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The medications that change who we are

The crisis of over-medication

  • The US buys an equivalent of 298 paracetamol tablets per person every year.
  • The average American consumes $1,200 worth of prescription medications over the same period.
  • In the UK, one in 10 people over the age of 65 takes eight medications every week.

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The medications that change who we are

The medications that change who we are

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200108-the-medications-that-change-who-we-are?utm_source=pocket

bbc.com

7

Key Ideas

Effects of ordinary medication

There’s emerging evidence that ordinary medications - from paracetamol to antihistamines, statins, asthma medications, and antidepressants - can change our brains. They can make us impulsive, angry, or restless, and even alter aspects of our personalities.

In most people, changes from taking medicine are extremely subtle. But in some, they can also be dramatic.

The crisis of over-medication

  • The US buys an equivalent of 298 paracetamol tablets per person every year.
  • The average American consumes $1,200 worth of prescription medications over the same period.
  • In the UK, one in 10 people over the age of 65 takes eight medications every week.

Statins and personality changes 

  • People with lower cholesterol levels are more likely to die violent deaths.
  • If you put primates on a low-cholesterol diet, they become more aggressive. Lowering animals’ cholesterol seems to affect their levels of serotonin. Even fruit flies start fighting if you interfere with their serotonin levels.
  • Studies have linked serotonin levels in people to violence, impulsivity, suicide, and murder.
  • In a randomized controlled trial, statins were found to increase aggression in post-menopausal women though, oddly, not in men. Giving statins to Nile tilapia made them more confrontational and altered the levels of serotonin in their brains.

Side-effect of paracetamol

Paracetamol blunts physical pain by reducing activity in certain brain areas, such as the insular cortex, which plays an important role in our emotions. Paracetamol can blunt our social pain too.

Recent research has revealed that our brain's pain centers also share their home with empathy. Paracetamol significantly reduces our ability to feel positive empathy.

"When you give somebody a drug, you don’t just give it to a person – you give it to a social system. And we really don’t understand the effects of these medications in the broader context.”

"When you give somebody a drug, you don’t just give it to a person – you give it to a social system. And we really don’t understand the effects of these medications in the broader context.”

Medications that influence us

  • Asthma medications are thought to bring on ADHD symptoms by altering levels of serotonin or inflammatory chemicals, which are thought to be involved in the development of both conditions.
  • People on antidepressants do feel less depressed, but they also begin not to care about normal things that people care about.

Being informed

No one is arguing that people should stop taking their medication. However, it is important for people to be informed about how the treatment might potentially change their personalities.

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