Love and Drug Addiction
Romantic love and drug addiction share several similarities, as they are both marked by strong urges that affect thinking and behavior patterns. Both love and addiction can seem irrational, but things that appear to be illogical to outsiders make perfect sense to people affected by new love or addiction.
Love and substance abuse both manipulate the typical release of chemicals in the brain. Neurotransmitters — the chemical messengers in the brain — are responsible for the feelings of pleasure, closeness, understanding and empathy people experience with both love and drugs.
When someone experiences love or uses a substance, the brain releases dopamine. This rewarding neurotransmitter helps regulate movement, emotions, motivation and pleasure — more dopamine results in a more positive experience. Love, especially romantic love, offers an additional layer of chemical reinforcement. With the release of another neurotransmitter called oxytocin, people feel a psychological bond and emotional warmth with the other person.
The highest levels of dopamine and oxytocin occur in the early stages of romantic love before gradually fading with time. On the other hand, someone abusing substances can control dopamine levels by increasing the frequency or dose of their drug to maintain the desired effect.
Why Addicts Choose Drugs Over Love
Given the option between broccoli and ice cream or carrots and pizza, people are going to choose ice cream and pizza. Due to the chemical makeup of these foods, they trigger a larger chemical release in the brain. A person knows rationally that they should choose the healthier options, but cravings are challenging to ignore. Quite often, people are drawn to make bad choices because of temptation and the promise of pleasurable brain chemicals.
A very similar process takes place when it seems like an addicted person is choosing drugs over love. Of course, love feels good because it is comforting and encouraging, but the brain convinces the person that the drug feels amazing because of its unnatural ability to release dopamine.
In moments of choice, a person may lose sight of what they have to lose through drug abuse. They can only focus on the instant gratification of drugs. Similarly, a person may lose sight of the weight they may gain by eating ice cream and pizza — they can only focus on the instant gratification of food.