Pain killers, also known as analgesics, are known for their ability to reduce or eliminate pain. New research shows that it is not just physical ailments that are being affected by the analgesic paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen). A placebo controlled study has shown that paracetamol appears to affect emotional highs and lows as well:
“Geoffrey Durso, the study’s lead author, said: “This means that using paracetamol [sic] or similar products might have broader consequences than previously thought. Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever.”
Mood changes are a known side effect of many analgesics. It is well known that pain-killers can change emotional states and patients often report feeling blunted when using stronger types of analgesia. But this is the first time paracetamol has been studied:
“Studies have already shown that the painkiller blunts both physical and psychological pain. But this is the first time anyone has thought to test the popular painkiller’s effect on both negative and positive emotions… the drug blunted both positive and negative emotions.”
The results are not strong enough to draw conclusive cause and effect arguments. What is interesting to note however, are the results of the study. Participants were asked to rate their emotions after viewing happy or sad images. The intervention group were more likely to respond mildly, but felt unaware of any differences. The group who received the placebo had stronger emotional responses, both high and low:
“When people saw a relatively happy picture — like children with kittens — they still rated their emotional reaction near the midpoint. People who’d taken the placebo were more emotionally affected. Despite the changes, people who’d taken acetaminophen didn’t feel they were reacting any differently.”
Further studies are required into paracetamol, other over-the-counter pain killers, and their links to emotions.