YIKES! Statins could make you more aggressive . . .

January 14, 2020 at 4:14 pm (By Amba) ()

. . . and Tylenol could make you less empathetic, among other unsuspected and uninvestigated emotional and behavioral side effects of common drugs:

 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.

Given these facts, Mischkowski wondered whether painkillers might be making it harder to experience empathy. Earlier this year, together with colleagues from Ohio University and Ohio State University, he recruited some students and spilt them into two groups. One received a standard 1,000mg dose of paracetamol, while the other was given a placebo. Then he asked them to read scenarios about uplifting experiences that had happened to other people, such as the good fortune of “Alex”, who finally plucked up the courage to ask a girl on a date (she said yes).

The results revealed that paracetamol significantly reduces our ability to feel positive empathy – a result with implications for how the drug is shaping the social relationships of millions of people every day. Though the experiment didn’t look at negative empathy – where we experience and relate to other people’s pain – Mischkowski suspects that this would also be more difficult to summon after taking the drug. . . .

“[T]o be honest, this line of research is really the most worrisome that I’ve ever conducted,” he says. “Especially because I’m well aware of the numbers [of people] involved. When you give somebody a drug, you don’t just give it to a person – you give it to a social system.” 

Mitigating factors:

  • “Technically, paracetamol isn’t changing our personalities, because the effects only last a few hours and few of us take it continuously.” But it’s good to be aware of the effect, so “you don’t . . . take paracetamol [ahead of] a situation that requires you to be emotionally responsive – like having a serious conversation with a partner or co-worker.”)
  • The same brain centers that host empathy govern both physical and emotional pain, so “paracetamol can make us feel better after a rejection.”
  • SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac markedly reduce the Big Five trait of “neuroticism” (“epitomised by anxious feelings, such as fear, jealousy, envy and guilt”) and make people more extroverted.


  1. Polly said,

    That isn’t the worst thing statin drugs do. They are all around horrible drugs. And are given to almost anyone over 60 who is willing to take them. For no reason, except to destroy their health.

    Our society has become drug crazed, and the unintended effects are, and will be, awful.

  2. Polly said,

    And furthermore, high cholesterol is NOT usually the cause of cardiovascular disease! So statin drugs have NO benefit at all for most people! They damage muscles (especially for anyone who exercises!), raise blood sugar, and who knows what else.

    And according to this research, low cholesterol can change the personality and cause aggressiveness! Well isn’t that nice. I already knew that keeping cholesterol artificially low is bad for the brain.

    Most cardiovascular disease is caused by smoking cigarettes, or type 2 diabetes. In a small minority of cases, high cholesterol is the cause. But high triglycerides are more likely the effect, not cause, of metabolic syndrome, which in turn causes diabetes and heart disease, etc.

  3. Karen said,

    I’m so glad you’re posting again…

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