First of all, I would like to thank the editors at the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal for providing this full text article free of charge and thereby contributing the dissemination of knowledge. Thank you.
Acetaminophen. Better known to me as Tylenol. I keep a mega super size bottle on hand all the time for those little aches and pains that pop up every now and again. And I’m sure countless other people do too. In fact, according to this article, approximately 1/4 of Americans take it during any given week. It’s easy to get: just drop into almost any store selling anything and you can get at least 1 dose at the check out counter. No prescription necessary. I remember my teammates in college would think nothing of popping 8-10 at a time. And they were told to do so by medical personnel. It takes away those aches and pains completely or at least minimizes them enough to where you can continue on with other things and put the pain on the proverbial back burner. Side effects are basically non-existent in a practical sense… maybe a tummy ache if you take it on an empty stomach.
Or are there side effects?
In this study, the researchers found that your ability to empathize– identify and “feel” another’s pain– works neurochemically by the same mechanism as you feeling your own physical pain. So the phrase, “I feel your pain,” is actually very accurate… neurochemically at least. Acetaminophen blocks your ability to feel your own physical pain. And by doing so, you also cannot “feel” another’s pain.
There has been a lot in the news recently about the opioid epidemic and the resulting skyrocketing opioid addiction and death rates. I’m going to make a leap here. It may not be accurate, I’m postulating. I wonder if opioids work similarly neurochemically? And if so between the “harmless” Tylenol and opioids, I wonder if this may be contributing to escalating violence? If you can’t feel or understand another’s pain, what’s to stop you from causing pain to another? I have found that a lot of people that come to physical therapy for a physical pain are really having a psychologic pain that is manifesting itself as a physical pain. So, take some Tylenol to cover it up… don’t get any psychological help… shoot up a night club? That may be a bit of a squiggly line to draw, but not entirely impossible, I’m thinking.
If that is true…. y’all… we’re in deep doo doo. Keep pushing #choosePT, so we can get people off opioids and Tylenol too apparently and make sure you’re screening and referring appropriately for psychological disorders.