A Man and a Woman Leaning on a Vandalized Wall
A Man and a Woman Leaning on a Vandalized Wall

Many people think of oxytocin as the love hormone, it’s responsible for the natural high a mother gets from breastfeeding, it’s also the feeling of connection with a loved one and now scientists are discovering the potential of oxytocin to treat addiction and social disorders. Oxytocin is what’s called a neuropeptide and it’s a type of chemical that’s produced naturally in the brains of all mammals including humans and we know that oxytocin dampens down stress and anxiety and it also enhances people’s motivation to engage in social behavior, oxytocin is a hormone produced in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus, it’s then released throughout the brain and into the bloodstream, it links social interactions to the brain’s reward system promoting bonding and affecting our mood. Oxytocin that’s released into the bloodstream plays a role in functions such as stimulating uterine contractions during childbirth, it controls the milk letdown reflex during breastfeeding but what we’re really interested in is the oxytocin that’s released in a number of brain regions that play a critical role in motivational behavior, in social behavior and in stress and anxiety responses. Worldwide around 35 million people suffer from opioid cocaine cannabis and amphetamine type drug use disorders but only one in seven receives treatment, these addictions can cause death, chronic medical conditions and cost society billions of dollars in health care but neuroscientist and psychopharmacologist associate professor michael bowen’s research shows that oxytocin may be able to help moderate addictive behaviors, we know that some people can have differences in their brain oxytocin systems and these differences can make people more prone to certain types of disorders, for instance it can make them more susceptible to developing addictions in their adulthood over the past decade…. associate professor bowen and his colleagues have developed a compound with similar effects to oxytocin and have conducted numerous pre-clinical trials on rodents, the team’s results show that the compound has had anti-addictive effects in animal models of alcohol and methamphetamine use and early evidence suggests it may be effective for other substances such as opioids.

We’ve also had our results independently replicated across multiple different labs and all the signs point to this having great potential addiction and has a powerful influence over the brain and the way it registers pleasure. Alcohol is one of the most harmful drugs worldwide with more than 100 million people suffering from alcoholism, it’s also responsible for around three million deaths, we know that drugs and alcohol produce euphoria and trigger surges of dopamine in the brain so these surges of dopamine can then lead to cravings and teach the brain to want more or seek out more of the substance and this can then lead to addiction for some people. Pofessor adam guastella and Dr kelsey bolton are also involved in oxytocin research, they’re currently treating more than a hundred people with alcohol addiction with an oxytocin nasal spray for eight weeks to see if it reduces cravings, now oxytocin provides a great target because it can potentially reduce the cravings and anxiety and it can do it in a way which doesn’t require people to stop taking alcohol…. they can take the oxytocin with the alcohol and gradually reduce their addiction to the alcohol over time it sounds like a magic cure but associate professor bowen warns that there are still some issues that need to be overcome to unlock the potential of oxytocin, it can’t be taken orally because it just gets broken down in the gut and even when it’s administered through other means, it has a very short half-life which means it can’t act for very long.

Leave a Reply