarily what Tylenol is typically known for, but there is something else it does that is especially unknown to the general public. It dulls your ability to feel pleasure as well.

Researchers showed 40 photographs to 82 participants in their study, which included extremely positive images to the seriously unpleasant. Half of the participants had to take 1000 milligrams of Acetaminophen while the other half took a placebo, where neither the participant or researcher knew who took what. The participants were asked to rate the pictures on scales judging how pleasant or unpleasant the participants thought the pictures were. They were also asked about how emotionally arousing the same pictures were when presented again. Finally, they were asked to judge how blue they perceived the pictures to be, in order to rule out the possibility that taking the medicine dulled all judgment of degree.

The study expanded on previous research by showing that taking Acetaminophen blunted adverse reactions to negative pictures. Similarly, they found that it also diminished positive feelings when viewing positive pictures, as compared to those who took the placebo. On the other hand, it did not affect how blue the participants perceived the pictures to be, showing that it did not have an overall diminishing effect on perceiving magnitudes of all kind. In this case, Acetaminophen dulled both emotions, positive and negative.

The causal mechanisms are up to future research to explore. For now we have an understanding of some psychological side effects of Tylenol use. Tylenol has been around for a long time and these results just came out now, so who knows what other effects may come with the use of many common over the counter drugs; are there long term effects as well? The next time you take a Tylenol for a headache and are not enjoying yourself at the beach as much, it may be because of the medicine you took. 

Durso, G. R., Luttrell, A., & Way, B. M. (2015). Over-the-Counter Relief From Pains and Pleasures Alike Acetaminophen Blunts Evaluation Sensitivity to Both Negative and Positive Stimuli. Psychological Science, 0956797615570366.

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