Tylenol, the over the counter pain relieving drug that is a staple in America’s medicine cabinets, has had a pretty rough month. In April a study found that acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can actually impair brain function. Taking the recommended dose of the drug can make you more likely to miss errors and make mistakes.
Now a new study published on May 5th revealed that acetaminophen can also hinder your ability to feel empathy for others. One experiment involved giving 40 healthy college students the maximum recommended dose of the drug, and a placebo to another 40 students. Then they were read fictional scenarios of people being hurt or in mourning, and were asked to rate how much pain these characters were in. Another experiment was conducted with 114 students, which involved blasting them with loud sounds, and asking them to rate how painful it was for themselves, or would be for other people.
In both cases, the students who took acetaminophen rated the intensity of pain for other people as lower than the students who took the placebo.According to a statement released by the researchers “those who took acetaminophen showed a reduction in empathy. They weren’t as concerned about the rejected person’s hurt feelings…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.”
Even more alarming, is the fact that Tylenol isn’t the only drug to contain acetaminophen. It’s found in 600 different medicines, and is consumed by 23% of Americans on a regular basis. If the study turns out to have merit, it may explain a lot about how sick and shallow American culture is these days.by