Acetaminophen overdoses are responsible for over 150 deaths per year and the substance is also known to cause damage to the stomach and liver, even in small doses.
Geoffrey Durso, lead author of the study said that “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.”
These findings make sense, considering the fact that painkillers containing acetaminophen have been known to cause moods swings, and contribute to depression.
According to the study:
“Acetaminophen, an effective and popular over-the-counter pain reliever (e.g., the active ingredient in Tylenol), has recently been shown to blunt individuals’ reactivity to a range of negative stimuli in addition to physical pain. Because accumulating research has shown that individuals’ reactivity to both negative and positive stimuli can be influenced by a single factor (an idea known as differential susceptibility), we conducted two experiments testing whether acetaminophen blunted individuals’ evaluations of and emotional reactions to both negative and positive images from the International Affective Picture System. Participants who took acetaminophen evaluated unpleasant stimuli less negatively and pleasant stimuli less positively, compared with participants who took a placebo. Participants in the acetaminophen condition also rated both negative and positive stimuli as less emotionally arousing than did participants in the placebo condition (Studies 1 and 2), whereas nonevaluative ratings (extent of color saturation in each image; Study 2) were not affected by drug condition. These findings suggest that acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on individuals’ evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence.”
There is much attention paid to the physical side effects of popular medications, however, what about the mental and psychological side effects? This is an aspect of the pharmaceutical industry that is rarely discussed, but may get more attention with this study.