Popping an Ibuprofen or Paracetamol every now and then to ease headaches or other physical pain is seen as safe and not even noteworthy, but it turns out we don’t quite know enough about the effect pain killers have on our wellbeing.
A new study from the University of California found the tablets not only reduce physical pain, but also affect our feelings. In other words, pain killers seem to be able to mend a broken heart.
Women who took pain killers as part of the study reported less emotional pain than those who took placebos, and they also showed less hurt feelings when thinking about a time they were betrayed.
Moreover, the study found those taking pain killers had a harder time empathising with others and didn’t mind letting go of possessions as much as those with placebos. When asked to sell objects they owned, the pain killer pill takers set prices cheaper.
Curiously, this effect only counted for female participants. In men, it had the opposite effect and actually heightened their emotions.
The study suggests that, in women, pain killers block feelings to the brain as well as physical discomfort.
Co-author of the study, Dr Kyle Ratner, said: “In many ways, the reviewed findings are alarming.
“Consumers assume that when they take an over-the-counter pain medication, it will relieve their physical symptoms.”
He added that they “do not anticipate broader psychological effects”.
It goes to show the importance of handling pain killers with care, and educating patients about the possible side effects.