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Paracetamol reduces negative and positive emotions, according to a study

Paracetamol reduces negative and positive emotions, according to a study

August 8, 2022

The paracetamol (acetaminophen) is a drug widely used for its properties against pain and fever. As with other medications, their use can have unwanted side effects. Until now, it was known, for example, that taking it in high doses affected the liver negatively.

Recent research from the University of Ohio seems to indicate that the active principle of paracetamol, which is also found in other medications, decreases the ability to feel positive and negative emotions.

Paracetamol does not only affect pain

The study of the relationship between paracetamol and emotions is not new, previous research found that subjects who took acetaminophen for three weeks felt less emotional pain than people who took a placebo. But the new study, published in Psychological Science, seems to show that this drug also affects positive emotions, not just negative ones.


The study and its results

The research, led by Geoffrey R. O. Durso, Andrew Luttrell and M. Baldwin, was conducted at the University of Ohio. Two groups of 41 subjects each were formed. The first group received a dose of 1000 mg of acetaminophen and the second group received a placebo (a supposed drug). One hour later (time necessary for the paracetamol to take effect) they were shown a series of images to elicit negative or positive emotions. These images had been selected to provoke strong emotional reactions. The subjects had to evaluate from +5 (more positive) to -5 (more negative) their positive or negative perception of the image. After looking at the images and evaluating them for the first time, the sequence of images was presented again for a second evaluation.


The results revealed that the group that had consumed paracetamol felt less intense emotional reactions to the images, that is, the negative images were evaluated as less negative, and the positive images were evaluated as less positive.

To rule out that the perception of other qualities of the image (such as color intensity, etc ...) had not affected the emotional evaluation, a second study was carried out. The results showed that paracetamol did not alter the visual perception of the image.

It should be mentioned that the difference in the scores of both groups was not very bulky. The mean of the placebo group scores was 6.76, while those of the group that had taken acetaminophen was 5.85.

Other studies in relation to pain and emotions

We already commented in the article "The ghost member: The mirror box therapy" that the studies of Ronald Melzack, a researcher and professor of psychology at McGill University in Canada, gave rise to the Theory of the Neuromatrix . This theory attributes the diffusion of pain and the transmission of this by the organism to a complex system. Different areas intervene in the system (of the central and peripheral nervous system, autonomic nervous system and endocrine system) directly influenced by various psychological, emotional, genetic and social factors.


Another study, carried out by Naomi Eisenberger, a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), seems to indicate that the physical pain and social pain they are processed in the same brain regions. These brain regions are activated in a similar way before physical pain or social rejection, such as a breakup of a couple. In addition, people "who are more sensitive to physical pain also tend to be more sensitive to social pain" concludes the author of the research.

If it is true that acetaminophen affects emotions, will other analgesics, such as blood pressure, also have an effect on emotions? Aspirin or the Ibuprofen ? Surely there will be future research in this line.


Acetaminophen may dull your emotions (August 2022).


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