A new study of opioids reveals a tie between drug addiction and social connection.
Science has long known that having positive social connection is important to a happy and healthy life. But less is understood about how our brains support and encourage connecting with others.
While prior research has suggested oxytocin plays a role in nurturing and trusting others, thereby strengthening social bonds, many researchers also suspect that brain opioids are important to social connection. Opioids are naturally occurring brain chemicals—perhaps the most well-known being endorphins—that cause pleasurable sensations in the body and encourage us to enjoy whatever we are experiencing. It’s possible that opioids also cause the warm feelings we get in social encounters, thereby encouraging us to be more engaged with others.
But, according to a recent study, the role of opioids may be a little more complicated than that—and there are practical implications for how we treat drug addiction.
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