The first medication people reach for to alleviate headaches, pains or fever is paracetamol or acetaminophen. However, scientists have now warned people who take paracetamol over a strange and dangerous side effect.
A study has found that those who take the drug, which is the UK’s most trusted painkiller are more likely to take risks, the Mirror reports.
The study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience states that paracetamol could alter a person’s perception of risk.
Scientists at Ohio State University discovered that those who take paracetamol are more likely to take chances and engage in risky behaviour than those people who are given a placebo, a substance with no therapeutic value.
According to the findings of the study, those who took paracetamol rated activities like bungee jumping off a tall bridge” and “speaking your mind about an unpopular issue in a meeting at work” as less risky than those who took a placebo.
Explaining the discoveries, co-author of the study, Baldwin Way is quoted as saying, “Acetaminophen seems to make people feel less negative emotion when they consider risky activities – they just don’t feel as scared.
“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.”
An experiment used in the study involved a computerised task that included 545 student volunteers to inflate some balloons to earn money virtually. However, each pump risked them losing their prior earnings if the balloon burst.
It was found that those students who had taken the placebo engaged in “significantly less risk taking” with a lesser number of average pumps compared to those who had taken acetaminophen.
Speaking about the results Way reportedly said, “If you’re risk-averse, you may pump a few times and then decide to cash out because you don’t want the balloon to burst and lose your money,
“But for those who are on acetaminophen, as the balloon gets bigger, we believe they have less anxiety and less negative emotion about how big the balloon is getting and the possibility of it bursting.”
Another experiment included 189 students who were required to take either 1,000 mg of paracetamol which is the recommended dosage for a headache or a placebo that looked the same.
After waiting for the paracetamol to take effect, the students were asked to rate various activities on a scale of 1 to 7 based on how risky they believed these to be.
Scientists discovered that in comparison to those who had taken the placebo, people who had taken the paracetamol, rated activities including bungee jumping, taking a skydiving class, starting a new career in the mid-30s, or walking at night alone in an unsafe area less risky.
Apparently, prior studies which have been led by Way have also shown that paracetamol can reduce both positive and negative feelings, including the feeling of pain over someone else’s suffering and even your own happiness.
Way is of the opinion that the effect paracetamol has on the perception of risk could have multiple real-life implications and therefore, more research is required.
He states, “We really need more research on the effects of acetaminophen and other over-the-counter drugs on the choices and risks we take.”
The NHS warns, “Do not take paracetamol with other medicines containing paracetamol because there is a risk of overdose.”
The recommended paracetamol dose for adults is one or two 500 mg paracetamol tablets up to four times in 24 hours, with at least four hours between doses.