A couple of years ago, an active 60 something neighbour shared that she had been suffering chronic pain, but she had been prescribed something called amitriptyline and it was helping noticeably. I was curious, so I did what I always do when I hear of a drug and searched for the PIL (Patient Information Leaflet). I was surprised to discover that amitriptyline is a pretty heavy duty anti-depressant.
I hadn’t thought any more about this until a headline last week “Paracetamol kills feelings of pleasure as well as pain”. A comment from Professor Baldwin Way, one of the researchers, caught my eye: “People who took paracetamol didn’t feel the same highs or lows as did the people who took placebos.
If you’ve ever heard someone describe taking anti-depressants, they typically say: “things even out”; “you don’t get the lows, you don’t get the highs”. This study is, I believe, the first to show that one of the most common painkillers, taken by millions of people world-wide, may have a similar effect, albeit on a slight scale.
I tweeted early on Friday morning “Being overweight may be associated with reduced incidence of dementia but ‘reduces risk of’? Really?”
I couldn’t see a plausible mechanism and nor could the researchers, who confessed to having been “surprised”. As the BBC article noted, “Any explanation for the protective effect is distinctly lacking.”
However, twitter being the marvel that it is, served up a plausible mechanism, from a Seattle physician, within minutes of my tweet. We’ll get the study and the usual pitfalls out of the way first and then see what could really be interesting about this finding.