A new Australian study found that people who had poor development of oxytocin were more likely to have addiction-related issues, include drug and alcohol abuse.

image_1303-Oxytocin

Structural Diagram of Oxytocin

Oxytocin is the “love hormone” that cements the bond between partners. It’s also instrumental in the bond between mother and child. According to Dr. Buisman-Pijlman, who led the research team, previous research has shown that different people have different levels of oxytocin in their system. How could this be?

Human oxytocin systems don’t finish developing until we are about three years old. The age of 0-3 years old is one of the most critical times in childhood brain development. Children who are neglected, abused, or who don’t get enough social interaction during birth to the age of three are much more likely to have issues with drug, alcohol, or behavioral addiction when they’re older.

Could this be what addicts mean when they say they were “trying to fill a hole” with their drug of choice? A fully developed, healthy oxytocin system helps with stress management. According to the researchers of the study, “A well-developed oxytocin system is in a position to directly and indirectly increase resilience, for example by reducing drug reward, increasing social reward, reducing anxiety, reducing stress response and immune stimulation.”

These findings are important for those who treat addicted individuals. If doctors can fully understand oxytocin development in children, then they may find better ways to treat and prevent drug and alcohol abuse.