Can paracetamol mend a broken heart?

Paracetamol, or acetaminophen, is one of the world’s most popular painkillers, but a new study suggests it could also sooth emotional distress.

Bang! Science, the magazine run by Oxford University students, reports on research at Ohio State University, led by social psychologist, Geoffrey Durso, that suggests the drug might dull emotions.

“Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever,” said Durso, whose paper was published recently in the journal Psychological Science.

The study included 82 students that were provided either with paracetamol or with a placebo pill that looks the same. An hour after taking the pill, they were shown 40 photographs ranging from malnourished children to cheerful kids playing with pets. These photos were chosen so as to trigger an acute emotional response. The participants were first asked to rate the images in reference to their positivity on a scale from +5 (the most positive) and -5 (the most negative). Following this, they were shown the series of pictures again and asked to quantify the intensity of their emotions to each picture with 0 meaning little to no reaction and 10 reflecting a very powerful emotion.Pharmaceuticals

The results from the study indicated that those who had taken paracetamol had slightly less intense emotional reactions than those who were on the placebo. Now Durso is investigating whether ibuprofen and aspirin have a similar effect.

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