Can Over The Counter Pain Relievers Treat Emotional Pain?

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It might sound outlandish, but over the counter pain killers have a fascinating research history with emotional pain. In the past, many studies suggest that drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) not only helps in reducing physical pain but can effectively dull the emotional pain. Results from a recent study further affirm this claim, with new findings that finally might give an explanation of what’s been going on.

What is the scope and findings of the latest research?

A study was conducted by the researchers of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where they studied the pattern in 42 participants for 3 weeks. Each participant took either a placebo, paracetamol or no treatment, 2 times every day. At the end of the day, they were given a questionnaire to answer about their feelings, more specifically about their level of forgiveness.

The results clearly showed that compared to placebo or no treatment, acetaminophen dampens emotional pain more strongly. But the person with a combination of the drug and greater level of forgiveness has the highest impact. These participants who took acetaminophen (or known as paracetamol) who also showed a higher level of forgiveness experienced an 18.5% reduction in emotional pain.

Although the findings from this latest study do align with the results from similar past studies, there are many loopholes to it. First, the sample size is not large enough. Second, the level of forgiveness in each Individual could be very different. And third, there was no clarity on the ‘kind of social pain’, these participants were reporting about.

However, it supports the idea that nonprescription painkillers, can temporarily alter emotions like reasoning, emotional pain, forgiveness, etc. as similar brain circularity occurs when an individual experiences physical pain.

What were the findings of similar studies in the past?

Women who took a dose of ibuprofen, reportedly had lesser hurt feelings from an emotionally painful experience than the ones who took the placebo. Interestingly, men showed the opposite pattern.

Some studies also suggest that individuals on a dose of acetaminophen showed less empathy with the pain of others while people on placebo, comparatively empathized more.

Similarly, an individual on a dose of placebo recorded a stronger reaction to emotional objects than people who took acetaminophen. Moreover, these people also showed better ability in recording information than individuals on acetaminophen.

So what should we conclude from these studies?

The results from all these researches do provide conclusive support to the theory that a non-prescription drug can influence the emotional intelligence of a person. But to what extent? Before policymakers decide on imposing new laws and regulations on over the counter pain relievers, it is significant to determine the scope of this influence.

Regardless of these discoveries, I feel it is important to realize that we all are humans. Medicine can mitigate emotional pain to an extent but feeling these emotions is what makes us human beings.

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