Love may be intoxicating. But when mixed with alcohol, the hormone that love spurs in humans may be downright sobering.

A study finds the much-ballyhooed “love hormone,” oxytocin, appears to dampen the effects of alcohol, and suggests it could someday play a role in treating alcohol dependence and withdrawal.

Oxytocin surges in new mothers, inducing childbirth and breast-feeding. In partnered men, it reduces straying behavior. When puffed up the noses of experimental subjects, oxytocin consistently enhances trust and fosters nurturing behavior. It’s even seen as a promising way to help those with autism learn social skills.

But new research finds that, in male rats at least, oxytocin also blunts the inebriating effects of moderately heavy doses of alcohol. It does so, the study found, by suppressing the activity of receptors in the brain — GABA receptors, which respond to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid — that are key nodes in the circuitry of reward-related behaviors and addiction. It prompted the study’s authors to suggest the proposition that oxytocin might reduce cravings across a range of addictive behaviors.

Los Angeles Times