Over-the-counter in pharmacies, paracetamol is often well tolerated and rarely responsible for side effects. In any case, this is what we thought before an American study came to suggest that this analgesic could hinder our perception of risks and danger.
Paracetamol is the best-selling drug in France, to the point that their sale has been limited to two boxes per customer since October 21. Available in pharmacies without a prescription, it remains the preferred molecule in the event of pain and/or fever, at the rate of one 1000 mg tablet every 6 hours. However, its mechanism of action against pain is still unknown. Researchers at Ohio State University have even succeeded in proving that a high consumption of paracetamol acts on our perception of pain and our behavior towards others.
Paracetamol increases risk taking
Ultimately, three experimental studies were conducted on a total of 545 students. In the first, 189 individuals received 1 gram of paracetamol, the dose generally recommended for an adult suffering from headaches. Another part received a placebo of the same appearance. Then, the participants in this survey rated the risk they thought they were running during various activities and situations on a scale of 1 to 7. The results, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, showed that people who had received paracetamol judged less risky activities known to be “dangerous”, such as bungee jumping, going home alone at night in a dangerous neighborhood, or taking a skydiving course. Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART), in which they were offered the opportunity to earn money by inflating a balloon via a computer, with a simple click. The more the button is pressed, then the balloon inflates, but the more the risk that it burst increases.
A serious impact on activities of daily living
Participants then performed a task named Balloon Analog Risk Task (BART), in which they were offered the opportunity to earn money by inflating a balloon via a computer, with a simple click. The more the button is pressed, then the balloon inflates, but the more the risk that it burst increases. The results showed that participants who had taken paracetamol were more likely to keep inflating the balloon, and therefore ended up popping it. Conversely, participants who took the placebo were more cautious, and more anxious about the idea of it exploding. “Acetaminophen appears to cause people to experience fewer negative emotions when considering risky activities. They’re just not as scared,” Way said. In light of these results, we understand that taking paracetamol is rather incompatible with certain common activities, such as driving, extreme sports, or certain jobs deemed dangerous. “We really need more research on the effects of acetaminophen and other over-the-counter medications on the choices and risks we take.“, concludes the specialist.
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