Many poets and artists said that – “Love is a drug.” Every hit song based off of a love story is the next big thing. But is love –like they say it, actually a drug? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, it is, says Northeastern University’s distinguished professor of Psychology Lisa Feldman Barrett whose compiled research over the years confirms that yes, love is indeed a kind of drug.
There’s a certain thing about love we all chase. We want to think about our partners all day and night. The intense overwhelming high feeling that accompanies falling in love can be compared to the euphoric “high” experienced during initial drug use. “When in love, all you can think about is your partner. Such ‘intrusive’ thoughts and desire for proximity also characterises drug users and their typical drug seeking behaviours. At this point, longing for your lover may feel very similar to craving your drug,” says Feldman.
“Often romantic partners will keep seeing each other, even though they realise it is bad for them, just to avoid these feelings of ‘love withdrawal’ similar to the ‘withdrawal-like’ unpleasant reactions in suspending drug use cases,” she adds. Active drug users secrete dopamine in certain brain regions. This dopamine secretion is thought to reflect the good feeling, the “reward,” that they get from using the drug and create the motivation to get more of that drug. Merely seeing a cigarette will cause an addicted person to secrete dopamine. To the brain, showing the romantic partner to a person in love is quite similar to presenting a cigarette to a smoker. High levels of dopamine make us giddy, energetic, and happy, leading to decreased hunger and insomnia – which means you actually can be so “in love” that you can’t eat and can’t sleep, just like people stuck in drug addictions.
All these behavioral overlaps are helpful. “Being “addicted” to a lover is evolutionarily beneficial,” she explains, “Establishing the commonalities between romantic affiliation and drug use raises the possibility of new research that could enhance our understanding and coping strategies for dealing with phenomena such as the individual differences associated with the vulnerability to drug abuse. Moreover, the mechanistic similarity between drug use and romance marks the potential of social attachment and support as a prophylactic and therapeutic aid to deal with drug abuse,” concludes Feldman.