Common Painkiller Connected to Risky Behavior, Study Says

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. dampen / ˈdæm pən / (v) – to decrease the strength or intensity of something

    Nothing can dampen the children’s enthusiasm for today’s field trip.

  2. empathy / ˈɛm pə θi / (n) – the ability to be aware of other people's feelings or emotions

    His years of research in poor areas gave him more empathy for people living there.

  3. inflate / ɪnˈfleɪt / (v) – to make something bigger by filling it with gas

    I need to inflate my flat tire.

  4. burst / bɜrst  / (v) – to break or fall apart suddenly, usually in a violent way

    The flooding in the kitchen was caused by two water pipes that burst.

  5. willing / ˈwɪl ɪŋ / (adj) – prepared or ready to do something

    Andrew is always willing to help his friends out.


Read the text below.

A new study found that paracetamol, a common painkiller, can induce risky behavior.

Previous studies have shown that paracetamol can dampen positive feelings, lower empathy levels, and reduce cognitive functions. To understand whether the drug can also increase risky behavior, researchers conducted experiments on over 500 university students. The participants randomly took either paracetamol or a placebo pill.

For the first experiment, the participants were asked to rate the risk levels of various activities and hypothetical scenarios. The list of activities and scenarios included bungee jumping and starting a new career later in life. For the second experiment, they played a computer game in which they earned cash every time they inflated a balloon. However, if a balloon got too big, it would burst and the participants would lose their money.

Results showed that the participants on paracetamol were willing to take more risks than those on the placebo. In the first experiment, they reported dangerous activities and scenarios as less scary, and in the second experiment, they inflated and burst their balloons more. The researchers believe that paracetamol caused them to feel less anxiety and negative emotions about potential bad outcomes.

According to the researchers, their study has real-life implications. They suspect that paracetamol may alter the risk assessment of a person, affecting daily activities like driving. The experts suggest that more research should be done to understand the effects of paracetamol and other painkillers on people’s behavior toward risks.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• After reading the article, do you think pharmacies should be stricter in selling paracetamol? Why or why not?
• Do you think scientists should check if every drug/medication can affect people’s behavior/decision-making process? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• What was the biggest risk someone you know has taken? Discuss.
• What do you think encourages people to take huge risks? Explain.