Taking painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can ease emotional pain in addition to headaches, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of California found that women who took over-the-counter painkillers reported less heartache from emotionally painful experiences. The study did not find the same results for men, as their emotions appeared to be amplified by taking the pills.
Painkillers were found to make people less empathetic when exposed to other’s people pain, according to the researchers.
Co-author of the study, Dr. Kyle Ratner, said that the findings were alarming.
“Consumers assume that when they take an over-the-counter pain medication, it will relieve their physical symptoms.” He said. “They do not anticipate broader psychological effects.”
To be certain of the findings, the women participants were put against a group who received placebos. The women who took a dose of ibuprofen reported less hurt feeling from emotionally painful experiences. Examples of such events include being excluded from a game or writing about a time when they were betrayed.
Researchers also discovered that people who took paracetamol had a lower chance of feeling emotionally distressed while reading about a person experiencing pain. More so, those who consumed painkillers were reported to make more errors of omission in a game where they were asked to perform or not perform a task. This emotional dullness extended to emotional objects as well. People who took painkillers rated pleasant and unpleasant photographs less harshly than those who took a placebo.
The participants were found to be less caring to parting with possessions. Those on paracetamol set cheaper prices on personal objects as opposed to the placebo group.
Dr. Ratner notes that further research is required to see if there are any negative effects for people who take painkillers in combination with other medicines or for people who are depressed.
The study was published in the journal, Policy Insights from the Behavioural and Brain Sciences.
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