Paracetamol and ibuprofen can interfere with thoughts and emotions, an ‘alarming’ review suggests.
Over-the-counter painkillers may influence how people process information, react to emotionally evocative images and experience hurt feelings.
This makes them less sensitive in certain scenarios, such as being excluded or even reading about a stranger’s agonising pain, according to scientists.
It suggests the cheap painkillers, block feelings to the brain as well as physical discomfort.
The new review, by the University of California, Santa Barbara, follows warnings over the popular pills and their links to a raised risk of heart attacks, fertility problems and liver damage.
Dr Kyle Ratner, co-author of the study, 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’, such as those uncovered in the review of trials.
The review revealed that, compared to those who took placebos, women who took a dose of ibuprofen reported less hurt feelings from emotionally painful experiences.
These included being excluded from a game or writing about a time when they were betrayed.
Men showed the opposite pattern, according to the article published in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioural and Brain Sciences.