Study suggests you are ‘drunk’ when in love
The effects of the “love hormone” oxytocin bear striking similarities to those of alcohol, a study has claimed, suggesting that Beyoncé really did know what she was talking about.
Research, publishedtoday by the University of Birmingham in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, suggests that a person’s behaviour when drunk is similar to that of a person in love, thanks to the so-called “love-hormone” oxytocin..
Oxytocin is a brain chemical produced in the hypothalamus which plays a key role in determining social interactions and reactions to romantic partners. However researchers warned that its playful nickname hides its “darker side”, claiming that it bears more similarities with the effects of alcohol than previously thought.
Researchers said the chemical increases behaviours such as altruism, generosity and empathy, makes us more willing to trust others and helps to remove social inhibitors such as fear, anxiety and stress.
Dr Ian Mitchell, from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, explained: “We thought it was an area worth exploring, so we pooled existing research into the effects of both oxytocin and alcohol and were struck by the incredible similarities between the two compounds.”
A dose of either alcohol or oxytocin was also found to influence how we deal with others by enhancing our perception of trustworthiness, which would further increase the danger of taking unnecessary risks.
Dr Mitchell added that taking compounds such as oxytocin or alcohol can make stressful situation seem less daunting with oxytocin appearing to mirror the effects of alcohol consumption when administered nasally. However the researchers warned against self-medicating with either the hormone or a swift drink to provide confidence.
Dr Gillespie added: “I don’t think we’ll see a time when oxytocin is used socially as an alternative to alcohol. But it is a fascinating neurochemical and, away from matters of the heart, has a possible use in treatment of psychological and psychiatric conditions.
“Understanding exactly how it suppresses certain modes of action and alters our behaviour could provide real benefits for a lot of people. Hopefully this research might shed some new light on it and open up avenues we hadn’t yet considered.”