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Common Painkiller Reduces Empathy

May 17, 2016

Can acetaminophen use impact your capacity for empathy? According to new research conducted at The Ohio State University: yes.

How did they come to this conclusion?

They conducted a study with 80 college students who were given scenarios of painful situations (stabbing, loss of a parent) one hour after receiving either 1000 mg of acetaminophen or placebo. The acetaminophen group rated the pain experienced by the people in the scenarios to be lower than that of the placebo group.

Additionally, the researchers conducted a study of 114 college students where again half were given acetaminophen and half placebo. This time, they were exposed to blasts of white noise (75 to 105 decibels). The acetaminophen group rated the unpleasantness and the pain those blasts would cause another person as lower than the placebo group.

“We don't know why acetaminophen is having these effects, but it is concerning,” said senior study author Dr. Baldwin Way in a statement.

Last year, these same researchers learned that acetaminophen can potentially steal your joy. They found that acute doses were linked to a reduction in both negative and positive emotions after exposure to pleasant and unpleasant stimuli.

The findings were published Social and Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Click here to read the abstract.


--Stephanie Vaccaro



1. Mischkowski D, Crocker J, Way BM. From painkiller to empathy killer: acetaminophen (paracetamol) reduces empathy for pain. Social and Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. [Epub ahead of print] 2016 May 5.

2. Ohio State University. When you take acetaminophen, you don't feel others' pain as much [press release]. 2016 May 10.

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