The Drug of Love

15.08.2016 |

Episode #10 of the course Attraction science by Jake Teeny


As many people have said before, “love is one hell of a drug.” But this comparison extends further than just their similar experience of bliss (or terrible longing): sensations of love activate the same brain regions as actual drug use.

For example, researchers brought participants into the lab who were recently rejected by their partner but still intensely “in love” with them. Then, with participants in an fMRI machine (i.e., a scanner that uses magnets to determine brain activity) they looked at pictures of their ex-lover.

In the forebrain, there was significant activation in the same regions as those associated with cocaine addiction.

However, even though love and drugs are empirically similar, what happens when you take a drug that is meant to create love?

Oxytocin, as we discussed on the first day, is a neuropeptide involved in many socially affiliative behaviors. But did you know that you can actually purchase it as an intranasal spray and experience some effects?

Research has shown that a standard dosage of oxytocin improves your cooperation skills (at least in a computerized drawing task), makes you more comfortable with interpersonal closeness, and influences you to find others more attractive.

However, the consumption of another drug meant for love has even more potent effects.

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is the active component in the street drug “ecstasy”—which is a popular party/rave drug for a reason. As one participant’s autobiographical account expresses: “it feels like the inability to not be happy.”

MDMA works by flooding the brain with a neurochemical called serotonin, which is also highly involved with sensations of love and happiness. For example, when people are depleted of serotonin, they report lowered feelings of intimacy and reduced desire for romance. Although the researchers aren’t certain about how serotonin really produces these effects, some suggest that it is a result of stress absence rather than excessive joy.

If you’re like most people, you’re likely unfamiliar with those drugs. However, there is another drug (and one you’ve surely taken) that can also affect romance:

Acetaminophen—or what you likely know as Tylenol.

Recent research has discovered that after taking Tylenol, we are less hurt by social pain (e.g., a break-up with your romantic partner), but simultaneously, less positive about joyful events (e.g., a surprise kiss from your crush). Granted, the effects of Tylenol are relatively subtle, but the effect has proved robust, replicating in study after study. Which draws me to a broader point:

All of the information you learned in this 10-day course has been tested under strict methodological principles. The researchers were blind to conditions; the participants were randomly assigned. What you have learned is backed by scientific evidence.

However, learning the theory is one thing, and applying that knowledge to everyday life is another. So, if you want a free collection of empirically-tested and creatively-applied tips and tricks for attracting your soulmate, just click the link below.

Oh, and did I mention I like you?

Love on the Brain? So you still want to know more about love and attraction? My esteemed colleague has created a highly rated video course (admittedly, with a cost) on the topic that you can find here (and you can also find him cited in the Tylenol article below!)


Your love life might not be the only thing I can help improve. Come check out my website for more unexpected psychology that could transform your life–not bad odds for a simple click.

Learn more


Recommended book:

“The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts” by Gary Chapman


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