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Biology, Psychology

Am I making more mistakes?

Okay, I don’t take much for painkillers. Throughout two surgeries on my wrist I have had to stick with your basic, over the counter acetaminophen and ibuprofen. This is a result of some fairly severe drug allergies. But unlike those prescription strength options, I think we kind of assume that acetaminophen and ibuprofen do not come with true cognitive impairment. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m loopy on drugs so I must be functioning normally right?

A new study on the impacts of acetaminophen says otherwise. The researchers looked at rates of error detection in subjects who had received either a placebo or a maximum dose of acetaminophen. What they found was that subjects who received the acetaminophen were less likely to detect the errors they made. They also appeared to make more errors.

Depending on how severe this impairment is there could be a lot of implications. Got a headache? Take some painkillers? How serious are the errors that you can make in your job? Is it a matter of a little extra time or is it possible that a small error could end in a serious accident? The same question applies for driving, cooking, or crossing the street. Miss the fact that you made a mistake and the consequences could be devastating.

We seem to have this habit in many areas of our lives of thinking something is positive, and adopting it, before we even know what other impacts there may be. At the same time, would we ever get anything done if we waited for all the data.

An interesting dilemma, just make sure you don’t take acetaminophen before you make your decision, or you may never know if you made a mistake.


About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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