Paracetamol Consumption Linked With Lack of Empathy for Others

According to a 2016 study published in “Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience” the consumption of paracetamol produces an unexpected side-effect. Scientists discovered that paracetamol apart from being a painkiller it can kill our capacity to demonstrate empathy for others. Empathy is our natural capacity to place ourselves in the situation of what others are going through. An empath feels the pain of others and can take action to support and help others. In a way empathy is one of the “glues” that keeps societies together because it leads to solidarity and social responsibility. Lack of empathy leads to a dog-eat-dog societies where each one is working on his own objectives with no regard to others and at the expense of others. 

Considering the widespread use of paracetamol and in many cases irresponsible and excessive consumption the finding of this study should be taken seriously. The study highlights that an estimated 23% of all US adults consume a drug containing acetaminophen during an average week. 

Experiment subjects were divided in to two groups. One group took a placebo and the other paracetamol. Both groups believed that they had taken paracetamol. All subjects were exposed to scenarios of physical and emotional pain and disturbing noises. Those that had consumed paracetamol scored lower levels of distress in comparison to the placebo takers. Subsequently the same subjects were exposed to experiments in which they observed others in painful situations. In this case, the paracetamol consumers again showed lower levels of empathy.

The study demonstrates that paracetamol has harmful secondary side effects to society. A society in which people do not have normal reactions to triggers of personal emotional pain and do not demonstrate empathy for others is numb and passive and is easily manipulated. What is the real impact of paracetamol and possibly other medications on our levels of empathy, solidarity and social cohesion? 


D. Mischkowski, J. Crocker, B.M. Way. From painkiller to empathy killer: acetaminophen (paracetamol) reduces empathy for pain. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Volume 11, Issue 9. September 2016.

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