Review of studies on oxytocin and drug/alcohol abuse

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Brain Res. 2020 Mar 3:146761. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2020.146761. [Epub ahead of print]

The Role of Oxytocin in Alcohol and Drug Abuse.


The neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) plays a key role in adaptive processes associated with reward, tolerance, memory and stress responses. Through interactions with brain reward and stress systems, OXT is known to play a role in several neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly those that involve altered social integration, such as alcohol and drug addiction (Heilig et al., 2016). As such, there is growing interest in the oxytocin system as a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders. Accumulating preclinical evidence suggests that administration of OXT influences the development of tolerance, sensitization and withdrawal symptoms, and modulates numerous alcohol/drug-seeking and alcohol/drug-taking behaviors. Further, there is some evidence to suggest that OXT may help to reverse neuroadaptations that occur as a result of chronic alcohol or drug exposure. To date, there have been only a handful of clinical studies conducted in alcohol and drug dependent populations. This review summarizes the preclinical and clinical literature on the effects of OXT administration on alcohol- and drug-related behaviors. In addition, we discuss OXT interactions with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and multiple neurotransmitter systems within addiction circuitry.

Thanks for that review!

When I was recovering from alcoholism many years ago I was getting lots of hugs. I am sure that took me a long way. It also took living in an environment that was conducive to recovery, such as in an area that is surrounded by wilderness and mountains. Somehow being so close to the wild (or nature) proved quite nurturing to my spirit. My life in the chaos of the city I lived in did seem to be taking me down fast with my alcohol dependency. Moving to the Northwest was the best thing I could have ever done at the time. Which makes me wonder, do trees emit oxytocin?

Great review. Why is it that we always need science to show us what we seem to know intuitively? There was a time though, in the fifties and earlier, I believe, when parents were being advised to go against their intuition and to not hug their children.

Oh yes, here's an interesting article about that:

When I asked if

trees "emit" oxytocin, I actually meant something like "induce," as in inducing the release of oxytocin. It was perhaps just an off the wall question. I chose my words loosely.

"Instinctively" would have been a better word than "intuitively," when I commented, saying why do we always need science. Also, I'm not knocking science at all, and I enjoy reading the reviews and studies you send out. Always interesting.

The video in the other post about clitoral anatomy is enlightening. I didn't realize it was "the tip of the iceberg." Always learning...


for the PDF. The study does seem to conclude that, "it is evident that spending time in nature can
positively impact an individual’s recovery, specifically when considering factors such as stress."

I didn't read the whole thing word for word, but the conclusion doesn't surprise me. When I worked as an addiction counselor we did often take our patients out into nature on long walks in the forest.

The study mentions a confounding factor might have been that someone took a dog along on the walk, which may have accounted for the increase in oxytocin, and another listened to music. Perhaps going on a nature walk in a "group" may have been a confounding factor as well due to the connections between individuals and the release of oxytocin that way. But maybe there is a difference between being in a group of people in nature and being in a group of people in a big city. Something else to consider is social anxiety...I always felt anxious around people in the city I lived in before moving away, unless of course, we were all drunk or stoned.

When I first started to recover I had moved from a city to a town in the Northwest. I went from living in a city with a population around 100,000 to a town with a population that was around 23,000. In that smaller town the forests and mountains were easily accessible. So I felt like even if I just walked around town, I was really out in nature. My stress level had fallen considerably once I had arrived here. I think this resulted in far greater chances of recovery. That, along with the fact that in my recovery group, hugging was something we did a lot of.