Oxytocin and THC – A source of Euphoria

Why do we experience euphoria from smoking marijuana, you ask?  A recent study by researchers at the University of California (the Berkeley campus)  reveals that that THC triggers the release of Oxytocin, the same hormone in the brain that gets released during close positive social interaction, such as a hug or kiss with a close friend or lover.

We re not ones to get too technical here, but the article that talks about the study does get into a lot of big words about various neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain, and how it seems that THC has the ability to “trick” the receptors, allowing them to release oxytocin so that a marijuana user can get the same feeling from smoking a joint as with hanging out with close friends or family members.

Can positive social interactions be the “drug” that helps you overcome marijuana use?

The research indicates that positive social interaction can be “addictive” to people because of the feeling of contentment or happiness that comes from such interactions. In that sense, if you are someone who wants to quit smoking marijuana, you understand that the euphoria that comes from weed now affects the same neurotransmitters  as the ones which are triggered by a show of affection. One blocks the other, in other words. You use the drug to get “happy,” you don’t get the same euphoric feelings from being around friends or lovers as you did before you took the drug. And vice versa.

Perhaps this is why many stoners become loners.  They get their Oxytocin fix from weed rather than people.

Can a hug and holding hands replace cannabis in your life?

In other words, one way to help you break the cycle of addiction to weed is to replace the oxytocin release from THC with the natural oxytocin of positive social stimulus.  Spend time around friends and family who are close to you and make you contented or happy when you are around them. Even if you are naturally antisocial or shy, having positive interactions with even one person at a time can create some of the same happiness and contentment that you would feel from smoking marijuana.

So next time, instead of picking up a joint, pick up the phone and call a friend or close family member and invite them to lunch or to your house to watch the game together.  Play cards with your friends. Have a day of shopping with “the girls.” This research can confirm what many of us already know: the happy and content feeling from marijuana can lead to its addiction; but that means it is time for a new, more socially healthy addiction, that of a social presence and participation.


    3 replies to "Oxytocin and Marijuana – An Overview of the UC Berkeley Study"

    • Jeremy

      The study you cite which was conducted by Dr. Piomelli at UC, Irvine (not Berkeley) did not show that THC triggers the release of oxytocin. They found that in mouse models, oxytocin — the “love molecule” — might actually mobilize anandamide, in turn promoting social reward and making our social interactions more pleasurable.

    • Valerie

      As someone who was horribly abused growing up and actually recoils instinctively from the touch of another human being, marijuana is the only neutral and safe form of oxytocin available to people such as me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning on spending my whole life substituting weed for intimacy, but for people with my experience, it is a lifesaver on the road to recovery.

    • Melody

      Paul J. Zak wrote an article for Psychology Today “Why Some People Are Evil
      Evil happens when people don’t feel empathy” (posted Sept. 8th, 2011) about his findings regarding oxytocin.
      ” I have shown that an ancient molecule in the human brain, oxytocin, makes us feel empathy for others and causes us to behave morally. I call oxytocin the “moral molecule.”

      If THC triggers the release of Oxytocin as your article suggests, then the whole world needs Cannabis. The idea that you think people need to stop using this “healing of the nations” makes no sense to me in light of your findings.

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