- Could paracetamol mess up your mind?
- The popular over-the-counter drugs which case brain problems
- The sea snail that could be the “new morphine” – without the addiction
A few weeks I go I shared some brand new research in the Lancet.
In my email ‘This Popular Drug Won’t Help Joint Pain Sufferers’ I revealed that paracetamol doesn’t help 8 out of 10 people who take it to ease their knee and hip pain.
Well, time some more fascinating new research…
This time it’s into something called acetaminophen, an ingredient which appears in paracetamol (you’ll also find it called Tylenol in the USA and in some UK remedies).
Could this ingredient in paracetamol mess up your mind?
Already acetaminophen has had some bad press…
In 2011, British researchers showed there was a risk of accidental overdose when this was taken in staggered amounts over a few days…. and another study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, suggested links to blood cancers, asthma and eczema.
Now a new study from The University of Toronto (published in the current edition of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience) has more worrying revelations…
A team of researchers has found that as well as inhibiting pain, acetaminophen also blocks other signals in your brain.
This includes your ability to recognise mistakes and errors.
In your everyday life you use something called “Cognitive control” to get through your day. It helps you do everything from walking and talking, to reading or studying. It happens automatically in your brain without you thinking about it….
But sometimes you need to interrupt these automatic processes when something out of the ordinary happens.
For instance, let’s say you’re talking to a friend while crossing the road. If a car begins to wobble or drive abnormally, your brain kicks in to alert you.
The authors of this study say that in when you’re taking paracetamol this function is inhibited.
This backs up findings from a massive study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2011) which found that many over-the-counter drugs can cause cognitive impairment, including Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol/Paracetamol and Unisom.
Now look, it’s not a case of taking a couple of painkillers here and there and suffering problems.
It’s more about sustained use over periods of time.
Some people are barely off painkillers at all, and that’s when these risks of addiction and brain disruption become serious.
So what’s the solution?
Well, on the horizon there are some very interesting alternatives sound in nature. For instance, if you missed it, go and check out my investigation into tarantula venom:
There’s also another fascinating nature-based solution that works in a similar way.
How a sea snail’s poison could be the new morphine
The cone snail is a tiny sea creature that shoots poison into its prey.
Here it is in action (I feel a bit sorry for this goldfish).
Like the Peruvian tarantula, this snails’ fatal venom could help with human pain relief.
It contains peptides known as conotoxins, which work as pain killers. Scientist have turned this into a new drug that that’s one hundred times more powerful than morphine – without any of the addictive properties.
Professor David Craik, from the University of Queensland, who led the research says:
“This could serve as the blueprint for the development of a whole new class of drugs capable of relieving one of the most severe forms of chronic pain that is currently very difficult to treat.”
So there are exciting things ahead.
As for now, there are alternatives you can try.
For instance, there’s microcurrent therapy, which I mentioned last month. This is where a small device sends electrical currents directly to damaged areas of your body – for instance a torn knee ligament or an arthritic hip.
These mimic your body’s natural electrical currents, stabilizing the electric balance of the injured cells, helping your body’s tissues heal themselves.
You can read all about it here.
Or there are topical gels you can try too…
Silica as natural pain relief
In 1957 a researcher called Norbert Duffaut became interested in silicon as a way of keeping joints elastic, reducing joint pain symptoms.
Thirty years later there’s now an organic silica gel which can be easily absorbed through the skin. It’s combined with other pain relief ingredients including Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
If you’re interested you can find out more here
Or there are plenty more alternatives in the pain relief section of the People’s Doctor Shop.
If there’s any particular alternative pain relief method that’s worked for you, do let us know and we’ll share it in a future edition.