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Could Tylenol Help Stifle Your Emotional Woes?

A new study shows that acetaminophen may work wonders on more than physical pain.

Behold, a potential emotional and physical salve. Image via Flickr user jeff_golden

According to a new study, acetaminophen—that wonderful active ingredient found in Tylenol, the breakfast of champions for the hungover, pre-menstrual, pain-ridden, and Coachella attendees—may actually dull your emotional woes in addition to your physical ills.


In a two-part experiment published in this month’s Psychological Science, researchers fed around 40 volunteers what were essentially two extra-strength Tylenol, while another 40 received placebo pills. As NPR reported, they then showed the participants a variety of images “ranging from weeping, starving children to kids playing with kitties,” asking them to rate the photographs on both how pleasing or upsetting they were, as well as how powerful they found them. NPR continued:

On average, the people who'd taken the acetaminophen said they felt nearly 20 percent less happy when they saw the delightful photos and nearly 10 percent less sad when they saw the dreadful photos compared to those who'd taken the placebo. The same was true for their ratings for the power of each image.

Psychologist Baldwin Way and his student Geoffrey Durso, who are two of three authors on the study, do concede that this initial investigation was small, and not conclusive as to the effects of acetaminophen on the brain.

Nathan DeWall, who wasn’t a part of the aforementioned study, but published a paper back in 2010 along with fellow psychologist Naomi Eisenberger on the same topic, finding similar results, said in a discussion with NPR that the recent study “suggests that the drug may have a broader impact by muffling all emotions.”

But don’t start downing Tylenol to quell any emotional jolts or stress—at least until we know just what that broader impact exactly is.

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