OTC Painkiller May Make It Hard for You to Notice Errors

Past studies show acetaminophen can dull emotional pain
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2016 11:21 AM CDT
OTC Painkiller May Make It Hard for You to Notice Errors
A dose of acetaminophen may reduce your ability to recognize errors.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

That Tylenol you just popped may do the trick when it comes to dulling your headache. But a new University of Toronto study finds that the painkiller's active ingredient, acetaminophen, may also put a damper on your ability to notice errors, Science Daily reports. "The core idea of our study is that we don't fully understand how acetaminophen affects the brain," researcher Dan Randles says. To get a clearer picture, the team put together two teams of 30 participants each and had them play "Go or No Go," in which they hit a Go button when the letter F flashed on a screen and do nothing when the letter E appeared. The subjects, half of whom had taken 1,000mg of acetaminophen, were hooked up to an EEG to measure brain activity.

The group that had taken the equivalent of a normal maximum dose of the painkiller hit the Go button more often when E flashed on the screen, according to UPI. Also, they failed to push the button when the F appeared more often than those on the placebo group. "It looks like acetaminophen makes it harder to recognize an error," Randles says. Next on the agenda for the researchers: to study whether acetaminophen causes people to "mind wander," and to answer the question of whether the drug, in addition to inhibiting the ability to detect errors, also contributes to people making more mistakes. Past research has suggested that acetaminophen may reduce the pain of social rejection, "sort of like alcohol or Xanax," the Atlantic reported in 2013. Another study shows that the drug alters the way people pass moral judgment. (Acetaminophen isn't addictive, but these drugs are.)

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