Love can indeed be intoxicating. Researchers from the University of Birmingham have found that having a dose of oxytocin can trigger the same behavioral effects as that of drinking.
Oxytocin, which is often referred to as the 'love hormone', is known to increase social behaviors such as altruism, generosity and empathy while making us ready to face daunting situations in life. Although, oxytocin and alcohol appear to target different receptors within the brain, they cause common effects especially in social situations such as interviews, or perhaps even plucking up the courage to ask somebody on a date.
When administered nasally, oxytocin appeared to closely mirror the well-established effects of alcohol consumption. But along with the health concerns that accompany frequent alcohol consumption, there are less desirable socio-cognitive effects that both alcohol and oxytocin can facilitate.
The authors wrote, "People can become more aggressive, more boastful, envious of those they consider to be their competitors, and favor their in-group at the expense of others. The compounds can affect our sense of fear which normally acts to protect us from getting into trouble and we often hear of people taking risks that they otherwise wouldn't. A dose of either compound can further influence how we deal with others by enhancing our perception of trustworthiness, which would further increase the danger of taking unnecessary risks."
Study co-author Steven Gillespie said, "I do not think we will see a time when oxytocin is used socially as an alternative to alcohol. But it is a fascinating neurochemical and has a possible use in treatment of psychological and psychiatric conditions. Understanding exactly how it suppresses certain modes of action and alters our behavior could provide real benefits for a lot of people."
The study is published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews