No one likes to deal with pain. Period pain, back pain, aches from running-related injuries, it ALL sucks. So the fact that we have access to over-the-counter meds to offer relief is pretty darn awesome. What’s not so great are some of the side-effects that pop up, expected or not. One of those unexpected side effects might be manifesting themselves via something you take regularly for colds or headaches (that is, unless you’re taking advantage of peppermint essential oil to cure your noggin pain). If you think having a headache makes you grumpy, it turns out that the common cure, which 23 percent of US adults use weekly, might be making you even grumpier.

Woman taking pill

According to a study conducted at Ohio State University, drugs that contain acetaminophen, not only temporarily relieve pain, but also alter your ability to empathize with others’ pain or emotional struggles. “When you take acetaminophen to reduce your pain, you may also be decreasing your empathy for both the physical and social aches that other people experience,” the study claims.

Acetaminophen is found in more than 600 medicines, many available over-the-counter (probably a bunch in your medicine cabinet right about now!). The study, which surveyed 80 college students, found that those who had taken acetaminophen responded with more snark and less sympathy when presented with various scenarios where other people were going through painful experiences.


Another study that looked at 114 college students found similar results. When asked how uncomfortable loud noises would be to other peeps, those who took acetaminophen again had less empathy for anyone being subjected to the bangs and blares. Co-author of the study, Dominik Mischkowski, told Science Daily, “Acetaminophen reduced the pain they felt, but it also reduced their empathy for others who were experiencing the same noise blasts.”

A third study, analyzing how much empathy participants felt towards others’ excluded in social situations, was also conducted using the same group of college kids, which makes us think that perhaps the scientists should have tested a wider range of folks, in case these students just happened to be zapped from exams.

Still, it might be best to check any excessive snark if you takea cetaminophen or some common cold meds.

Do you ever suffer from nasty side-effects? How do you deal? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(h/t Hello Giggles, photo via Getty)