A new study has revealed that a common painkiller can counter the ill-effects of social rejection. Acetaminophen is the drug in question and was found to ease not only physical pain of sore joints and headaches, but also the mental trauma caused by social rejection.
The study involved 62 healthy volunteers, who took 1,000 milligrams daily of either acetaminophen or a placebo on a daily basis. Every evening, the researchers tabulated the amount of social pain felt by the participants on the "Hurt Feelings Scale."
In the acetaminophen group, the hurt feelings decreased over time, but the same effect was not observed in the placebo group.
"The idea-that a drug designed to alleviate physical pain should reduce the pain of social rejection-seemed simple and straightforward based on what we know about neural overlap between social and physical pain systems," said lead researcher C. Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology.
In another experiment 25 volunteers took 2,000 milligrams of acetaminophen for three weeks. They then played a computer game that simulated feelings of social rejection. The neural responses to social rejection were seen to be reduced on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
The details of the study appear in the journal Psychological Science.