Why Tylenol® Suppresses Empathy Toward Other People’s Pain

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People of all ages are less empathic or respectful these days.

How many times do you reach for a Tylenol to take the edge off a headache, fever, or toothache? Well, studies show that this pain suppressor might also have another effect on you.

Acetaminophen may also be suppressing your empathy towards others.

Other People’s Pain

Back in 2006, researchers started studying the effects that acetaminophen has on empathy; they studied what volunteers felt for the pain of other people.

Dominik Mischkowski, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, conducted a series of double blind studies. Volunteers were given either sugar pills or Tylenol, but neither the volunteers nor the researchers knew which volunteers were getting which pill.

Mischkowski and his advisers at Ohio State University, Jennifer Crocker and Baldwin Way, played loud noises for the volunteers, exacerbating their level of discomfort.

As expected, the volunteers given Tylenol experienced less physical discomfort than the volunteers given the placebo, but here’s the interesting thing – the researchers also measured the empathy that the volunteers felt for the pain and discomfort of the other volunteers.

The researchers found that the acetaminophen basically reduced empathy for the pain of those other people.

I feel great about myself because I’m in less pain, but the pain reliever also makes me not care if you’re in pain, and the music is blaring.

This research was so enlightening, in 2010, Nathan DeWall at the University of Kentucky and his colleagues also studied Tylenol and empathy loss. They found that volunteers given Tylenol did experience less social pain as well as less physical pain.

What This Means

Train your brain. beautiful card with a human brain and motivational quote. hand-drawn illustration

Be aware of your level of empathy when taking acetaminophen.

The scientists determined that when people experience physical pain, like having a hot probe on their arm, and then see someone else experiencing the same pain or similar pain, the same areas in the brain light up.

And thanks to the pain suppresser, this area of the brain is suppressed from functioning – and that means no empathy.

So according to the research, the days of saying “I can feel your pain are long gone when taking acetaminophen.

You won’t give a flip about what others are experiencing.

a pile of pills in all colors

It is reasonable to speculate that other painkillers have the same effect in the brain.

Why Tylenol?

The studies were focused just on Tylenol, but it’s reasonable to speculate that other painkillers can have the same effect in the brain.

People are all different, so individuals will not respond to a drug in the same way; medications have different effects on different people.

Since the overall number of acetaminophen users is very large, it might be a side effect worth thinking about.




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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. The FDA may not have evaluated some of the statements.  This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding supplements or making any changes to your dietary program.

Before taking vitamins, consult your doctor; pre-existing medical conditions or medications you are taking can affect how your body responds to multivitamins.

About Janet Hull PhD, CN

Janet Starr Hull, PhD, CN has been working with clients in the holistic health field since 1995. Using natural medicine to cure herself from a diagnosis of Graves’ disease caused by aspartame, Dr. Hull began researching the toxic causes of disease. Today, she is one of the world’s leading experts in environmental toxicology and holistic health and nutrition. Dr. Hull is the first researcher to publicly expose the dangers of aspartame. Connect with Dr. Hull on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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