How love can help in recovery

In 2014, a writer and journalist Johann Hari published her book “Chasing the Scream” (now bestseller) where she claimed that “the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, it is connection”.

Nowadays, medical professionals start to reevaluate the approaches to treating substance use disorders. The question “What if everything we know about addiction is wrong?” is voiced more and more often within medical circles. Scientists work towards finding new, more effective methods of treating addiction. And it seems like they discovered the surprising key to recovery.

What Does Modern Science Say?

Love, support, and understanding play a significant role in battling addiction. It can empower a recovering person and motivate them to continue leading a life without poisoning substances.

There may be situations, when you can’t reach a partner, family member, or friend to hear encouraging words. In this case, it can be useful to call addiction hotline anonymously at New Hampshire for example.

The line is accessible all around the clock. It acts as a starting point for addicts who have nobody to ask for help and as an additional source of support and information for those who have already started the journey to a sober life. Whenever you have a substance use related problem and don’t know where to seek help, feel free to call an addiction hotline free in New Hampshire.

Before describing revolutionary findings in detail, we’ll list several studies that prove the benefits of family and couple therapy in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment.

  • SAMHSA’s Treatment Improvement Protocol (2004) cites numerous studies showing that a family-based therapy motivates participation and retention in treatment, reduces the patients’ drug and alcohol use, improves both family and social functioning, and prevents relapse.
  • According to a review “Behavioral Couples Therapy for substance abuse: Rationale, Methods, and Findings” (2004), couples receiving BCT reported greater declines in substance use, higher levels of relationship satisfaction, and improved family functioning in comparison with those who received only individual counseling.
  • The latest study (2020) shows that the involvement of significant others in treatment for SUD reduces substance use and substance-related problems. It increases the chances for long-term sobriety, as the effect was consistent and endured 12-18 months after the end of treatment.

How Can a “Love Molecule” Impact Recovery?

When scientists research the involvement of significant people in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, they commonly choose love and connection as major denominators. This principle also lies at the core of drug information hotlines New Hampshire, as well as in any other state. People who work at an addiction helpline in New Hampshire make callers understand that they are not worthless and have the power to change everything.

Groundbreaking results of recent studies have shed light on the neurobiology of love and connection and the way it relates to recovery. Experts say that oxytocin – a neurotransmitter in the brain – could open new opportunities in treating addicts and help them avoid relapse. Oxytocin is also called a “love hormone”, a “cuddle hormone”, or a “love molecule”. It is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the hypothalamus.

Oxytocin is best known for its role in female reproduction, as it is released during labor and breastfeeding. It’s also produced during orgasm in both sexes. “Love hormone” is responsible for:

  • strengthening of the attachment bond between a child and parents
  • increasing a feeling of social connection to other people
  • influencing social behavior and emotions
  • reducing stress and anxiety levels.

Professionals that treat people with alcohol or drug addiction are more interested in the next findings: high levels of oxytocin in the brain can decrease the likelihood of developing a SUD, ease cravings and reduce the risks of relapse in individuals recovering from SUDs.

The Relationship Between Oxytocin and Addiction

At first, let’s see how addiction is formed. A person takes a mind-altering substance, and the brain activates pleasurable effects. The user wants to feel euphoria again, and keep using drugs. The brain develops tolerance to the effects and the user starts taking higher doses to reach the same effect or uses the drug of choice more frequently. 

In 2017, researchers at St. George’s University of London reviewed a lot of the published evidence on the oxytocin. And they found that the brain systems involved in drug reward interact with those involved in natural rewards, such as sexual behavior and social bonding. The researchers concluded that the oxytocin system has definitely a key role in mediating several opioid addiction‐related behavioral and neurochemical processes. Thus, it can have potential as the treatment of opioid dependence.

Prolonged use of drugs or alcohol results in the disintegration of the social lives and may lead to isolation. Researches highlighted the role of programs like AA and NA in social rehabilitation and reintegration that keeps recovering addicts abstinent. With the current findings for the pro‐social effects of oxytocin, its use as a “psycho‐biological therapy” for the prevention of relapse to drug‐seeking looks promising.

Oxytocin as a Means to Overcome Drug Cravings

As more data on the functions of oxytocin systems has become available, theories and data on the role of oxytocin in addiction treatment have begun to receive attention. Let’s take methamphetamine addiction as an example. At present, there are no effective pharmacotherapeutics for meth addiction that could suppress cravings and help patients manage them. That’s why the rate of relapse is high.

A group of researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina conducted a study on rats. Oxytocin systematically administered to rats decreased their demand for meth and weakened reinstatement to drug-seeking. Interestingly, these effects were strongest in animals with the greatest motivation to seek methamphetamine. This indicates that oxytocin has potential as a next-generation treatment for addiction.

Of course, there’s a need for more research into possible oxytocin-based therapies. But the mere hypothesis about the potential of love and connection in promoting recovery gives much hope to medical professionals, patients, and people whose partners or family members struggle with substance abuse. If you are battling addiction and feel that you are not strong enough, remember that you can always contact an addiction hotline number in New Hampshire for support and information.