The Empathic Cost of Pain Relief

Collated by Hawko and Quynn

Animism is based on radical communication. There is a degree of empathic profiling in order to have listening be meaningful. Empathic profiling allows a sense of what words mean to each being who is communicating. What is the other person feeling in response to my words? What filters does the other person have that hinder communication? By now most people are aware how many prescribed medications have behavioral side effects. What about over the counter medication?

The following comes from:

Paracetomol, known as acetaminaphin (Tylenol), in the US has an interesting story that may help explain current events. Research into these effects couldn’t come at a better time. The world is in the midst of a crisis of over-medication, with the US alone buying up 49,000 tonnes of paracetamol every year. (equivalent to about 298 paracetamol tablets per person) Mischkowski’s own research has uncovered a sinister side-effect of paracetamol. For a long time, scientists have known that the drug blunts physical pain by reducing activity in certain brain areas, such as the insular cortex, which plays an important role in our emotions. These areas are involved in our experience of social pain,

Mischkowski wondered whether painkillers might be making it harder to experience empathy

And recent research has revealed that this patch of cerebral real-estate is more crowded than anyone previously thought, because it turns out the brain’s pain centres also share their home with empathy. For example, fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans have shown that the same areas of our brain become active when we’re experiencing “positive empathy” –pleasure on other people’s behalf – as when we’re experiencing pain. Empathy doesn’t just determine if you’re a “nice” person, or if you cry while you’re watching sad movies. The emotion comes with many practical benefits, including more stable romantic relationships, better-adjusted children, and more successful careers – some scientists have even suggested that it’s responsible for the triumph of our species. In fact, a quick glance at its many benefits reveals that casually lowering a person’s ability to empathise is no trivial matter. 

Technically, paracetamol isn’t changing our personalities, because the effects only last a few hours and few of us take it continuously. But Mischkowski stresses that we do need to be informed about the ways it affects us, so that we can use our common sense. “Just like we should be aware that you shouldn’t get in front of the wheel if you’re under the influence of alcohol, you don’t want to take paracetamol and then put yourself into a situation that requires you to be emotionally responsive – like having a serious conversation with a partner or co-worker.” One reason medications can have such psychological clout is that the body isn’t just a bag of separate organs, awash with chemicals with well-defined roles – instead, it’s a network, in which many different processes are linked.”

As a final thought recent studies are showing that millions of people are taking the maximum dose often exceeding it. This may be a factor in the social display of meanness. It may be medicinally inflicted lack of compassion that is occuring.

Hawko Reed
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