Most of us know that awful feeling when you’re left reeling after the end of a romantic relationship, especially one in which you wish that the break-up hadn’t happened. If only there was a magic pill that could take that pain away. Well, maybe there is — but it’s not without its complications.
According to a new study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the over-the-counter pain medicine acetaminophen can reduce the severity of emotional pain caused by rejection. It’s not the first study of its kind, either. Multiple studies have been conducted on the subject, and all show that acetaminophen can blunt the emotional feelings of a break-up.
Dull the ache
In this latest study, which was conducted over three weeks, a group of healthy adults were split into three groups and were randomly assigned to receive either a 1000 mg acetaminophen pill, a 400 mg placebo potassium pill, or no pill at all on a daily basis. The participants were also instructed to complete a daily questionnaire designed to measure their levels of forgiveness.
The results of the study echoed previous research, showing that acetaminophen reduces emotional pain compared to a placebo or no treatment. Participants taking acetaminophen reported an 18.5% reduction in social pain over three weeks.
But at what cost?
One of the downsides is that acetaminophen not only reduces negative feelings, but positive ones as well. According to a study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at the Ohio State University, “Participants who took acetaminophen evaluated unpleasant stimuli less negatively and pleasant stimuli less positively, compared with participants who took a placebo.” So there’s that.
The other part to consider is that, while acetaminophen is not addictive in the same way that opiates are, abuse of the drug can lead to liver damage. In fact, overuse of Tylenol is a top cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.
While we may all be searching for a quick fix in times of heartbreak, it seems that popping a pill might help. But it isn’t the only cure. As with any human emotion, it’s a healing process that can’t be rushed. Though this may be a bitter pill to swallow: “The only way to it is through it,” as they say. Some things just take time.