Pain is a guidance system, directing us to avoid engaging in actions that may damage us physically, emotionally and even spiritually. The pain of a sprained ankle warns us not to bear weight on the affected limb until it has begun to heal; the pain of social rejection warns us not to engage in behaviour that offends and upsets others.

While short-term use of paracetamol is clearly warranted in certain circumstances – for example, for post-operative pain – frequent use may thwart our ability to respond appropriately to potential dangers in our lives, and even degrade our capacity for some of the most fundamental experiences of being human – emotional response, empathy for others, and existential threat.

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