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Friday, February 1, 2013

"What if we could take drugs to get better at love?"

Posted by on Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 9:04 AM

Call me old fashioned, but the prospect of taking a drug to prolong feelings of love—or mute the pain of a breakup—sounds like a creepy, high-minded cop out to avoid experiencing the full panoply of human emotions. However well intentioned it may be, technology like this would be ripe for abuse:

Perhaps we could design "love drugs," pharmaceutical cocktails that could boost affection between partners, whisking them back to the exquisite set of pleasures that colored their first years together. The ability to do this kind of fine-tuned emotional engineering is beyond the power of current science, but there is a growing field of research devoted to it. Some have even suggested developing "anti-love drugs" that could dissolve abusive relationships, or reduce someone's attachment to a charismatic cult leader. Others just want a pill to ease the pain of a wrenching breakup.

... At first blush, love may seem like a poor prospect for pharmacological intervention. The reflexive dualist in us wants to say that romantic relationships are matters of the soul, and that souls ought to be free of medical tinkering. Oxford ethicist Brian Earp argues that we should resist these intuitions, and be open to the upswing in human well-being that successful love drugs could bring about. Over a series of several papers, Earp and his colleagues, Anders Sandberg and Julian Savulescu, make a convincing case that couples should be free to use "love drugs," and that in some cases, they may be morally obligated to do so...

Go read the whole thing, which includes a fascinating Q&A with ethicist Earp about other potential uses for love drugs, including helping apathetic mothers bond with their offspring. Then tickle me perturbed.


Comments (18) RSS

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spaceapple 1
So he's saying ecstasy should be legal? I agree.
Posted by spaceapple on February 1, 2013 at 9:08 AM · Report this
Former Lurker 2
@1 beat me to it...
Posted by Former Lurker on February 1, 2013 at 9:33 AM · Report this
Matt the Engineer 3
Oh, the Shakespeare plots that could come to life.
Posted by Matt the Engineer on February 1, 2013 at 9:37 AM · Report this
Zebes 4
Is taking an analgesic to lessen the pain from an injury copping out of the full range of human experience?
Posted by Zebes on February 1, 2013 at 9:39 AM · Report this
Better living through chemistry.
Posted by rummy42 on February 1, 2013 at 9:46 AM · Report this
xjuan 6
I believe many consider Viagra, Cialis et al, love drugs, but I get the difference: a boner is not love. Still, despite the full range of possibilities of the human experience, many people would benefit from this and others will abuse them. I guess down the road we can have a pill to learn to love our politicians... How about a drugged out society in love with a dictator? Oh, yeah, there are other options already available for that.
Posted by xjuan on February 1, 2013 at 9:50 AM · Report this
Chefgirl 7
Fascinating true fact of the day - the author of the Love Drug piece, Brian Earp, is also a professional actor hailing from Seattle. He spends half his time here performing (played the leads in Balagan's Spring Awakening last year and Village Theatre's The Producers) and half the year in Oxford, writing and researching articles like this one...…
Posted by Chefgirl on February 1, 2013 at 9:52 AM · Report this
rob! 8
I think one of the points of the book Listening to Prozac is that the SSRI-type antidepressants can help you to remember/re-learn what "normal" feels like, but the experience of many (myself included) is that if they work, over time there's a blandifying effect and you get to where you want to feel more of the peaks and valleys (not to mention normal orgasms) again.

(Tapering off is certainly not without some unpleasant side effects too, and not advisable for people with serious long-term depression.)
Posted by rob! on February 1, 2013 at 9:57 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 9
I held my nose,
I closed my eyes,
I took a drink...
Posted by Theodore Gorath on February 1, 2013 at 10:10 AM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 10
We've already got alcohol to help us start relationships, I don't see what's wrong with something to keep them going.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on February 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
Chocolate is a drug. So is hot cocoa.

Just because we don't call them drugs, doesn't mean they don't work.
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 1, 2013 at 10:42 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 12
@10 alcohol works well for men, less well for women. Women get cautious about establishing relationships if they drink too much (not about sex, about relationships). So, basically, if two men, drink. If two women, share hot cocoa in cute mugs. If a man and a woman, the guy should drink and the woman should drink hot cocoa. Oh, and add lavender.

At least from a scientific viewpoint.

A rainstorm actually helps.
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 1, 2013 at 10:44 AM · Report this
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm SOMA
Posted by BNW on February 1, 2013 at 11:00 AM · Report this
Oh I remember this story. Jim Carrey did a pretty good job. I think it's one of the few dramatic roles I've seen him in where it didn't look like he was trying too hard. Tom Wilkinson probably should've been nominated for an award for his performance.
Posted by j.lee on February 1, 2013 at 11:05 AM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 15
Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins has been studying psilocybin in human subjects for the past few years, looking at how subjects (who are generally hallucinogen-naive, IIRC) rate the personal and spiritual significance of the experiences they have on the drug. One of his early studies was a group selected for being religiously or spiritually inclined to begin with. A substantial portion (a third, I think) of the people that received the drug rated it as among the most significant spiritual experiences of their life...with full knowledge that their experience could have been manipulated by the presence of the drug.

In other words, people who already believed in some form of spiritual transcendence, and who knew that their brain chemistry was (possibly, there was a placebo group) being manipulated with a simple drug still considered what they experienced to be a "spiritual" event.

I would imagine a "love drug" could have a similar effect, at least for some people. I.e., you might know that the warm fuzzies are coming with a chemical assist, but it is still very real and profound to you.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on February 1, 2013 at 11:30 AM · Report this
biffp 16
@1 is right. It's actually a love drug, and not a sex drug. It can keep you out of one nighters.
Posted by biffp on February 1, 2013 at 2:32 PM · Report this
Since nobody else has yet, let me just point you over here to George Saunders' "Escape from Spiderhead," newly published in his collection Tenth of December.

"No longer, in terms of emotional controllability, are we ships adrift. No one is. We see a ship adrift, we climb aboard, install a rudder. Guide him/her toward love. Or away from it. You say, ‘All you need is love’? Look, here comes ED289/290. Can we stop war? We can sure as heck slow it down! Suddenly the soldiers on both sides start fucking. Or, at low dosage, feeling super-fond. Or say we have two rival dictators in a death grudge. Assuming ED289/290 develops nicely in pill form, allow me to slip each dictator a mickey. Soon their tongues are down each other’s throats and doves of peace are pooping on their epaulets. Or, depending on the dosage, they may just be hugging."
Posted by duffellduffell on February 1, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
So there's this book that explores this territory, written by a local.…
Posted by bago on February 1, 2013 at 6:05 PM · Report this

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