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Pain Killers


From painkiller to empathy killer: acetaminophen (paracetamol) reduces empathy for pain 
05 May 2016 
  • Dominik Mischkowski 
  • Jennifer Crocker 
  • Baldwin M. Way
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci (2016) 11 (9): 1345-1353. 

"Simulation theories of empathy hypothesize that empathizing with others’ pain shares some common psychological computations with the processing of one’s own pain. Support for this perspective has largely relied on functional neuroimaging evidence of an overlap between activations during the experience of physical pain and empathy for other people’s pain. 

Here, we extend the functional overlap perspective to the neurochemical level and test whether a common physical painkiller, acetaminophen (paracetamol), can reduce empathy for another’s pain. In two double-blind placebo-controlled experiments, participants rated perceived pain, personal distress and empathic concern in response to reading scenarios about another's physical or social pain, witnessing ostracism in the lab, or visualizing another study participant receiving painful noise blasts. As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain. Acetaminophen also reduced the unpleasantness of noise blasts delivered to the participant, which mediated acetaminophen's effects on empathy. 

Together, these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy. Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen, which is taken by almost a quarter of adults in the United States each week."

Acetaminophen Makes You Less Capable of Empathy
    By: Becky Striepe
July 10, 2017
"A new study found that people who are taking acetaminophen are less able to experience empathy.
There’s a theory about empathy called the Simulation Theory. The Simulation Theory of Empathy suggests that we experience empathy by thinking about how a situation would make us feel, then projecting that feeling onto the other person. A 2004 study even showed that the part of our brain that experiences pain also plays an important role in empathy."

Empathy Is Killed By Popular Painkiller Found In 600 Different Drugs
Empathy Is Killed By Popular Painkiller Found In 600 Different Drugs post image

"Acetaminophen — commonly known as Tylenol in the US and paracetamol elsewhere — reduces people’s empathy for the pain of others, new research finds. Acetaminophen is an ingredient in over 600 different medications, including being the main constituent of Tylenol. The ubiquitous painkiller does not just kill pain, it also kills our fellow-feeling. Dr Dominik Mischkowski, the study’s first author, said:

“These findings suggest other people’s pain doesn’t seem as big of a deal to you when you’ve taken acetaminophen. Acetaminophen can reduce empathy as well as serve as a painkiller.”"
 The study was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 
(Mischkowski et al., 2016).