#2. Taking Tylenol to Heal Emotional Pain
Everyone at some point experiences what's referred to as social pain (bullying, rejection, debilitating awkwardness, etc.) that leaves them feeling crushingly vulnerable. Granted, it's often not the type of thing that's severe enough to need a huge dose of antidepressants, so you wind up just locking yourself in your room and listening to some angry music for the rest of the night. It's not like you can go to your medicine cabinet and swallow a pill for your hurt feelings, right?
Wrong, jerkloser. It turns out there's a pill you can take for the pains of social failure, and it's been right in front of our picked-last-for-kickball faces this whole time. The wonder drug in question is standard, over the counter, any-asshat-can-buy-it Tylenol.
"I am so pissed off right now. Hand me a razor blade and a straw."
In 2009, a research team at the University of Kentucky conducted two experiments to see whether acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol and other over-the-counter pain relievers) could be used to treat psychological pain as well as physical. In the first experiment, a group of 62 volunteers were given either 1,000 milligrams of acetaminophen or a placebo and were then asked to provide daily reports on the amount of social pain they'd suffered by making notations on the "Hurt Feelings Scale." The level of social pain steadily decreased over time in the group taking the actual drug, whereas the control group experienced no change whatsoever.
The second experiment gathered a smaller group of volunteers, again split into treatment and control groups, with the treatment group receiving twice the dose of acetaminophen from the previous experiment. Both groups were then made to play a computer game that simulated feelings of social rejection (like a version of The Sims where your character does nothing but sit in an empty house and stare at the telephone). MRI scans of their brains were taken during the course of the game, which we assume did nothing but enhance everyone's comfort level.
"It looks like he may be immune. Let's put him on World of Warcraft."
As the experiment went on, the areas of the brain associated with pain (both psychological/social and physical) lit up like a barren, giftless Christmas tree for the placebo group. However, those same areas remained politely Zen in the acetaminophen-treated group -- their experience of emotional pain had been dulled to the level of robots and serial killers (not mutually exclusive). Keep in mind, physical and social pain activate the same brain regions -- when Surly Jim calls you "dickpigeon" in homeroom, your brain processes it in the exact same way as when Surly Jim punches you in the stomach (and then calls you "dickpigeon").
The researchers concluded that drugs such as Tylenol, typically prescribed as painkillers, could just as effectively be used to combat abstract pain like loneliness and embarrassment, in addition to treating headaches and punches in the face.
"If we'd sneaked Tylenol into his cereal, maybe Jeff would be alive today ..."
#1. Treating a Heart Attack by Getting a Little Sun
Considering America's collective decision to embrace obesity-related heart disease by enjoying diets consisting largely of deep-fried mayonnaise, we're surprised that McDonald's doesn't hand out chewable aspirin and rib spreaders with every value meal. Or, we could just start eating all of our cheeseburgers outside, because heart attacks and a host of their nasty consequences can be foiled by copious amounts of sunlight, apparently.
A team of researchers from the University of Colorado discovered this effect after inducing heart attacks in groups of laboratory mice, presumably by feeding them nothing but selections from Guy Fieri's cookbook.
"Put him in the beaker in preparation for the sputtering angry napalm shit that is sure to follow."
Prior to their coronary episodes, one group of mice spent their time bathed in the warm glow of sunlamps, while the other group existed entirely under the gray and depleted indoor lighting enjoyed by most prisons and mental institutions. The scientists observed that the mice who had been exposed to sunlight recuperated from their heart attacks much more quickly than their less-illuminated counterparts (after accounting for a control group that had been eaten by someone's cat).
Why such a difference in recovery periods? The sun-blanketed rodents produced higher amounts of a type of protein that plays an important role in preventing tissue damage and keeping the heart metabolized during a heart attack. As for why the sun would make you produce more of those proteins, it has to do with your sleep cycle. The circadian rhythms that determine when you get up and when you go to sleep also make your organs produce specific proteins at certain times of day. Turn on a sun lamp and your body will think it's daytime. Or if it is daytime, get some goddamned sun so that your body knows.
But for God's sake, first put on some clothes that don't make you look like a total fucking embarrassment.
A scientist involved in the study felt that their findings could influence treatment in the future, suggesting that "... daylight exposure inside of the hospital could reduce the damage that is caused by a heart attack," which seems like a polite way of saying that maybe they should just move patients closer to the damned window.
You can contact Eddie with writing opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more ridiculousness from the people who are supposed to save us, check out 8 Medical Terms Your Doctor Uses to Insult You and 5 Insane Doctors From History Who Put House to Shame.