Headaches and fevers may be common today, especially with so much stress brought about by the pandemic. The easiest over-the-counter medication for fast relief is usually Tylenol. A word of caution though, recent research showed that the medicine could make people more prone to take risks.

A study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience done by researchers from Ohio State University revealed that people who take acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, tend to feel lesser negative emotions when it comes to doing risky activities.

Dr Baldwin Way, associate professor of psychology at the Ohio State University and one of the co-authors of the study, revealed in a press release that these individuals who take acetaminophen don't feel as scared in terms of engaging in activities, which others might consider dangerous, risky, or make them dread the notion of such activity due to the associated risk.

The study involved 189 college students. The participants either took 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, the dose recommended by doctors in treating headaches, or a placebo, which resembles Tylenol. To find out how Tylenol affects the thought processes of the participants, they were asked to evaluate how risky certain activities are, using a scale of one to seven. Some of the activities that participants were asked to rate include skydiving, bungee jumping, or even starting a new career in the mid-30's.

Based on the answers of participants, they found that those who took acetaminophen considered the activities as less risky.

In a separate study, 545 students took part in the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), which is a test that measures the risk-taking behaviour of individuals. Using BART, participants are asked to inflate a virtual balloon. Whenever they inflate the balloon, they would also be rewarded with money. The risk was that, if they keep on inflating the balloon, it could eventually burst and they would lose all their money.

The result of the study was similar to those of the 189 who evaluated risk-taking activities because those who took acetaminophen were also among those who kept on inflating the virtual balloons. Thus, it indicated how taking the drug affected their risk-taking behaviour.

Acetaminophen and risk-taking behaviour Photo: Pixabay

Way noted that the results of the study can have implications in real-life. One example he gave was with asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. Modelling the study, an asymptomatic patient who takes acetaminophen would have the notion that it is not that risky to leave their homes and interact with others. Way also said that further research is needed with regards to how acetaminophen would affect risk perception.