This over-the-counter drug could make you take more risks

Taking Tylenol to fight off a cold or fever might be just what is needed in order to relieve some pain. Whether it’s at work or at home, acetaminophen is usually recommended for temporary relief from a headache, but a new study says that taking the pain reliever could make you more adventures by taking risks you normally wouldn’t think of.

Imagine thinking bungee jumping off a bridge isn’t as dangerous or mustering the courage to speak your mind on a touchy subject at work; people who took acetaminophen said they viewed these types of scenarios as less risky compared to people who took a placebo, according to researchers from The Ohio State University.

The research, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, sought to expand on recent research which suggested that acetaminophen can influence judgments and decisions.

The study ran a few trials to test this hypothesis including one which had 189 college students take 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, which is the dosage in Tylenol, or a placebo that resembled the pill.

Participants were asked about their tolerance for risky activities — like bungee jumping, making career switches in their mid-30s, skydiving, and other scenarios — after taking the medication, which was rated on a scale. Those who were in the acetaminophen group viewed such decisions as less risky compared to those in the placebo group.

Other trials included a group of students participating in a computer game where they were to inflate a virtual balloon which would receive more cash rewards as it expanded in size. The group that took acetaminophen was found to be more risk-taking and let the balloon grow further than the placebo group which played it safe.

A separate trial looked into gambling and found that the acetaminophen group was once again more willing to take greater risks than the other group.

Researchers said acetaminophen seems to make people feel less scared about situations that normally can make us pause.

“Acetaminophen seems to make people feel less negative emotion when they consider risky activities — they just don’t feel as scared,” said Ohio State University associate professor Baldwin Way, a co-author of the study, in a press release.

“With nearly 25 percent of the population in the U.S. taking acetaminophen each week, reduced risk perceptions and increased risk-taking could have important effects on society.”

Researchers said additional research is needed in order to properly understand why acetaminophen and other over-the-counter drugs can make us make decisions that we would normally not take.

This isn’t the first time acetaminophen has been linked to something beyond the description on the bottle. A study by researchers from the University of California – Los Angeles earlier this year found that Tylenol can help people get over the pain of social rejection such as sadness, depression, and loneliness.

Senior author George Slavich, Ph.D., director of the UCLA Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research, said:

“We think they help reduce experiences of social pain in different ways. For example, acetaminophen likely reduces social pain by influencing pain signaling in the brain through its effects on specific brain pathways. On the other hand, forgiveness has been found to lessen peoples’ feelings of stress and anger following experiences of social rejection and exclusion. Based on the findings from our study, it appears as though acetaminophen acts synergistically with peoples’ ability to forgive to alleviate the feelings of social pain that are commonly associated with rejection and exclusion.”