Love : The Best Cure For Addiction?

Discussion in 'Psychological & social' started by TheDevil, Oct 31, 2010.

  1. TheDevil

    TheDevil Titanium Member

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    Mar 11, 2010
    from earth
    A basic understanding of neuroplasticity is required to understand how love may be instrumental in the treatment and cure of not just substance addiction, but addiction in general. Below is an excerpt taken from Wikipedia on neuroplasticity which effectively summarizes a nutshell overview on the topic.

    Overview of Neuroplasticity

    Neuroplasticity and Addiction

    "Pleasure centers" exist in the limbic and septal systems of the brain; areas of the brain heavily involved in processing emotion and pleasurable stimuli. These pleasure centers were found to be part of the brain's reward system: the mesolimbic dopamine system.

    When the pleasure centers are turned on, everything we experience gives us pleasure. Illegal drugs which stimulate releases of dopamine acts on us by lowering the threshold at which our pleasure centers will fire, making it easier for them to turn on. It is not simply the drug that gives us pleasure. It is the fact that our pleasure centers now fire very easily as well, making whatever we experience feel great. Almost all illegal drugs make dopamine more active in the brain. By hijacking our dopamine system, addictive substances give us pleasure without our having to work for it.

    The more the addictive act is performed, the greater the neural network formed in the brain. The stronger the neural network, the harder it is to refrain from performing the specific activity. This is the reason why extensive and excessive drug use results in addiction, and why it is so difficult to recover and kick the habit.

    Elements of Love: Globalization and Oxytocin

    Falling in love also lowers the threshold at which the pleasure centers will fire.A person in love enters an enthusiastic state and is optimistic about everything. A person in love, similar to an addict, are increasingly filled with hopeful anticipation and are sensitive to anything that might give pleasure. This is called "globalization."

    Globalization is intense when falling in love and is one of the main reasons that romantic love is such a powerful catalyst for plastic change. Due to the pleasure centers firing so freely, the enamored person falls in love not only with the beloved but with the world. Our brains experience a surge of dopamine, which consolidates plastic change. Thus, any pleasurable experiences and associations we have in the initial state of love are thus wired into our brains. Globalization not only allows us to take more pleasure in the world, it also makes it harder for us to experience pain and displeasure or aversion. Heath showed that when our pleasure centers fire, it is more difficult for the nearby pain and aversion centers to fire too. Things that normally bother us don't. We love being in love not only because it makes it easy for us to be happy but also because it makes it harder for us to be unhappy. fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans of lovers looking at photos of their sweethearts have shown that a part of the brain with great concentrations of dopamine is activated; their brains looked like those of people on cocaine.

    Love's effect on neuroplasticity also allows us to unlearn negative associations, another neuroplastic phenomenon. The science of unlearning is a very new one and is critical to understanding how to tackle bad habits like addiction. As neuroplasticity is competitive, when a person develops a neural network, it becomes efficient and self-sustaining and, like a habit, hard to unlearn. Unlearning is essential when we are moving from one developmental stage to the next (eg. trying to quit addiction). Falling in love for the first time also means entering a new developmental stage and demands a massive amount of unlearning.

    Massive plastic brain reorganization becomes possible because of a brain neuromodulator. Neuromodulators are different from neurotransmitters. While neurotransmitters are released in the synapses to excite or inhibit neurons, neuromodulators enhance or diminish the overall effectiveness of the synaptic connections and bring about enduring change. When we commit in love, the brain neuromodulator. oxytocin is released, allowing existing neuronal connections to melt away so that changes on a large scale can follow.

    Oxytocin is sometimes called the commitment neuromodulator. It is released when lovers connect and make love and when couples parent and nurture their children. In women oxytocin is released during labor and breastfeeding. fMRI studies have shown that when mothers look at photos of their children, brain regions rich in oxytocin are activated. Many people who doubt they will be able to handle the responsibilities of parenting are not aware of the extent to which oxytocin may change their brains, allowing them to rise to the occasion. Oxytocin melts down existing neuronal connections that underlie existing attachments, so new attachments can be formed. Oxytocin therefore makes it possible to learn new patterns by allowing for a massive unlearning of old ones such as addiction.

    Conclusion: Love, The Best Medicine?

    Unlearning habits from being in love allows us to change the image of ourselves for the better if we have an adoring partner, or child to nurture. Addiction stems from an over-reliance on dopamine and the acts which allow easy release of dopamine. Constant application of these actions result in addiction because the strong neural networks formed are difficult to unlearn. Falling in love provides an alternative source for dopamine release instead of the addicted substance. Being in love also stimulates the release of oxytocin, which allows for massive unlearning in the brain, making it easier and possible for someone trying to recover from addiction.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2017
  2. NeuroChi

    NeuroChi is not his mind Platinum Member & Advisor

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    Dec 18, 2007
    from earth
    Yes, so would over-eating, engaging in sexual activity, being physically active, even gambling...

    I think "falling in love" can be, in some situations, just as damaging to an addict as the original drug addiction. It can be a very sneaky method of substitution, one which will result in withdrawal and possibly drug relapse if the source of love (dopamine) were to end abruptly.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2017
  3. derpahderp

    derpahderp Silver Member

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    Oct 2, 2012
    from U.S.A.
    True^, but that's usually if the person is going out and actively seeking a relationship to replace an addiction, right?

    -The one time I'd quit was due to someone that loved me, and I them.. As a result, I continued to focus my efforts at bettering our upcoming new lives together(she was not a user).

    Flip side of things, she had passed last year.. and I became depressed. So, I relapsed after five yrs of being sober..

    I guess, depending on if you start leeching or being co-dependant then I'd agree with your statements NeuroChi. I don't think anyone should start a relationship if you feel broken and cannot handle your own life(Personal view aspect).

    Functional or non-functional.. people can stil love, but it wouldn't cure All, unless you decide between the most important one(yourself and x).

    My interpretation is a very extreme case, and probably not the majority. I'm left wondering if others had experienced different situations revolving around the Op's thread question?
  4. Leorising

    Leorising Silver Member

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    Dec 24, 2012
    from U.S.A.
    The problem with being in love is that people mistake the feeling wanting to hang on to that feeling, thy never want to let it go, as if it belongs to them or that they can capture that for extended periods of time xpecting that feeling never to change. Pleasure is different from love, I feel because pleasure is temporary and fleeting. Theres always a want and need to replace that feeling of pleasure, romantic love stirs the endorphins.

    As a mother, the feeling of love I have for my child is almost out of body, and is more in my spirit and a sense of limitless time, and infinity that exists in a single perfect moment of bonding. Other than that, the love is not An aching anguish or longing it's more of a universal feeling, that has nothing to do with emotions per se. It's more of a principle. That pain from love is like addiction to the pleasures that came along with the experience with that other person, but it gets confused with the word love. Love in fact gets confused with expectation, obligation, insecurity, fear.

    For me, being in love is narcissistic in a way, cuz when you are in love with another, that person is reflecting your own energies back at you, including your own idealistic imagery that you project onto them. In effect, you are loving your own reflection, and when that is threatened by separation, that's when insecurity starts to happen, and heartbreak, angst, desire, jealousy, desperation, etc.

    I began to understand the meaning of love when I realized that it is never fleeting when I don't embody love in another person. Relationships come and go, just like evrything else. Pleasure is different, love starts with being one with yourself and all existence, and being alone, and being perfectly content with that, and gratitude for the experiences that you had with another person without resentment and bitterness. Be in love with yourself in all your flaws and strengths.
  5. PillMan

    PillMan Titanium Member

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    Apr 12, 2012
    28 y/o from Arkansas, U.S.A.
    I don't have much to add to the conversation but. My wife was on Heroin for quite some time and she couldn't quit. Till one day she realized how much she loved someone and quit on her own because of it.

    She immediately quit cold turkey and hasn't looked back since that day. I will say though, she is a bit overly loving at times...most of the time.

    And when she isn't happy or isn't feeling loved she craves a drug to make her happy. Not necessarily Heroin but just any drug. She still won't do it though...just craves it.

    Hope that helped add on to the conversation at least a little bit.