Does paracetamol (acetaminophen) deprive us of feelings?

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 16:40
Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is available in many over-the-counter combination medications with other drugs, including Actifed, Alka-Seltzer Plus Liquid Gels, Cepacol, Contac, Coridicin, Dayquil, Dimetapp, Dristan, Excedrin, Feverall, Liquiprin, Midol, Nyquil, Panadol, Robitussin Singlet, Sinutab, Sudafed, Theraflu, Triaminic, Vanquish, Vicks, and Zicam. It is also found in many prescription combination drugs, including Butalbital, Endocet, Fioricet, Hycotab, Hydrocet, Hydrocodone bitartrate, Lortab, Percocet, Phenaphen, Sedapap, Tapanol, Tylenol with codeine, Tylox, Ultracet, Vicodin, and Zydone.

Pain is not a disease

Pain is not a disease in itself, but a symptom. Instead of finding the cause of the pain and curing it, most of us go the easy way and reach for commonly available painkillers. When it comes to taking medicine, we are Europe-wide record holders. It is estimated that every year Poles take about 2 billion painkillers. Research from researchers at Ohio State University ( source 1 ) clearly shows that acetaminophen not only relieves pain, but also emotions.

In the first of two experiments on the impact of paracetamol (acetominophen) on emotions, 82 students took part, who were assigned to 2 groups. Participants in the first group received a fluid containing 1000 mg paracetamol, while the control group was given a placebo. Participants of both groups read the scenario whose characters go through suffering physically or emotionally, and then asked students to estimate the level of pain that they think the characters felt from reading. Participants who took paracetamol rated their heroes' suffering much less than those given placebo.

In the next stage of the experiment, participants looked at 40 photos selected from the database used by researchers to elicit emotional responses. This included 10 extremely unpleasant pictures, five moderately unpleasant, 10 neutral pictures, five moderately pleasant pictures and 10 extremely pleasant pictures. Participants under the influence of paracetamol rated all photos less intensively than those from the placebo group. Unpleasant stimuli were less negative for them, and pleasant stimuli less positive than for students who took a placebo.

The second study evaluated the participants' reactions to so-called "white noise", i.e. uniform sounds - e.g. the sound of a hair dryer, refrigerator and the like. Students, also this time divided into two groups, were asked to rate noise irritability on a scale of 1 (pleasant) to 10 (extremely bothersome). People under the influence of paracetamol rated the heard sounds as less unpleasant for themselves and for other than students who were given a placebo.

Since it has been explicitly confirmed that paracetamol acts as a strong emotional inhibitor, therapists recommend their patients to discontinue preparations containing it during the course of treatment. Acetaminophen effectively cuts us off from emotions - both difficult and pleasant ones, hindering or even preventing psychotherapy.

Paracetamol overdose is common

In addition to the confirmed impact on emotions, there have been frequent hospitalizations and deaths resulting from heart failure to which paracetamol contributes. Last year, as many as 78,000 people who had abused this substance were admitted to emergency rooms in the US, of which 33,000 required urgent hospitalization.

Doctors may not notice the risks associated with long-term intake of paracetamol - one of the most popular drugs in the world. Recent British research shows that taking paracetamol regularly increases the risk of premature death by as much as 63 percent ( source 2 ).

According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, paracetamol in various formulas is regularly consumed by 1/5 of US citizens. There is a lack of detailed data on the use of paracetamol in Poland, but it is known with certainty that every month Poles generate 2,700,000 queries about "pain" in Google's search engine. It is also known how many Poles take painkillers in general, containing not only paracetamol, but also other active ingredients. At least once a week, 18 percent of us are anesthetized with them, and 58 percent at least once a month.

Doctors have long been sounding the alarm that paracetamol poisoning is an increasingly common phenomenon in Poland. It is related to, among others except that 75 percent of people using painkillers have no clue about the mechanism of their action. We do not read leaflets, we do not know the composition of the drugs we take. When we ingest several preparations at the same time, we should check exactly how much active substances they contain - e.g. paracetamol. The effect of paracetamol lasts for about 4-6 hours. The safe daily dose is 4 g for an adult, and in chronic therapy - only 2.5 g.

Overdose of paracetamol is the most common cause of drug poisoning in Poland. The first symptoms of poisoning are not characteristic: nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite. Only after some time will the pain in the right hypochondrium appear. It signals liver damage! An effective antidote for paracetamol poisoning is N-acetylcysteine, provided it is given early enough.

The risk of liver damage is particularly high if you take acetaminophen with alcohol. This combination is extremely dangerous for people who abuse alcohol. Paracetamol can also not be taken by people who regularly drink small amounts of alcohol, e.g. a glass of wine every day for dinner. Even with a few days between drinking alcohol, using acetaminophen can be very dangerous and could damage your liver.


1 – The Guardian – Paracetamol may dull emotions as well as physical pain, new study shows;
2 – Interia – Popularny lek jest niebezpieczny? Najnowsze badania.