Valentine’s Day is upon us once again; a day that most people express affection towards their loved ones in many different ways.
Roses, chocolates, perfume, teddy bears, and anything else that is the colour red is used to send the message of LOVE.
Even though it is not easy to explain love, studies show that intense feelings of romantic love affect the brain in a similar way that drugs like cocaine and some sedatives do.
“They appear to target different receptors within the brain, but cause common actions on GABA [an inhibitory neurotransmitter] transmission in the prefrontal cortex and the limbic structures. These control how we perceive stress or anxiety” stated Dr Ian Mitchell, from the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham.
This simply means that both love and substances make us feel less stressed, less worried, and less anxious.
Love makes you feel good and therefore minimises pain and other unpleasant emotions.
In a related way the use of substances releases dopamine in the brain that makes you feel good for that duration of intoxication.
When in this state you feel less troubled by challenges you may have in life and it is for this reason that a lot of people continue to use substances; to minimise undesirable feelings and maximise pleasure.
It is often said that love is blind, meaning that when you have intense romantic feelings for someone you are most likely to only see the good in that person and if they have an undeniable character flaw you are more likely to either rationalise it, minimise it, or plainly be in denial about.
All because you are in love! Comparatively when you are under the influence of substances your inhibitions are lowered; you can easily be gullible and be influenced negatively by those around you because they look friendly.
Unfortunately this is when a person can be assaulted, harmed or taken advantage of.
When you are in love you tend to feel on top of the world and feel like you can do absolutely anything, and that is why it is often said love makes you crazy.
You are even more willing to try out new things. In the same manner when you use substances you tend to be less cautious and engage in risky behaviours like driving under the influence, unprotected sex, and sharing needles.
Much like with substances when you love someone you think about them constantly, count down the minutes until you see them again, and can even catch yourself fantasizing about them throughout the day.
In almost the same way, when you use substances regularly or are addicted to a substance you spend of lot of time thinking of getting it or having a strong desire or urge to use.
In addition the activities that you do tend to mostly be around the use of the substance, much like a person in love would plan their time to be around their loved one.
What we need to remember is that although love and substance use have similarities, they do not equate.
Love has potential to flourish but the consequences of substance use are almost always negative and can be fatal.
People have many triggers, the month of love can be a very emotional and stressful time, and we all need to take care during Valentine’s Day and through the month of love.
If you think that you might have a substance abuse problem, or if you have a loved one or family member who does, we encourage you to seek help.
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