| acetaminophen

Acetaminophen: Affecting your risk perceptions?

Lowering Pain but Increasing Risk Taking

An article in the journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience states that people who take over the counter acetaminophen feel less scared, less negative, and potentially more willing to do risky things. In multiple studies discussed, people were given acetaminophen or placebo, and asked to rate the risk factor of various activities on a scale of 1 to 7. The groups rated scenarios—ethical (‘passing off somebody else’s work as your own’), financial (‘betting a day’s income at a high-stake poker game’), health (‘driving a car without a seatbelt’), recreational (‘Bungee jumping off a tall bridge’) and social (‘moving to a city far away from your extended family’)” or pumped up a balloon, which “revealed a significant difference in risk taking between those on acetaminophen and those on placebo…those in the placebo condition engaged in significantly less risk taking as indexed by adjusted average number of pumps than those on acetaminophen pumping exercise.”

The article brings up the concerns that, “With nearly 25% of the population consuming acetaminophen each week” society may be affected by the reduction in risk perceptions and potentially greater risk taking. “…many patients in the hospital have acetaminophen in their systems when presented with risk information and asked to make potentially life-changing risk assessments such as whether or not to do an invasive surgery. Similarly, when driving, one is regularly presented with decisions that involve risk perception and assessment.” The study calls for a better understanding of the ubiquitous OTC product: “…it is imperative that we understand acetaminophen’s effects on choices made and risks taken. Risk perception and risk taking are judgments and decisions that can affect many aspects of our lives, and…may influence this process, unbeknownst to the millions taking the drug.”


Read the journal article.