Sure, Tylenol Takes The Pain Away, But It Also Steals Your Happiness


Popping a Tylenol is a pretty routine pain relief maneuver for the masses. Whether you’re burdened with a hangover, time-of-the-month cramps or your annoying coworkers just won’t STFU when you have a headache, it’s a pretty common, two-tablets-fixes-all solution.

Yet, did you ever wonder if those two tablets you’re swallowing whole are messing with anything besides your esophagus?

Probably not. But maybe you should be more skeptical of these over-the-counter pills.

Older research has told us that acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can ease the psychic pain of rejection and even soften the blow of oncoming existential dread — which is pretty powerful stuff!

Now, a new study is going beyond “existential dread,” which is a feat among itself, to suggest that the acetaminophen decreases your feelings of pleasure, too.

What a bummer — literally.

So does Tylenol really make you sad? Well, here’s the facts: A small study featuring 82 college students took either 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, or an identical-looking placebo before directing their attention toward a series of photos. Some of the photos were pleasant (think cute kittens!) while others were unpleasant (think sad, malnourished kittens), and some were even neutral (like random cows in a field, which while animals, do not evoke the same cuteness as kittens).

Students were asked to rate each photo in in terms of positive feelings or negative ones on a scale of negative five, being very negative, to five (super positive), and their emotional response to the same photo.

Students who had taken acetaminophen rated both the unpleasant and pleasant photos less extreme than their placebo-given peers.

“This means that using Tylenol or similar products might have broader consequences than previously thought,” Geoffrey Durso, the lead author of the study and a doctoral student in social psychology at The Ohio State University, said in a written statement. “Acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever.

The takeaway? Perhaps the next time you want to drink until you can’t feel feelings, you should just pop a Tylenol instead.

Image via Flickr.

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