Reasearchers At Ohio State University Are Studing The Effects Of Pain killers / How It Reduces Empathy



A new study suggests when an individual takes acetaminophen to lessen their pain, they can also decrease a person’s empathy for both the physical and social aches that many other people experience.

Analysts at The Ohio State University discovered, that when participants who took acetaminophen discovered about the misfortunes of others.

They believed these individuals encountered less pain and suffering, in comparison to the ones who took no painkiller.

Dominik Mischkowski, co-author of the study and a former Ph.D. student at Ohio State said, “These findings suggest other people’s pain doesn’t seem as big of a deal to you when you’ve taken acetaminophen.” “Acetaminophen can reduce empathy as well as serve as a painkiller.”

He is now at the National Institutes of Health.


Mischkowski performed the study with Baldwin Way, who is an assistant professor of psychology and member of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

Also along with Jennifer Crocker, Ohio Eminent Scholar in Social Psychology and professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Their results were published online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Acetaminophen is the key ingredient in the painkiller Tylenol.

Tylonal is the most common drug in the United States,.

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the pain killer.

Aacetaminophen is found in in excess of six hundred medicines.

The CHPA reports, every week about 23% of American adults, in which approximately 52 million people use a medicine that contains acetaminophen.

In a previous study, Way and other colleagues discovered that acetaminophen also blunts positive emotions like joy.

Used together, the 2 studies recommends there is a lot we need to learn regarding 1 of the most common over-the-counter drugs in the U.S.


Way, the senior author of the study said, “We don’t know why acetaminophen is having these effects, but it is concerning.” “Empathy is important. If you are having an argument with your spouse and you just took acetaminophen, this research suggests you might be less understanding of what you did to hurt your spouse’s feelings.”

The analysts conducted 2 experiments.

The first one involved 80 college students.

At the beginning, 50 % of the students drank a liquid containing 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, while the other half drank a placebo remedy that included no drug. The students did not know which group they were in.

Right after waiting 1 hour for the drug to take impact, the participants read 8 short cases in which someone endured some sort of pain.

For instance, one scenario was regarding a person who suffered a knife cut that went down to the bone, and another was about a person suffering from the death of his father.

Participants ranked the pain each individual in the cases experienced from one, (no pain at all), to 5, (worst possible pain).

They additionally rated how much the protagonists in the scenarios felt hurt, wounded and pained.

General, the participants who took acetaminophen rated the pain of the individuals in the scenarios to be much less severe than those who took the placebo.

A second experiment included 114 college students.

As in the first experiment, half took acetaminophen and half took the placebo.

In one portion of the experiment, the participants obtained 4 two-second blasts of white noise that ranged from 75 to 105 decibels.

After that they rated the noise blasts on a scale of 1 (not unpleasant at all) to 10 (extremely unpleasant).

They were then requested to envision how much pain the very same noise blasts would probably cause in another anonymous study participant.

The results showed that when in comparison to those who took the placebo, participants who took acetaminophen rated the noise blasts as significantly less unpleasant for themselves, and additionally they would be less unpleasant for others.

Mischkowski said, “Acetaminophen reduced the pain they felt, but it also reduced their empathy for others who were experiencing the same noise blasts.”

In a different part of the experiment, participants met and socialized with each other briefly.

Each individual then watched alone an online game that allegedly engaged 3 of the people they just met.

The other participants were not in reality involved.

In the “game,” 2 of the people the participants met omitted the 3rd person from the activity.

Participants were then questioned to rate how much pain and hurt feelings the students in the game felt, which includes the one who was excluded.

Outcomes showed that people who took acetaminophen rated the pain and hurt feelings of the omitted student as being not as severe as the participants who took the placebo.


“In this case, the participants had the chance to empathize with the suffering of someone who they thought was going through a socially painful experience,” Way stated. “Still, those who took acetaminophen showed a reduction in empathy. They weren’t as concerned about the rejected person’s hurt feelings.”

While these results hadn’t been seen before, they make sense in the light of previous research, Way said.

A 2004 research scanned the brains of people as they were going through pain, and while they were visualizing other people feeling the same pain.

These results revealed that the same part of the brain was triggered in both cases.

He ended with, “In light of those results, it is understandable why using Tylenol to reduce your pain may also reduce your ability to feel other people’s pain as well.”

The researchers are continuing to research exactly how acetaminophen can impact people’s emotions and behaviors.

In addition, the researchers at Ohio U. are beginning to examine another common pain reliever, ibuprofen, to find if it has comparable results.


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