Taking Tylenol May Have One Insane Side Effect, Research Suggests

Jovo Jovanovic

Zapping your headache by popping a few pills may also be killing your ability to feel.

In a new study published by The Ohio State University in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, researchers reveal, acetaminophen may reduce the ability to feel empathy for others.

Acetaminophen also happens to be the main ingredient in Tylenol.

To come to its conclusion, the team devised two double-blind, placebo-controlled experiments.

As the team describes,

...participants rated perceived pain, personal distress, and empathic concern in response to reading physical or social pain scenarios, witnessing ostracism in the lab, or visualizing another study participant receiving painful noise blasts.

The study came to its findings after having 40 college-aged participants take 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, while 40 more participants took a placebo.

The group then read eight different and unpleasant scenarios. In the end, the group that took the acetaminophen rated the scenarios as "less severe" than their placebo counterparts.

The team tested the results with a second set of 114 college students and came to similar findings.

How can this really translate into your everyday life?

Baldwin Way, senior author of the study, told Science Daily,

If you are having an argument with your spouse and you just took acetaminophen, this research suggests you might be less understanding of what you did to hurt your spouse's feelings.

The pure volume of acetaminophen taken in the US can also have profound effects on society as well. As the team concluded in its abstract,

Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen, which is taken by almost a quarter of US adults each week.

However, simply not taking pain medication is a real lose-lose situation. Dominik Mischkowski, co-author of the study, pointed out to USA Today,

Pain might actually decrease empathy as well. So, there are other factors that need to be taken into account.

Like all studies these days, take it with a giant grain of salt, or maybe a few Advil instead.