Tylenol: The real threat to our emotions

Meghan Kuhn
Guest Writer


Can your go to pain reliever be killing your happiness?

A recent study has offered insight that acetaminophen, an ingredient found in Tylenol, Excedrin and many other medications, can smother strong emotions.  These emotions include excruciating pain and the bite of embarrassment but the smothering can also extend to joy and amusement. All of these seem to be depleted by the drug.

For the average person we may not think about the effects of this pain reducer, instead just thinking, “if I take the right dose my pain will diminish.” However, the medication’s effects may not be just that straightforward.  Psychologists Naomi Eisenberger and Nathan DeWall unearthed in 2010 that taking acetaminophen over the course of three weeks faded the sting of embarrassing oneself in public or impressions of mocking and rejection.

In June 2015, a continuation of DeWall and Eisenberger’s research was printed in the journal “Psychological Science.” This study displays that not only can acetaminophen change how our whole physical and psychological pain is felt, but that it can change the ways a person’s brain manages any strong feelings a person feels.

This hypothesis was analyzed by displaying 40 pictures of very happy and very sad things to 82 college students.  Half of the group was given 1,000 milligrams of the drug and the other half took a sugar pill that looked the same.  After the medication was given the participants were asked to rank the pictures in regard to how happy or sad the participants thought the pictures were.

The results showed that the participants given acetaminophen rated the pictures with less strong emotions than those given the sugar pill.  Though this study has only been confined to college students and was undersized, it was created with the intent of meeting the elevated criteria of pharmaceutical analysis and that it could be recreated.

According to the nonprofit Consumer Healthcare Products Association, statistics have shown that about 23% of American adults take medicine with the ingredient acetaminophen every week so it is important to continue this research to inform everyone about the medications they are taking. But never fear, more research will continue to look into not only these effects of acetaminophen, but also if Ibuprofen and Aspirin cure these effects.


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