Can Acetaminophen or Tylenol Reduce Your Empathy?

Drugs That Reduce Empathy: A Brief Overview

“When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.” Does this quote from Susan Sarandon sounds alluring to you? If yes! Then, you must thank the energy that made you an empath. If not; then you probably have a reduced sense of empathy in you.

One of the famous saying from the president Barack Obama goes; ““what causes us to plunge into wars is the lack of empathy towards other human beings. It is also lack of empathy that makes us ignore the scores of homeless people we see daily on our streets.”

There are people who may be born empathetic to see the world from other’s eyes, to feel the emotion from other’s point of view and who can live a life that is entirely different from their self and get closer to people around them. However, one of the latest research has found that an individual can experience a reduced empathy because of the main ingredient known as Acetaminophen, in the most common drug in the United States (The Tylenol, a painkiller); can reduce ones’ empathy or may impair one’s ability to empathize others.

We would know about the research and know if acetaminophen reduces empathy or The Tylenol ingredient may impair one’s ability to empathize others; in our following arrays of the article.

Can Acetaminophen or Tylenol Reduce Your Empathy?

Can Acetaminophen or Tylenol Reduce Your Empathy: The Research Overview

As an example, researchers from Ohio State University came to a conclusion that that when the participants who took acetaminophen which is the primary painkiller in Tylenol and in more than 500 other medications when they came to know about misfortunes of others, they thought that these individual participants experienced less pain and suffering when compared to those people who did not too painkiller constituting acetaminophen as the main ingredient.

Can Acetaminophen Or Tylenol Reduce Empathy For Others?

Acetaminophen, which is the main ingredient in the painkiller Tylenol, is taken so as to reduce your pain. Though it reduces the pain, it may also reduce your empathy for both, the physical and social aches that other people experiences in their life. This has been found by a new study conducted by the researchers at Ohio State University.

The researchers at Ohio State University conducted two experiments on this effect of acetaminophen.

First Experiment On Acetaminophen or Tylenol & Its Effect on Empathy:

In the first experiment, there were 80 participants. At the beginning, 50% of the participants drank a liquid containing 1000 mg of acetaminophen, while other 50% of them drank a placebo solution that contained no acetaminophen. The participants did not know which group they were. After waiting for one hour for acetaminophen to take effect; the participants read 8 short scenarios in when someone suffered some sort of pain. For example, one scenario was about a person meeting with a knife cut that went deep in to the bone, in another scenario a person experiencing the death of his father and so on.

Participants rated the pain from 1 to 5 with 1 being the least or no pain and 5 being the worst. They also rated as to how much the participants felt pained, wounded, and hurt.

Overall, participants who took acetaminophen felt the pain to be less severe than people who took placebo without acetaminophen as an ingredient.

Second Experiment On Acetaminophen or Tylenol & Its Effect on Empathy:

In the second experiment, 114 participants were involved. Just like the first experiment, in the second experiment too, 50% of the participants took acetaminophen and rest 50% of them took the placebo with no acetaminophen.

In one part of the experiment; the participants received blasts of white noise ranging from 70 to 100 decibels. Then, they rated the noise blasts on a scale of 1 (Not at all unpleasant) to 10 (extremely unpleasant). Then after, the participants were told to visualize how much pain the exact same noise blasts would have caused in another random participant of the study.

The study results showed that the participants’ who took acetaminophen felt the noise blasts to be not so unpleasant for them and also believed that it would not be unpleasant for others too when compared to those participants who took the placebo minus the acetaminophen. This showed that acetaminophen reduces the pain the participants taking it felt and also decreased the empathy for others participants who experienced the same noise blasts.

Additionally, in the experiment the participants were asked to meet and socialize with each other briefly. Each of the participants were then asked to watch an online game alone that supposedly involved three other participants that they had just met even though the other participants were not actually a part of the game. In the game that the participants watched two people that the participants had met earlier excluded the third individual from the game. The participants were then asked to rate as to how much pain and feelings of guilt or hurt they felt, including the individual who was kept out of the game.

The result showed that participants, who drank acetaminophen, rated the pain and hurt feelings of the excluded student as being not as severe as did the participants who did not take the acetaminophen or who took the placebo.


In light of all these results from the study, it was observed that acetaminophen which is the main ingredient in Tylenol was effective in decreasing pain but it also decreased overall empathy for others.

At this stage, it is still not clear why there is a reduced sense of empathy in people taking acetaminophen, but the results from the experiments clearly show that acetaminophen can reduce empathy.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 17, 2019

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