During a mentoring session this week a practitioner asked me, ‘How could paracetamol relieve anger?’. After the initial, ‘What the..??.’ reflex, I thought well the placebo response is really a wonderful thing, the potency of which should never be under-estimated. I mean this is just one of many ‘afflictions’ I have been told by patients can be rectified by a popping a Panadol! But just to ensure I wasn’t missing something I went digging into the scientific literature about the latest understanding of its mechanisms and actions and lo and behold (!!!) several RCTs have shown paracetamol can “blunt emotional pain” and reduce the negative effects of “social rejection” specifically!
Back to my…’What the…????!!!!’ reaction 🙂 While Michael Berk (ie NAC pioneer) did co-author a huge paper on the potential application of aspirin in a range of mental health conditions https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23506529 given what we now know about the inflamed brain model of psychiatric illness, this one is easier to grasp than perhaps paracetamol for the pain of emotional interactions & experiences.
The specific mechanism for this effect is yet to be confirmed, however, some researchers suspect that it is akin to the central analgesia that occurs with paracetamol use – meaning that basically it blocks pain signals in the brain, previously thought to be restricted to those signals induced by physical pain but now potentially extended to the ‘pain’ we can also feel emotionally! Can’t believe what you’re reading? Check out some of these links: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21510517 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20548058
But wait there’s more!! One of the latest studies to be published suggests that paracetamol’s pain reducing effects also translate to lower empathy for other’s pain!! What a web we potentially weave! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27217114
What a great reminder that a) what we know, understand and recognise about healing or reducing emotional pain is really very little and b) we are also always learning something new about ‘old’ medications so its worth checking in on the research on some of the most commonly used ones to get a fresh perspective and insight sometimes. The mind really boggles hey! 🙂
Find mental health a challenging topic? Have you heard the latest about NAC in mental health? Previous ideas regarding the pathophysiology of mental illness have been profoundly challenged in recent times, particularly in light of the limited success of the pharmaceuticals that ‘should have worked better’ had our hypotheses been correct. In her presentation NAC in Mental Health – Up Close and in Detail, Rachel brings you up to date with the latest NAC research in a CLINICAL context. Learn more about it here.