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Acetaminophen Reduces Both Pain and Pleasure, Study Finds 187

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers studying the commonly used pain reliever acetaminophen found it has a previously unknown side effect: It blunts positive emotions (abstract). Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in the over-the-counter pain reliever Tylenol, has been in use for more than 70 years in the United States, but this is the first time that this side effect has been documented.
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Acetaminophen Reduces Both Pain and Pleasure, Study Finds

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  • Headache (Score:5, Funny)

    by irrational_design ( 1895848 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @08:17PM (#49466843)
    There is surely a joke about "Not tonight dear, I have a headache" here somewhere.
    • Re:Headache (Score:5, Funny)

      by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @09:35PM (#49467231) Homepage

      "Not tonight dear, I don't have a headache"?

    • Re:Headache (Score:5, Funny)

      by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:13AM (#49467973)

      The most common problem here is that men open with the wrong question.

      "Would you like some Aspirin, dear?"

      "No, I don't have a headache"


    • Not tonight dear, I had a Tylenol.

      (and you could go further down the rabbit hole and bring in the product tampering case.)

    • Except it's been shown that orgasm released chemicals in the brain that can eliminate most headaches. So the correct come back to "Not tonight, I have a headache" is "Excellent, because I have the cure for that in my pants". :) ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pump em full of Tylenol! Don't want em having fun; then they might start thinking for emselves and become terrists.

  • Tradeoffs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @08:30PM (#49466905) Journal

    Perhaps this is why they are sold over the counter. If they didn't also deaden pleasure, they may otherwise be too addictive to be allowed over the counter. To be non-addictive, they may have to reduce pleasure to compensate for reduced pain. They could be (relatively) non-addictive because the overall affect averages out to neutral feelings so that a "pill=good" feedback cycle is not produced in the brain.

    • Re:Tradeoffs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @09:07PM (#49467097) Homepage

      Yep, because feeling good via any other means than mass consumption is bad. Although the principles mass consumption are very bad psychologically and do drive a need for feel better drugs. Mass consumption is also very bad for the environment, so what exactly are we doing by favouring it of simpler less environmentally taxing feel good methods, especially when the need for the feel good methods is driven by the feel bad nature of mass consumption ie you are not consuming enough so the engines of mass consumption purposefully sets out to make you feel bad in you failure to consume, which you can only alleviate via consuming more and more and more. The feedback cycle on mass consumption seems to be far worse all around, individually and environmentally.

  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @08:33PM (#49466931) Homepage

    So there *isn't* a fine line between pleasure and pain. At least in this case.

  • Are they positive about this?

    • Re:Hmmmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashikiNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @01:45AM (#49468065) Homepage

      As someone who was prescribed acetaminophen with codeine(Tylenol 3) as a starter treatment for migraines I can say in my experience it does both. In the last 15 years I've since moved onto ultram and fiorinal c 1/2 which is it's own fucked up ball of wax. Why this is news though I have no idea, it was well known in the 1920's an 30's that both acetaminophen and codeine depressed the nervous system and they used it to treat shell shocked troops.

    • No, they are not, as all good scientists are. From the actual journal article:

      "Some limitations of our work should be noted. Specifically, we cannot ascertain from the current studies whether acetaminophen might blunt individuals’ attention or motivation to process emotionally evocative stimuli instead of (or in addition to) their evaluative processing of these stimuli."

      Honestly, it's a pretty weak self-critique. I wish they had talked more about how meaningful the differences they found were. Yes, th

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I had depression in college. They put me on Zoloft. It makes your head feel like its in a cave. While I'm sure the intent is to make sure your lows are less, it also makes your highs less. How was I supposed to get undepressed if I can experience as much happiness as before? I guess its for people who experience lows way more often than they experience highs.
    • by ProzacPatient ( 915544 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @08:48PM (#49466995)

      I had depression in college. They put me on Zoloft. It makes your head feel like its in a cave. While I'm sure the intent is to make sure your lows are less, it also makes your highs less. How was I supposed to get undepressed if I can experience as much happiness as before? I guess its for people who experience lows way more often than they experience highs.

      How long were you on Zoloft? Sometimes the first few weeks can have very strange side effects that will diminish over time but on the other hand everyone's chemistry is different and perhaps Sertraline just isn't as compatible with your body as much as other people's bodies. Sometimes Prozac will work for a person who didn't get much benefit from Zoloft or perhaps Zoloft will work for someone who didn't get much benefit from Effexor. For me, personally, Zoloft has been a life saver; it elevates my moods and helps me control my anxiety.

      I also have this theory formulated from both my own personal experiences and my observations of other people is that people who have depression, or other mental disorders, are so used to such extreme emotions that taking a drug that brings them down to an emotionally nominal level feels like being turned into a zombie to them because they're only used to feeling everything to such an extreme.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @09:28PM (#49467199) Journal

        The best anti-depressant I have found is distance running. The second best is other forms of cardio exercise. SSRIs or SNRIs? Been there, done that, they did very little to help me with depression. I don't even think they took the edge off, although it's hard to prove that negative. Tried Celexa, Zoloft, Effexor, Prozac, and a few other ones. Not only did they fail to address (or even make manageable) the depression, they all came with a lovely side effect [wikipedia.org] and then six months of the other extreme [wikipedia.org] when I discontinued them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by grumling ( 94709 )

          Yea, I used to think the same thing until I dated a woman who was bipolar. There are people out there with real problems, problems that aren't easily solved by "shake it off and take a lap." You probably went to the wrong doctor, who instead of taking the time to find out what your problem was (or wasn't), put you on the pharma cure.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by facetube ( 4023065 )
          The anti-depressant response to endurance exercise may be genotype-dependent. Read up on the OPRM1 A118G SNP (a genetic mutation of the mu opioid receptor); it's fascinating: http://www.nature.com/npp/jour... [nature.com].
        • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

          If I may ask, when did you begin running? Was it before you tried the anti-depressants, while trying them, or after you stopped? At any point did you take a long hiatus from running, either before you started anti-depressants and then picked it up after you started, or stopped and started while on the same anti-depressant?

          (I deal with depression, currently on Celexa and Welbutrin; I've tried Zoloft in the past with same effects as GP, and most recently had a go with Venlaxflexin. I'm curious in drug-free po

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 13, 2015 @09:54PM (#49467311)

        Doctors lack a fundamental understanding of the effect the drugs they prescribe for mental health treatment, and are effectively guessing as to what they think will work.

        I came to this idea after a psychiatrist told me that the drugs were about balancing the chemicals in the brain, but I eventually realized that he had taken no measurements or anything before throwing any of them at me.

        So what balance was out of whack? What effect would the medications have? Oh wait, he didn't know. These concerns were dismissed and antagonized. I was merely a patient, I needed to learn to obey the doctor. So what did I learn?

        That the doctor, while purportedly concerned, was hardly treating me in a sound and reasonable manner, but was behaving in a way that worsened my problems and caused me several more issues.

        Only sheer chance got me out with relatively little harm.

        Maybe Zoloft, or Prozac, or whatever is serving you. There are others who are being damaged by the worst kind of treatment. One with delusions of grandeur.

        I'd have been safer going to an herb shop and inhaling a potpourri.

        • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Tuesday April 14, 2015 @08:55AM (#49469327) Homepage

          ...a psychiatrist told me that the drugs were about balancing the chemicals in the brain, but I eventually realized that he had taken no measurements or anything before throwing any of them at me.

          So what balance was out of whack? What effect would the medications have? Oh wait, he didn't know.

          He's likely even more annoyed about it than you are.

          The problem is that the imbalances may be located in a small part of the brain, and may be on the order of a few dozen molecules, from any of a few thousand chemicals. Thanks to the blood-brain barrier and the localized nature, the only way to actually measure such chemicals is with very invasive (and probably-lethal) brain surgery. There just isn't a simple test where the doctor can prick your finger, put a drop of blood in a magic machine, and tell you which of your neurons are misbehaving.

          For much the same reasons, there are no direct treatments. We can't just poke your amygdala until it works like everyone else - and even if we could, the rest of your brain may not accept the change, and your problems could get worse.

          Psychopharmacology is not engineering. The cause-and-effect relationships are not simple or direct. Rather than study in vain all of the chemical interactions in your brain, your doctor has studied in depth all of the medications he prescribes, memorizing all of their many side effects (with incidence rates) and known relationships to other medications.

          For the actual treatment, yes, it is purely educated guesswork. In your particular case, you may have showed symptoms of X but not Y, so you're a good candidate for treatment 1. That didn't work at all, so treatments 2 and 3 are ruled out, because they work on the same principles. Treatment 4 might be an option, but it only treats symptom Z, which you don't have, but in a certain percentage of cases it does absolutely nothing for Z and causes inverse symptoms to X and Y. Now, that treatment only begins to work after a three-month buildup, so let's start you on that while also trying treatment 5, which starts working immediately and doesn't interfere with treatment 4. Unfortunately the improvement from treatment 5 is very mild, but it can be improved with treatment 6 which amplifies the effects of 5, but does interact negatively with 4.

          These concerns were dismissed and antagonized. I was merely a patient, I needed to learn to obey the doctor. So what did I learn?

          We learned that you think you know psychopharmacology better than the person who's studied it for several years.

          Only sheer chance got me out with relatively little harm.

          Or your stubborn attitude provided the push to develop a coping mechanism on your own, which is also a perfectly valid (though sometimes risky) treatment. When done intentionally (usually involving the field of psychiatry, rather than psychopharmacology), it's more an attempt to change the person to fit their condition, rather than fixing the condition to fit the person.

    • Like many other anti-depressant Zoloft is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor...

      The other way to treat this is by increasing level of serotonin...

      Seeds of Griffonia simplicifolia [wikipedia.org] contain a lot of 5-HTP, a precursor of serotonin..

      It's non-patentable so I guess it won't be as popular as patented psychotropic drugs anytime soon..

    • by Hartree ( 191324 )

      One of the problems is that depression isn't a single process. It's a symptom, and we lump a lot of things under that name.

      The exact details vary from patient to patient. Also, the differences in the way the drugs used to treat it are metabolized in different people can be pretty significant.

      I've taken Prozac for nearly as long as it's been available. It works well for me. When I've gone off of it to see if I could do without, the depression came back on a pretty predictable timeline. I tried another antide

      • Depression is a symptom of the fundamental fact that life sucks.

        Life is pain and suffering, and to create it is to condemn that life and it's progeny on average to hell. Not creating it means that niche will be filled with other life which will suffer on average.

        From a utilitarian point of view, while your life might not be bad, life on average is expected to suck, and the most humane thing to do would be to destroy or sterilize life and remove it's very niche so other life can not evolve to fill it.


    • No, Zoloft made your head feel like it's in a cave. It didn't do that for me.

      For some weird reason, different SSRIs have wildly different side effects on different people. A friend of mine said that Zoloft made him feel like his skin was crawling off, but he didn't mind.

  • It's true! (Score:5, Funny)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @08:46PM (#49466985)
    I took some Tylenol this morning for a headache and when I showed up, the support tickets were still bullshit, someone still claims I didn't fix something correctly, and I still hate my job and everyone there. Now I know why :P
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You should take some happy pills and dismiss all bugs as WORKSFORME! It works for me.

  • = paracetamol (Score:5, Informative)

    by ebcdic ( 39948 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @08:48PM (#49466993)

    Most of the world calls this drug paracetamol.

  • But hospitals don't stock them or least they claim not to, cause it makes the blood thinner (easier flowing) yet give one Sodium Warfarin to do the same thing - difference is Warfarin will cause you to bleed to death.

      I avoid Acetaminophen, Tylenol what ever you want to call it, it's a liver killer. Consider that they mix it with codeine as a pain reliever; they would rather harm or even destroy your liver than allow misuse.

    • Well the liver Is one of the few internal organs that can heal itself.

      • True, but it can be damaged enough to prevent healing. There are also chemicals it doesn't know how to deal with, so they just build up in the liver until it can't function. Also, it's suprisingly easy to overdose on acetaminophen. Particularly if you consume alcohol while taking it. An overdose can easily result in total liver failure.
    • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

      Aspirin isn't a sliver bullet [wikipedia.org] either....

      My preference is ibuprofen for head or muscle aches, followed by naproxen, and then aspirin. I'd concur with you about the liver impact of acetaminophen, I had my MD tell me once upon a time that I needed to cut back on the drinking, because of my liver results; I hadn't had a drink in over a month but had been on a regime of acetaminophen + codine following wisdom tooth surgery. That was a wake up call. :)

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @09:00PM (#49467065)
    The article reported a "reduction" in responses to "pleasant and disturbing photos". So I wouldn't start claiming that it's having a very negative effect, or much of an effect at all. When I'm in enough pain to necessitate a pain killer I'm not usually worried about being as happy as I could be (9 times out of 10, it's so I can get to sleep). I typically use Ibuprofen (with a bit of codeine) as most of my pain is a result of inflammation and paracetamol isn't a good anti-inflamatory.
    • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Monday April 13, 2015 @09:21PM (#49467167)

      Don't forget that in North America, people pop these pain killers like candies the moment their head feels a little stuffy.

      That makes it a bigger deal (of course the fact that they're overused in the first place is an issue in itself)

      • People don't realize that it is extremely toxic to the liver in anything above a normal dose, and MUCH MUCH moreso if alcohol is involved. If alcohol is involved 1 tablet is enough to send you into liver failure. That said, I get sinus headaches frequently due to allergies, but I only take a half dose of generic excedrin when I get one, and it usually takes care of it right away. That has 250mg of acetaminophen, 250mg of aspirin, and 60mg of caffeine. Supposedly, otherwise healthy individuals who do not
    • I was thinking the same thing. Maybe the real measurement here is that when you feel shitty you're not gonna be as happy even if you're on a painkiller.

    • I would be also interested in the number of participants, how they were divided, if the effect in dose-dependent, the statistical analysis and so on, unfortunately I have seen too many psychology papers that barely reach the P=0.5 but still are confident about their conclusions.

  • I'm curious. Does Tylenol actually do anything for anyone? I've tried it for aches and pains, bruises, sprains and fever and it's never had the least effect.

    Ibuprofen, yes, that works. Aspirin works. Other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, all work to varying degrees. Tylenol? Nothing.

    Do any of you use acetaminophen with good results? I know hospitals give it out, but here in the States, hospitals don't really give a shit about patients' pain. They probably just give Tylenol because it has so few c

    • I thought it might have helped me with a fever once. But nothing for pain.

      I don't find ibuprofen to be particularly useful for pain, either. Aleve is pretty good. I had my best results with Orudis KT but I guess that was horrible or something so it was here and gone in a moment.

    • I agree that Paracetamol (Tylenol) doesn't do much. The medical profession is starting to agree.

      For example it does nothing for back pain http://www.thelancet.com/journ... [thelancet.com]

  • It's not surprising they didn't know about the side effect given that they aren't even sure how it works to alleviate pain. [acs.org]
  • If I'm out of aspirin and get a headache at work, nobody has anything other than Tylenol which, for me at least, doesn't work worth a damn for a headache. Then I'm left with Tylenol-induced negative thoughts about having to work the rest of the afternoon with my head throbbing.
  • Why is there no aspirin in the jungle?

    Because no-one's been able to establish a viable consumer base.

  • Am I the only one who finds it completely unsurprising that a painkiller would have a numbing effect?
  • I just don't take Acetaminophen anymore. I can't say that it ever helped pain for me. Besides, it kills cats.

  • Except in IT, of course. It's all pain there, regardless.

  • just as an FYI for the rest of the world ...

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.