Who would have thought that oxytocin, the bonding chemical released when people hug and have sex, would have similar effects on the brain as smoking cannabis?
They both effect the cannabinoid receptors.
The study explains that oxytocin releases another wonderful chemical called anandamide, known as the “bliss molecule” due to the fact that the brain receptors it activates lead to increased motivation and happiness.
The anandamide reacts with cannabinoid receptors, similar to pot, and causes an increased feeling of reward from social situations. This is the first time that a marijuana-like neurotransmitter has been found to add to the reward of being social.
The researchers believe this is a key step in understanding some social issues face by people with autism. “We think that there is a disruption in cooperative oxytocin-anandamide signaling in autism,” said lead researcher Daniele Piomelli. She indicates that increasing anandamide levels in the same way as before corrected social reward deficits and that this approach may help those with autism socialize more.