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What’s Love Got to Do With Addiction?

Drug and alcohol addiction is often perceived as a personal problem with many stigmas attached. Though some recognize that addiction has its genetic and chemical roots, others disparage addicts as being “too weak” to quit.

New research out of Australia aligns more with the former camp, revealing that a chemical component, the so-called “love hormone” oxytocin, may be involved with individual susceptibility to addiction.

What’s love got to do with addiction? Here are the details!

Oxytocin Development & Addiction

Researchers at the University of Adelaide set out to probe the connection between oxytocin development and addiction, including how and why oxytocin levels vary so much between individuals, plus how the different levels affect health.

Published in Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, their research shows a correlation between low levels of oxytocin and the presence of addiction risk factors. According to the data surveyed during their research, risk factors appeared in children as young as 4 years of age. Researchers concluded that when oxytocin development is not hindered, it makes drug and alcohol use less pleasurable and reduces stress. If the hormone does not develop as successfully, individuals may be more vulnerable to drug and alcohol addiction.

What is Oxytocin?Worcester | What's Love Got to Do With Addiction?

Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is secreted by the pea-sized pituitary gland during moments of tenderness, like a hug with loved ones. It’s an important hormone when it comes to social interaction, romantic relationships, companionship, and maternal and paternal roles.

How Does Oxytocin Develop?

Research has shown that people have very diverse oxytocin levels. Though we are all born with oxytocin, which is key to fostering the mother-child bond, our oxytocin systems do not stop developing until we are 3 years old.

This means that both internal and external factors are involved in oxytocin development, including our gender, genetics, and our environment. While genetics and gender can’t be changed, environmental factors — such as exposure to drugs or alcohol, lack of social stimulation, undue stress, mental or physical trauma, and infections — can. Even a traumatic birth experience could affect oxytocin development.

What Does This Mean For Drug & Alcohol Addiction?

Researchers hope to continue to study the link between oxytocin and addiction in order to better understand the chemical aspect of addiction — and perhaps discover better treatment. For now, it’s clear that poor oxytocin development at a young age can leave people susceptible to addictive behaviors.

If you suspect a friend, loved one, or employee is suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, the first step in treatment is having them tested. ARCpoint Labs of Worcester, MA offers quick, reliable, and confidential drug and alcohol testing — call us today at (774) 314-9551 to learn more about our services!

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