You’d have a tough time finding someone who hasn’t taken Panado (also called paracetamol or acetaminophen) at some point in their lives.
It’s one of the most common painkillers out there.
It’s considered so safe when administered in the correct dosages, that you can buy it ‘over the counter’, from your local supermarket.
Then a new study on the drug came along, and the results were…unexpected.
Health24 looked into the research, which involved administering either 1 000 mg of paracetamol or placebos, to over 500 participants.
The participants were then subject to a series of experiments to measure risk-taking behaviour.
All of them had to pump up an inflated balloon on a computer screen. With each pump, they earned imaginary money.
The idea was to earn as much ‘money’ as they could without bursting the balloon.
The study showed that the participants on 1 000 mg of paracetamol were less cautious and tended to take things too far, eventually popping the balloon, while those who took the placebo were less likely to do so.
They then had to fill out forms rating their perceived level of risk-taking during several hypothetical scenarios, such as bungee jumping or driving a car without a seat belt.
Once again, those on paracetamol tended to be more comfortable taking risks.
“Acetaminophen seems to make people feel less negative emotion when they consider risky activities – they just don’t feel as scared,” stated neuroscientist Baldwin Way from The Ohio State University.
“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,” Way says.
Like most studies, the experiment into the psychological mechanisms behind the effect of the drug on risk-taking needs to be further researched to come to a definitive conclusion.
“Perhaps someone with mild COVID-19 symptoms may not think it is as risky to leave their house and meet with people if they’re taking acetaminophen,” Way stated.
“We really need more research on the effects of acetaminophen and other over-the-counter drugs on the choices and risks we take.
In other words, just to be safe, it’s probably best to avoid operating heavy machinery if you’ve popped a Panado.
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