Acetaminophen and Empathy

Acetaminophen and EmpathyAcetaminophen and Empathy

Researchers from the Ohio State University have found evidence that acetaminophen not only dulls physical pain, it also reduces our ability to predict pain in others and empathize. If the results are to be believed, this common drug might hamper our ability to imagine each other’s discomfort.

Used to relieve pain and fever, acetaminophen was first discovered in 1877 and is one of the most common drug ingredients in painkillers.

Despite the drug’s long and popular service to humanity, science is still learning about its effects.

Over recent years, researchers delving into the psychological effects of acetaminophen have unearthed some tentative but fascinating insights, reported.

A team from the University of Kentucky found that acetaminophen not only reduced physical pain, it also reduced the psychological pain caused by social rejection.

Another study, carried out at the Ohio University and published in June 2015, found that acetaminophen reduced people’s evaluation and response to both negative and positive stimuli.

The current study, by the same Ohio team, follows on from these findings. This time, the emotion under scrutiny is empathy.

Researchers carried out a three-pronged investigation and found that, when an individual feels pain, and when they imagine pain in someone else, it causes a response in similar parts of the brain. In other words, the regions of the brain involved in experiencing pain are also involved in imagining the pain of others.

Theoretically, one can imagine that if the same brain areas are used to both experience and imagine pain, a drug reducing real pain might also reduce imagined pain.

If the results are replicated, they would be highly relevant to the real world. After all, it would mean that one quarter of the population would be regularly taking a drug that reduces empathy.

Empathy is vital in everyday situations. If an individual is arguing with a loved one and has a reduced ability to see the other person’s side of the story, resolution is, perhaps, less likely.