It’s that time of year again, February 14, loved by many and equally as hated by some. Valentine’s day, originally intended to celebrate a saint
has “evolved” (
) into something more in our contemporary world.
The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love
flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering
confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines").
In light of this most auspicious of occasions, I decided to delve into a topic that has been discussed many times throughout ATS history with varying
contexts; Love drugs, more specifically Oxytocin.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact,
the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding. Prairie voles, one of nature's most monogamous species, produce oxytocin in spades. This hormone is
also greatly stimulated during sex, birth, breast feeding, and the list goes on.
Here is some of the effects of the drug:
Social behavior and wound healing: Oxytocin is also thought to modulate inflammation by decreasing certain cytokines. Thus, the increased release
in oxytocin following positive social interactions has the potential to improve wound healing. A study by Marazziti and colleagues used heterosexual
couples to address this possibility. They found increases in plasma oxytocin following a social interaction were correlated with faster wound healing.
They hypothesized this was due to oxytocin reducing inflammation, thus allowing the wound to heal faster. This study provides preliminary evidence
that positive social interactions may directly impact aspects of health.
Increasing trust and reducing fear: In a risky investment game, experimental subjects given nasally administered oxytocin displayed "the highest
level of trust" twice as often as the control group. Subjects who were told they were interacting with a computer showed no such reaction, leading to
the conclusion that oxytocin was not merely affecting risk-aversion. Nasally administered oxytocin has also been reported to reduce fear, possibly
by inhibiting the amygdala (which is thought to be responsible for fear responses). Indeed, studies in rodents have shown oxytocin can efficiently
inhibit fear responses by activating an inhibitory circuit within the amygdala. Some researchers have argued oxytocin has a general enhancing effect
on all social emotions, since intranasal administration of oxytocin also increases envy and Schadenfreude.
These are but a few of the effects of this drug.
Now, the context in which this drugs application has been used over time is numerous, from a solution to cure autism to a mood enhancer in which
speculations abound on the population control applications.
No, with valentine’s in mind I decided to focus on a different application, the proliferation and perpetuation of monogamous couples.
If cupid had studied neuroscience, he’d know to aim his arrows at the brain rather than the heart. Recent research suggests that for love to
last, it’s best he dip those arrows in oxytocin. Although scientists have long known that this hormone is essential for monogamous rodents to stay
true to their mates, and that it makes humans more trusting toward one another, they are now finding that it is also crucial to how we form and
maintain romantic relationships.
Through various mediums, most commonly a nasal spray, YOU CAN PROLONG YOUR RELATIONSHIPS for the low, low price of $99 999 999.99.
Therapist and researcher Beate Ditzen at the University of Zurich, conduct initial trials in couples therapy to observe the effects of Oxytocin on
relationships during times of tension.
Research shows that men tend to withdraw during conflict with their mate, which leads to a breakdown in communication and relationship
dissatisfaction on both sides. Ditzen thinks the higher emotional arousal that oxytocin-infused men experience in her experiment may result in more
engagement with their partner and thus more communication.
Sounds like a relationship saver right? Well I am not to convinced. The effectiveness of the drug aside, the issue of morality of such a substance in
But the warm fuzzy side of oxytocin isn't the whole story. "Quite a number of studies have shown it's actually not that simple," says Andrew
Kemp of the University of Sydney, who cowrote the paper with his colleague Adam Guastella. Recent studies have found that people who were given
oxytocin, then played a game of chance with a fake opponent, had more envy and gloating. These are also both social emotions, but they're negative.
"It kind of rocked the research world a little bit," Kemp says. That led some researchers to think that oxytocin promotes social emotions in
general, both negative and positive.
If Kemp and Guastella are right, that could mean that oxytocin could also increase anger and other negative approach-related emotions. That could
have important implications for people who are studying how to use oxytocin as a psychiatric treatment. "If you were to take a convicted criminal
with a tendency towards aggression and give him oxytocin to make him more social, and if that were to enhance anger as opposed to suppressing anger,
then that has very substantial implications," Kemp says.
So, on one hand we have a drug that could potentially take a dent of divorce rates, which seem to climb every year and on the other, we have a drug
that could make a population more reckless and extroverted, and depending on a person natural disposition, violence could be the result.
Now for the ATS flavor. You may be asking yourself, how did this discussion on love and valentine’s day degenerate into a discussion essentially
about MIND CONTROL
I am only half joking, as any substance we take into our bodies has some kind of effect on its operation and what Oxytocin does is basically effect
who you are and how you act.
How long before this chemical is refined into a substance which works quite well on the above mentioned effects? Soon we could see every couple facing
marital troubles being supplied this drug to keep them together. What social/cultural implications could this have?
Morally speaking, we are changing the variables involved within a relationship and potentially keeping couples together that were never meant to be. I
can only speculate that a possible result further down the line would be mental breakdowns or violence. I can refer to the analogy of suppressing all
your troubles until you erupt.
Now for the crazy, but possible, scenario in which the government utilizes this drug for population control
But always something to think about. Happy Valentine’s Day.