A person’s social life has a great influence in his possibility of using drugs of pleasure. Most of drugs of pleasure are used in social circles and therefore it is appropriate to say that social factors play an important role in the initiation, maintenance and recovery from addictions. There is now accumulating evidence of an interaction between the neural substrates of affiliate behavior and those of drug reward, with a role for brain oxytocin systems in modulating acute and long-term drug effects.
Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus, and it is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. Chemically it is known as a nonapeptide, (because it is a peptide containing nine amino acids), and biologically, as a neuropeptide. It acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter. Due to its roles in behavior, this hormone has been given different names such as the love hormone, cuddle hormone, bliss hormone, moral molecule and even hug hormone. Researchers say that it is released when people snuggle up or bond socially.
However this hormone seems to have many functions that can be very helpful to clinical treatment of those enslaved by drug addiction. Researchers have been able to establish a link between addiction and oxytocin and the findings are promising as new approaches can be developed on the basis of the influence of oxytocin on drug addiction to help quell drug addiction and free addicts enslaved to drug use.
Past researchers have indicated that exogenous oxytocin administration can prevent development of tolerance to ethanol and opiates, the induction of stereotyped, hyperactive behavior by stimulants, and the withdrawal symptoms associated with sudden abstinence from drugs and alcohol. In addition to this finding, stimulation of endogenous oxytocin systems is a key neurochemical substrate underlying the prosocial and empathogenic effects of party drugs such as MDMA often referred to as Ecstasy and GHB mostly known as Fantasy. According to these early research reports, brain oxytocin systems exhibit profound neuroplasticity and undergo major neuroadaptations as a result of drug exposure. Many drugs, including cocaine, opiates, alcohol, cannabis, MDMA and GHB cause long-term changes in markers of oxytocin function and this may be linked to enduring deficits in social behavior that are commonly observed in laboratory animals after going through repeated exposure to these drugs. Very recent preclinical studies have illustrated a remarkable ability of exogenously delivered oxytocin to inhibit stimulant and alcohol self-administration, to alter associated drug-induced changes in dopamine, glutamate and Fos expression in cortical and basal ganglia sites, and to prevent stress and priming-induced relapse to drug seeking. Oxytocin therefore has fascinating potential to reverse the corrosive effects of long-term drugs abuse on social behavior and to perhaps inoculate against future vulnerability to addictive disorders. However clinical studies that are examining intranasal oxytocin effects in humans with drug use disorders are still awaited but hopes are high that the results may open ways into a new dimension in fighting drug addiction by using this hormone.
Over the years researchers have had speculations that oxytocin may have an effect on drug addiction and related behaviors. Clinical doctors and other researchers have got the knowledge that people who are addicted to certain drugs exhibit antisocial traits and exhibit poor decision making in the social domain. There has also been a link between high levels of oxytocin and blossoming relationships as well as stable social bonds. Due to its speculated effects on drug addiction related behavior, oxytocin has been targeted as a novel treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. This has been catapulted by the realization that the acute prosocial effects of some popular recreational drugs most likely involve stimulation of oxytocin systems and that the neural substrates of social bonding and drug reward may be intertwined.
Some drugs of pleasure like MDMA when taken affect the person in a way that he becomes more loving and close to the people around him. He also becomes more naïve as to trust those with him and even to agree with most of their arguments. In preclinical tests these prosocial behaviors have been seen in animal models, for instance in strange pairs of rats meeting for the first time, MDMA markedly reduce aggression and increase a behavior known as adjacent lying; the rats cuddle inhibiting a feeling of love and trust as always the case with human beings under the influence of this drug. MDMA and its metabolites stimulate hypothalamic oxytocin release and after this hormone has been released in high levels then the prosocial feelings are exhibited.
Many researchers have now proposed that the reason why many addicts go through drug addiction recovery programs successfully in rehabs may be because of this hormone. The addicts who are majorly summoned to anonymous meetings in the rehabs experience surge in this hormone as they relate to their fellow addicts, this is said to have therapeutic effects as they help resettle dysfunctional oxytocin pathways. In spite of it’s clearly involvement in the prosocial effects of some drugs, it is not clear whether oxytocin itself is rewarding. It is however appropriate to mention that there is still a lot that should be done on this field to avail information on how these past findings can help ease drug addiction treatment.
Finally, Drug abuse, addiction and independence are problems that people grapple with every day. These problems need to be treated effectively through integrative medicine. Dr. Dalal Akoury (MD) is an expert at this. Call her on (843) 213-1480 for help.