and Medicine for Seniors
Tylenol kills the pain but also keeps you from
enjoying it too much
‘Rather than just being a pain reliever,
acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever’ - popular
with many seniorcitizens; used often for arthritis pain
by Jeff Grabmeier, Ohio State
13, 2015 - Researchers studying the commonly used pain reliever
acetaminophen found it has a previously unknown side effect: It blunts
In the 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 University.
“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 trade group.
Each week about 23 percent of American adults
(about 52 million people) use a medicine containing acetaminophen, the
CMS Declares War on Prescription Drug Abuse in Medicare, Focus on Opioid,
validation and analysis of Part D claims data it receives from Part D sponsors
Jan. 9, 2014
– Prescription drug abuse, even in the Medicare Part D drug program, is a
nationwide epidemic, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
Services, which has committed to take the problem seriously and begin actions to
protect Medicare beneficiaries and the Medicare Trust fund. Targets include Part
D enrollees who use opioid or acetaminophen, to see if they have
overutilization issues, and physicians who may over-prescribe.
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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.
Participants then viewed 40 photographs selected
from a database (International Affective Picture System) used by
researchers around the world to elicit emotional responses.
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 photos.
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 said.
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
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.
“There 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.
>> More about
acetaminophen at MedinePlus