Addiction is a struggle for many people. A great percentage of the world population is estimated to suffer from a chemical dependence of some shape or form. Whether it be stimulants, opiates, or alcohol, the adverse effects of addiction are quite real and distressing for many individuals. There are treatment options available though.
Recent studies on the oxytocin molecule suggest it might play a role in lessening the severity of addictions. What’s oxytocin? Although oxytocin is thought of as a love drug of sorts, more and more research indicates it may be of use in treating physical and psychological addiction. Oxytocin, a love hormone, may have diverse uses. A late 90s study on rats illustrates these potential benefits quite well.
In 1998, researcher Kovaks and team tested the effects of oxytocin on addiction. The team introduced various animal test subjects, mice and rats, to drugs known for their highly addictive properties. Some were given opiates, such as heroin and morphine. Others were given cocaine, and some were administered alcohol.
After the signs of physical dependence began to take hold, scientists administered oxytocin to the subjects. The cocaine, opiate, and alcohol addicted test subjects were then observed throughout the duration of their withdrawal periods. Some positive findings were indicated.
The effects in the opiate dependent test subjects showed some changes following the administration of oxytocin. The love drug appeared to slow the development of tolerance to morphine in mice, while decreasing the desire for heroin in larger rats. Cocaine withdrawal effects were also noted as lowered.
Ethanol withdrawal also appeared to be affected by oxytocin. Withdrawal from alcohol can be lethal across species, but seemingly lowered side effects seemed to take hold when oxytocin was present. One particularly dangerous aspect of the withdrawal, hypothermia, appeared to have greatly decreased. These findings point towards possibly similar uses in humans with addiction issues.
Oxytocin’s effects on the lab rats and mice appeared to indicate the lowering of tolerance. As a key aspect of addiction, tolerance is effectively the brain and body adjusting to the presence of a drug. This in turn leads to higher consumption rates, and grows from there. Oxytocin seemed to cause opiate addicted mice to require less, thereby making tapering and cessation easier.
Oxytocin may be able to ease the withdrawal and intensity of drug addictions. In test subjects that were given cocaine, erratic motion and grooming patterns were observed. Similar ones exist in humans. Upon the introduction of oxytocin, these side effects were greatly decreased. These findings imply that oxytocin may make quitting stimulants, opiates, and alcohol much more bearable.
Several conclusions can be drawn from this exploration of oxytocin and its effects on addiction. While the study was conducted on mice and rats, the effects may be able to scale to humans. With the introduction of oxytocin nasal sprays, anyone can use oxytocin to ease out of addictive patterns and chemicals.