In a summary published inScienceDailyfor March 20, 2014, researchers reported that persons who abuse alcohol and other drugs may do so because of an insufficiency in the amounts of a hormone called oxytocin present in their bodies from childhood. The study was published in the international journalPharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.

Oxytocin, called the “love hormone”, is thought to be responsible for producing feelings of bonding, fellowship, and wellbeing. The hormone is involved in helping “***humans [to be] more trusting toward one another [and may be] crucial to how [they] form and maintain romantic relationships. A handful of new studies show that oxytocin makes [individuals] more sympathetic, supportive and open with *** feelings (Scientific American).

Research has also shown that oxytocin is involved in emotional pain, including development of anxiety and depression. “Oxytocin appears to be the reason stressful social situations, perhaps being bullied at school or tormented by a boss, reverberate long past the event and can trigger fear and anxiety in the future. *** If a social experience is negative or stressful, the hormone activates a part of the brain that intensifies the memory. Oxytocin also increases the susceptibility to feeling fearful and anxious during stressful events going forward (ScienceDaily)."

In the current study under discussion here, a researcher stated: “***some people's lack of resilience to addictive behaviors may be linked to poor development of their oxytocin systems."

"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. 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***. “ The researcher theorized that: “***adversity in early life is key to the impaired development of the oxytocin system. This adversity could take the form of a difficult birth, disturbed bonding or abuse, deprivation, or severe infection, to name just a few factors.” These environmental influences can result in dysfunction of oxytocin development and production, which in turn can make the individual more vulnerable to addiction, perhaps in part due to the increased anxiety and depression, and a feeling of being unloveable.

So, we have more theories that may help explain why some individuals may be more prone than others to develop a drug or alcohol problem. It is important to emphasize here that while scientific theories may explain development of addiction, the individual seeking recovery from addiction must take personal responsibility for all of the pain and consequences caused by his/her behaviors while drinking or drugging. Failure to accept such responsibility can enable the individual to justify continued drug or alcohol use.

As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams,, 04/01/2014.


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