Smoking cannabis is like being in love. Photo: Bernie Delaney
Smoking cannabis is like being in love. Photo: Bernie Delaney

Another of the dire effects of this disgusting, criminal drug

Smoking cannabis is like being in love. Photo: Bernie Delaney

Smoking cannabis is like being in love. Photo: Bernie Delaney

While cannabis reputedly inspires feelings of peace and love, recent research has found that this might be rather more literal than people believed. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that this illegal drug acts much as do the chemicals produced by oxytocin, known as “the love hormone,” which boosts emotional feelings as in the case of romantic partners and mothers and their spawn.

More love hormone=more bliss molecule

The research was conducted at the University of California in Irvine and led by Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences. It examined mice, finding that more oxytocin caused the release of anandamide, popularly known as “the bliss molecule,” which affects the brain in the same fashion as THC, the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, and itself an endocannabinoid. The two chemicals attach to the same brain receptors and so produce a similar high: motivation and happiness are increased.

Mice whose anadamide levels were higher spent more time interacting with others. Endocannabinoids are what produce the “runner’s high,” the feeling of euphoria experienced after a workout, which was previously believed to be due to the production of endorphins. Anandamide is manufactured in the nucleus accumbens region of the brain. When anandamide is blocked, the pro-social effects are inhibited, while a drug that preserves anadamide in the brains of the mice appeared to make them happier to be around other mice.

What this means

Scientists agree that the results depicted by this study could represent new avenues in the research of the treatment of people who are socially challenged. One such condition is autism, a symptom of which can be “difficult engaging in the give-and-take of everyday human interactions,” per the non-profit body, Autism Speaks. Autistic people can be unaware of subtle social cues like smiles, waves and grimaces, making social contact “seem bewildering.”

It is, however, extremely difficult to deliver oxytocin to the brain. Dr Daniele Piomelli, of the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa, Italy, suggested that a better approach for drugs was to block the degradation of anandamide.

When we get oxytocin

Oxytocin is not only the “love hormone,” but also “the hug hormone,” “the cuddle chemical” and “the moral molecule.” It is produced when people hug, kiss, make the beast with two backs or breastfeed. A study by Dutch scientists in 2011 showed that it makes people feel more extroverted.

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