'Love Hormone' Linked To Alcohol And Drug Addiction

By McCarton Ackerman 03/24/14

An understanding of why some have poor oxytocin development in the early stages of life could help unravel the reasons for addictive behaviors.

The language of love. Photo via

Are love and addiction one and the same? New research indicates that poor development of oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, could be associated with a lack of resistance to addictive behaviors, and consequently drug and alcohol addiction. Oxytocin is called the love hormone because of the role it plays in enhancing social interactions, maternal behaviors, and partnership.

Dr Femke Buisman-Pijlman of the University of Adelaide said that oxytocin systems fully finish developing at the age of three, which means that numerous factors could affect this process. A lack of oxytocin will ultimately increase the pleasure of drugs and overall feelings of stress.

“We know that newborn babies already have levels of oxytocin in their bodies, and this helps to create the all-important bond between a mother and her child,” Buisman-Pijlman said. “But our oxytocin systems aren’t fully developed when we’re born — they don’t finish developing until the age of three, which means our systems are potentially subject to a range of influences both external and internal.”

Buisman-Pijlman said her findings indicate that adversity in childhood ultimately contributes to poor oxytocin development. This adversity can range from disturbed parental bonding or abuse, severe illnesses or even a difficult birth. She believes that, “Understanding what occurs with the oxytocin system during the first few years of life could help us to unravel this aspect of addictive behavior and use that knowledge for treatment and prevention.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.