OSU Researchers Find Popular OTC Painkiller is Also Empathy-killer

When you take acetaminophen to reduce your pain, you may also be decreasing your empathy for both the physical and social aches that other people experience, a new study suggests.

Researchers at The Ohio State University found, for example, that when participants who took acetaminophen learned about the misfortunes of others, they thought these individuals experienced less pain and suffering, when compared to those who took no painkiller.

Their results were published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Acetaminophen – the main ingredient in the painkiller Tylenol – is the most common drug ingredient in the United States, found in more than 600 medicines, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, a trade group.

Each week about 23 percent of American adults (about 52 million people) use a medicine containing acetaminophen, the CHPA reports.

In an earlier study, researchers found that acetaminophen also blunts positive emotions like joy.

Taken together, the two studies suggest there’s a lot we need to learn about one of the most popular over-the-counter drugs in the United States.