Gary B. Rollman,
Emeritus Professor of Psychology,
University of Western Ontario
(In addition to links below, see weekly archives in the right column)
Monday, October 05, 2015
Less Pain, Less Joy: A New Look at Acetaminophen - WSJ
Consider this trade-off the next time you have a headache: Would you take a medicine that didn't just ease the pain but muffled your happiness too?
A recent study suggests that acetaminophen—found in Tylenol, Excedrin and a host of other medications—is an all-purpose damper, stifling a range of strong feelings. Throbbing pain, the sting of rejection, paralyzing indecision—along with euphoria and delight—all appear to be taken down a notch by the drug.
For most people, this over-the-counter palliative doesn't demand much thought: Take the right dose and the pain goes away. But it may not be that simple.
In 2010, the psychologists Naomi Eisenberger and Nathan DeWall discovered that a three-week course of acetaminophen soothed social pain, like feelings of exclusion or ridicule. The drug also assuaged the agony of indecision, Dr. DeWall found earlier this year.
Building on this research, a new study, published in June in the journal Psychological Science, shows that acetaminophen affects not just how we perceive physical and psychological pain but how the brain processes strong feelings in general. Though the study was small and limited to college students as subjects, the researchers designed it to meet the high standards of pharmaceutical testing and were able to replicate it.