The Dark Side of the Love Hormone

Researchers have analyzed Oxytocin, nicknamed the 'love hormone' and how it reacts when mixed with alcohol, revealing a darker side to this happy chemical.

The University of Birmingham, UK, published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

Researchers found similarities between the behavioral effects of oxytocin and alcohol. The research team warns that the nickname -- ‘Love Hormone’ -- hides the darker side of oxytocin.


There are more semblances with the effects of alcohol than previously thought. Analyzed existing studies on the two compounds.

Scientists wanted to see the similarities between the effects of alcohol and oxytocin, on our actions.The “love hormone” actually has more semblances with the effects of alcohol than previously thought.

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone produced in the hypothalamus and secreted by the posterior pituitary gland. It plays significant role in childbirth and maternal bonding.

 More recently identified as a brain chemical with a key role in determining our social interactions and our reactions to romantic partners, i.e.: nickname of 'the love hormone'.

Oxytocin increases prosocial behaviors:

  • altruism, generosity and empathy
  • Makes us more willing to trust others
  • Works by removing the brakes on social inhibitors
  • Like fear, anxiety and stress.

Alcohol and oxytocin appear to target different receptors within the brain, but cause common actions.

These neural circuits control how we perceive stress or anxiety, especially in social situations.  Both oxytocin and alcohol can make these situations less stressful

When administered nasally, oxytocin appears to closely mirror the effects of alcohol consumption.

Researchers warn against self-medicating with either the hormone or a swift drink to provide a little more confidence.  Effects that both alcohol and oxytocin

People can become more aggressive, more boastful, and envious of those they consider to be their competitors.

Compounds can affect our sense of fear which normally acts to protect us from getting into trouble.

A dose of either compound can further influence how we deal with others by enhancing our perception of trustworthiness. This can increase the danger of taking unnecessary risks.