Posted on Mar 26, 2020, 5 p.m.
Article courtesy of: Thierry Hertoghe, MD, author of “Passion, Sex & Long life, the Incredible Oxytocin Adventure”
Oxytocin is produced by neurons of the hypothalamus and transported through axons into the (posterior) pituitary gland, where it is released in the bloodstream. Touching, singing, reading, and social interactions may increase oxytocin secretion. Oxytocin improves social interaction, increases affection towards others, and triggers orgasm.
*Note: This article was edited on 3/26/2020 to reflect the changed dates of the event.
Twenty-five to 30 years ago, several studies were published that showed that oxytocin treatment reduced the craving for heroin and cocaine in rats that had been experimentally addicted to drugs. While those drugs both stimulate opioid receptors, they are different; heroin is a derivative of morphine and acts as a depressant, whereas cocaine has a totally different structure and is a stimulant. Taking either drug reduces oxytocin levels. This effect may explain why long-term drug addicts show behaviors that could be labeled “oxytocin-deficient”: egocentrism, introversion, asocial demeanor, lack of affectionate behavior, avoidance of physical contact, aggression, or globally poor social functioning. At the time of these oxytocin studies, there were, to my knowledge, no studies done to examine if supplementing substance abuse patients with oxytocin would help them with their cravings. Recent research has filled in that gap.
Oxytocin can help reduce many types of substance abuse
Oxytocin has now been shown to reduce significantly in humans the need for cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, sugar or sweet snacks, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine in substance abusers. I have received enthusiastic testimonies of several physicians about their success in adding oxytocin to the treatment of soft and hard drug users.
How can oxytocin decrease the craving for addictive substances?
I think we should turn the question around. Why do substance abusers take addictive substances? Because these substances help them transiently reduce feelings of being unwell. These feelings may be due to lack of positive social contacts, irritability, egocentrism, or unease with physical contact and marks of affection. Substance abusers’ lack of sociability cuts these patients off from positive social environments. Once oxytocin is taken, patients become more warmhearted and feel more comfortable with or even attracted to other people. They feel more receptive to the physical touch of others, display more affection, and, last but not least, smile and love more thanks to oxytocin, which is also sometimes termed the hormone of warmheartedness. So, a large part of substance abuse may owe to isolation and discomfort resulting from oxytocin deficiency.
Alcohol intake is a good example. Many individuals like to consume alcohol when they encounter other people because it unblocks them, alleviates their shyness (another feature that can owe to oxytocin deficiency), and makes them more relaxed in the presence of others. Alcohol replaces oxytocin by taking social inhibitions away and making people trust and enjoy the company of each other more. Oxytocin does exactly the same thing: It makes people more open to smiling, laughter, and the company of others, and in some people, it even takes shyness completely away.
How efficient is oxytocin for treating substance abuse?
Oxytocin treats two things: the social difficulties that most substance abusers face and the substance abuse itself. If we rely on the results of research studies, it can probably reduce cravings for addictive substances by 30 to 70%. From human and animal experiences, oxytocin seems to help reduce almost any type of substance abuse, but let’s keep our feet on the ground. A combination of therapies to treat severe substance abuse remains necessary, including psychotherapy and possibly adapted pharmaceutical drugs as well.
To access the relevant data on oxytocin deficiency (and its association with substance abuse) and oxytocin therapy on the International Hormone Society website, in the Evidence-based hormone therapies section, click on the following link (available soon).
To get more references and practical information on oxytocin therapy by reading my 120-page book for the general public and physicians as a paperback (“Passion, Sex & Long life, the incredible Oxytocin adventure”) or as an e-book (“Oxytocin, the hormone of warmheartedness”).
To get practical and in-depth training on testosterone therapy and come attend the hormone therapy workshop in Orlando on August 21-22, 2020. Check out the Evidence-based hormone therapy workshop here, which will be available at the A4M 28th Annual Spring Congress being held in Orlando, Florida on August 20-22, 2020.
Thierry Hertoghe, MD is the President of the International Hormone Society. Born in 1957 and he practices lifespan/reversing aging medicine and hormone therapy. He represents the fourth consecutive generation of physicians who have worked in the field of hormone therapy, where he practices medicine with a team of experienced doctors in Brussels. He is an internationally known authority in medical therapies oriented to correct hormone deficiencies, reduce aging or even in some aspects reverse aging and possibly extend lifespan. He is the Author of various well-referenced medical books, including the international bestseller Hormone handbook and the Atlas of endocrinology for hormone therapy, Testosterone, the therapy for real gentleman, the Textbook of Reversing physical aging (volume 1: the head and the senses), the Textbook of lifespan and anti-aging medicine, the Textbook of Nutrient therapy, the Hormone Solution, Passion, sex, and long life, and the Oxytocin adventure, among others.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement