The chemistry of love
After generations of poets trying to unravel the mystery of love and pop singers repeating that we are addicted to it, scientists finally found clear evidence that love really is a drug. They found the presence of natural stimulants produced in human body that make us fall in love and to get attached to each other.
Naturally, not everything is chemistry. Things become far more complex when the genetic characteristics intervene, the religion, or the social and cultural status of the person and randomness.
From the scientific point of view the first step in the process of falling in love is pure animal desire to have a physical contact with the opposite sex – this includes fondling, hugging, kissing and sex. This attraction is mainly determined by the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. The effects of these hormones have been described as similar to those associated with taking opiates such as heroin.
Studies show that the time required for two people to attract each other is 90 seconds to 4 minutes.
The process of falling in love is controlled mainly by the three substances produced in our body and largely governing our actions – adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. The rapid increase in levels of adrenaline make an increased heart beat, dry mouth and sweating every time you are close to your object of desire.
Also lovers have elevated levels of dopamine – a substance which makes us feel happier. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain, which increases our energy and stamina, stimulates mental activity and lowers the need of sleep and food. It has a similar effect like cocaine and it is associated with pleasure and addiction, i.e it is ‘something’ that makes people ‘addicted’ to each other.
Relatively low levels of serotonin (which controls the passions, impulses and obsessive behaviors) explain why people in love can not think of anything other than his new passion. From the biochemical point of view their status is similar to the situation of people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.
If dopamine and serotonin make us to love one another, there are two hormones responsible for the attachment of the partners to each other – oxytocin and vasopressin, which secretion is stimulated by the sex and orgasm. Oxytocin causes a release of endorphins – a natural opiates in the body. This hormone is considered the main ‘culprit’ for the emergence of deep feelings of intimacy, emotional integrity, security, comfort and affection. Like oxytocin, the vasopressin stimulate long-term relationships and closeness.
Love is addictive
It is scientifically proven that the brain activity of people who are passionately in love with each other is very close to that of people in euphoria state caused by cocaine and other banned stimulants. Anxiety and distress, depression and insomnia, which are characteristic of separation, are the same with the abstinence syndrome in person that is addicted to drugs.
Fortunately however, despite that love, like the illicit stimulants is addictive, but it is not dangerous to health. Rather – love is ‘drugs’ to which it is better to get addicted.