Common Painkillers Can Be Used to Treat Mental Health Issues fact

Can Simple Over-the-Counter Painkillers Help Emotional Pain? Do Common Painkillers Have Mental Health Benefits?

Studies show both mental and physical pain can be treated with common painkillers like Aspirin, but there are complex factors to consider.[1]

Pain, whether from physical injury or social rejection, sends the same neural signals, and thus both types of pain can be treated by the same over-the-counter painkillers like Aspirin.

Furthermore, studies have shown that simple over-the-counter painkillers may even have therapeutic potential for mental illness including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

With that said, one should note that numbing pain and treating psychological issues are two very different things. Many would suggest the combining of the two techniques offers the best of both worlds, and certainly not every mental health issue can be addressed with Aspirin.

Still, the studies that show that treating mental pain and mental health disorders in general with common painkillers is worth considering.

For example, once can consider the interesting observations by neuroscientists such as Melissa Hill. Hill recently graduated from Brown and published a Modern Love article entitled Can Tylenol Heal Heal a Broken Heart?.[2]

Her conclusion that Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) acted on both physical and emotional pain has been backed up by other scientific studies as well (suggesting that there is something to the findings).[3]

Furthermore, other studies like Aspirin: a review of its neurobiological properties and therapeutic potential for mental illness. Show over-the-counter common painkillers may be able to treat a host of other mental health issues as well.

Below we discuss how simple painkillers can affect mental pain, and we’ll offer some warnings about the related risks.

Does Acetaminophen reduce empathy as it blocks pain?

Does Acetaminophen stop you from feeling your own pain as well as the pain of others?

Dominik Mischkowski, Jennifer Crocker, and Baldwin M. Way experimented with this hypothesis and carried out controlled double-blind experiments which led to that very conclusion in their much-quoted article presented in May 2016, in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience titled From pain killer to empathy killer.[4]

Thus, we find the Catch-22, like with narcotics, taking them may numb our pain and thus make us “happy,” but this does not magically address the same problems that psychoanalysis and group therapy would.

In fact, it may add extra complications (like a lack of empathy for other people’s pain), and create a dependency on the drug (even if only a mental one).

In other words, the science shows that there is some logic behind painkillers killing both physical and emotional pain, but that alone isn’t a reason to spend your weekends popping Aspirin. There are more factors to consider.

TIP: See also, Long Term Use of Aspirin and the Risk of Gastrointestinal Bleeding. Life is all about “trade-offs,” there is rarely a “free lunch.”

Would Aspirin work as well?

Aspirin and ibuprofen are NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that are used for reducing the pain from inflammation and lower fevers and, in low doses, to thin the blood.

Low-dose aspirin may also help prevent cardiovascular disease and some cancers including colorectal cancer.[5][6]

Aspirin should be used with caution because its blood thinning properties are not healthy for everyone. NSAIDS have the potential to raise blood pressure. In addition, they are metabolized by the kidneys and can damage them particularly given prolonged use, overdose, or pre-existing kidney damage.

This class of medicine should be given to children or teenagers only with caution.[7]

Any link existing between emotional pain and NSAIDS remains unexplored at this time. See the following video about aspirin use

Should You Take Aspirin Every Day?

What is the difference between Acetaminophen and NSAIDS?

Acetaminophen is effective for pain but is not anti-inflammatory.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Metabolism and Toxicity. Unfortunately, Acetaminophen (Paracetamol) is metabolized by the liver and can cause necrosis and damage it as well as other organs.[8]

The amount that qualifies as an overdose is not much over the maximum safe amount, and can do unexpected damage if the liver is damaged or stressed, for instance, if used as a hangover cure after drinking alcohol (which also damages the liver). It can also raise blood pressure.[9]

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Metabolism and Toxicity

Article Citations
  1. Aspirin: a review of its neurobiological properties and therapeutic potential for mental illness
  2. Can Tylenol Heal Heal a Broken Heart?
  3. Acetaminophen reduces social pain
  4. From pain killer to empathy killer.
  5. Aspirin and Cancer Prevention
  6. Common pain and anti-inflammation drugs may slow cancer growth
  7. Mayo Clinic Reye’s syndrome
  8. Acetaminophen Poisoning
  9. 11 things you should know about common pain relievers

Studies show common painkillers may have a host of health benefits and that aspirin can help numb emotional pain in the same way it can numb physical pain. Of course, numbing pain is only part of what needs to be done to address “a lack of happiness.” With that noted, there are very real mental and physical health risks to consider if one plans to take over-the-counter painkillers regularly. We suggest one consults a doctor rather than self-diagnosing or self-treating mental health issues.

Author: Linda deSolla Price

Linda deSolla Price is the daughter of Derek de Solla Price, a physicist, historian, and Yale professor who was the first to formally study the History of Science. She holds...

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