Researchers at The Ohio State University found that people taking acetaminophen were less likely to experience the full brunt of not just their own pain, but the pain of others. The research findings “suggest other people’s pain doesn’t seem as big of a deal to you when you’ve taken acetaminophen,” researcher Dominik Mischkowski tells Jeff Grabmeier at OSU.edu.
Acetaminophen is a common ingredient for many Americans, with nearly a quarter of the population taking it in one form or another weekly, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. It’s not just that acetaminophen dulls the capacity for empathy; the drug also blunts the capacity for elation. In other words, it just makes what you feel more dull. That’s excellent if your what you feel is primarily a headache or muscle spasms. It’s a far less desirable result if, for example, you’re a nurse administering to a patient in pain. In that scenario taking acetaminophen could possibly hinder your ability to provide proper care, since assessing pain levels is part of the job. As a study published in OJIN, the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, avers, “One of the basic building blocks of ethics and ethical conduct toward others is empathy.” Empathy impairment is a slippery slope on the job and elsewhere.