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Addicted to love, and then withdrawal

“We have evidence that it is the withdrawal from oxytocin after social loss that leads to the depressive side effects, at least based on our studies in monogamous prairie voles,” Dr. Young told MNT.

A study of nuns has demonstrated that romantic relationships and sex are not required for good health and long life.
In a paper published in Psychopharmacology in 2012, Dr. Young and James P. Burkett reviewed research on drug addiction alongside research on social attachments. “The psychology of human love and drug addiction share powerful overlaps at virtually every level of the addictive process, from initial encounters to withdrawal,” the authors conclude.

Oxytocin was found to play a modulatory role in many aspects of drug addiction, along with additional roles in the processing of memories and information involved in social attachment.

The association between oxytocin and addiction was explored further last year in research conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia. The study suggested that poor development of oxytocin during early childhood could explain why some individuals succumb to addictive behavior.

Dr. Young and Burkett state that the overlaps in the psychology of human love and drug addiction suggest that forms of treatment for one domain may be effective in another. “[For] instance, treatments used to reduce drug cravings may be effective in treating grief from the loss of a loved one or a bad breakup,” they write.

These findings suggest that further research into the neurobiological mechanisms of love could reveal ways in which its positive healthful effects could be brought to people that find themselves without it.

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