Recent evidence shows that one of the most consumed drugs in the United States is also the most commonly used pain reliever in the world, and its effect is far more than just relieve headaches.
A September 2020 study measured changes in people’s behavior under the influence of common over-the-counter drugs. Acetaminophen is also known as paracetamol and is widely sold under the trademarks of Tylenol and Panadol.
Ohio State University neuroscientist Baldwin Way (Baldwin Way) said in September 2020: “Acetaminophen seems to reduce negative emotions when thinking about adventurous activities, but not feeling scared.”
“As nearly 25% of the U.S. population takes acetaminophen every week, reducing risk awareness and increasing adventurous spirit may have an important impact on society.”
These findings add to the results of recent studies, showing that the effect of acetaminophen on reducing pain also extends to various psychological processes, reducing people’s ability to accept nociception, reducing empathy, and even weakening cognitive function.
Similarly, recent studies have shown that taking acetaminophen weakens people’s emotional ability to perceive and assess risk. Although acetaminophen is the most common pharmaceutical ingredient in the United States, it has been found in more than 600 different over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Although the effect may be small, it is definitely worth mentioning.
In a series of experiments involving more than 500 college students, Way and his team measured how a single dose of 1,000 mg of acetaminophen (the largest recommended adult single dose) randomly assigned to participants compared to a randomized placebo Affect their risk-taking behavior to the control group.
In each experiment, participants must pump up an uninflated balloon on the computer screen, and each pump can make as much money as they can imagine. Their instruction is to make as much imaginary money by pumping as many balloons as possible, but make sure not to pop the balloons, in this case they will lose money.
The results showed that compared with the more cautious and conservative placebo group, students taking acetaminophen took greater risks during exercise. Overall, patients with acetaminophen pumped (and burst) more balloons than controls.
Way said: “If you avoid the risk, you may draw a few times and then decide to cash out, because you don’t want the balloon to burst and lose money.”
“But for those who use acetaminophen, as the balloon gets bigger, we believe that their possibility of ballooning and bursting will reduce anxiety and negative emotions.”
In addition to the balloon simulation, participants also conducted two experiments to evaluate their perceived risk under various hypothetical scenarios (such as betting a day’s income on a sporting event, bungee jumping off a high bridge or driving) grade. A car without a seat belt.
In one survey, acetaminophen intake did reduce the perceived risk compared to the control group, although in another similar survey, the same effect was not observed.
Overall, based on the average results of the various tests, the research team concluded that even if the observed effects are small, there is a significant relationship between taking acetaminophen and choosing a higher risk.
In other words, they admitted that the drug’s obvious effect on risk-taking behavior can also be explained by other kinds of mental processes, such as reducing anxiety.
The researchers explained: “It may be that as the size of the balloon increases, placebo-treated people feel more and more anxious about the potential outbreak.”
“When anxiety becomes excessive, they will terminate the trial. Acetaminophen may reduce this anxiety, leading to greater risk-taking.”
The research team said that this psychological alternative explanation for this phenomenon, as well as the study of the biological mechanism of acetaminophen influencing people’s choice in this case, should be addressed in future research.
In recent years, studies have found that in many medical situations, the drug may not be effective in relieving pain. Therefore, there is no doubt that scientists will undoubtedly have future opportunities to further study the effects and efficacy of acetaminophen. , Sometimes better than a placebo, in addition to causing other types of health problems.
Although these findings are serious, acetaminophen is still one of the most widely used drugs in the world. It is regarded as an essential drug by the World Health Organization (WHO) and recommended by the CDC as the main drug to relieve symptoms. There may be a coronavirus.
Way said that, given that we are discovering acetaminophen, we may want to reconsider some suggestions.
Weir said: “Maybe people with mild COVID-19 symptoms may not think that leaving home to meet people is not risky.”
“We really need to do more research on the risks that acetaminophen and other over-the-counter drugs place on our choices and risks.”
The findings are reported in Social Cognition and Affective Neuroscience.
The version of this article was first published in September 2020.