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Bad Breakup? There’s a Pill For That

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

In the Michel Gondry film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play a couple on the outs who, in an effort to lessen the emotional pain of their breakup, undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories. If you’ve ever gone through a breakup of your own — and, odds are, you have a few times — it’s easy to empathize with the two main characters in this regard. After all, breaking up is one of the most heart-wrenchingly difficult experiences we go through as humans.

But the movie gets one massive thing wrong: Our two lead actors don’t need to have their memories of each other erased. That’s because, if this report from NPR is to be believed, all they need to ease the pain of their break up might be as simple as a pill. Tylenol, to be specific.

In a study from the University of Kentucky, researchers in the psych department sought to better understand the differences and similarities between physical and emotional pain. What they found was that Tylenol seems to dull the emotional pain receptors of the brain as efficiently as the ones that fire when you physically hurt yourself.

In two more studies from Ohio State University, researchers found that the active ingredient in Tylenol — acetaminophen — has the ability to keep people on an even keel when they experience both positive and negative emotions. In effect, Tylenol has mood-affecting qualities that help people stay balanced, emotionally.

All of this is good news in how we understand emotional pain and how to treat it. But doctors do warn that under no circumstances should you go out and start popping Tylenol every time you go through a rough patch: Acetaminophen, while good at dulling pain, is actually quite harmful when taken incorrectly, which is something you could easily do if you’re taking it after each 2 A.M. “it’s not you, it’s me” text you get from your ex. A better idea might be to tuck into some Ben and Jerry’s. Or, if you’re really desperate, you could look into that ol’ “erase your memories” thing.

A few other things we learned about our bodies today: