Could “Love Drugs” Fix Your Failing Relationship?

Hormone-enhancing pills that could boost your capacity for romance may soon be a reality

Yellow and red pills and heart-shaped pills scattered on a pink background
"Love drugs" could soon be a medical reality.
Ana Maria Serrano

Unfortunately, falling out of love is often a natural part of romantic relationships. For many couples, falling out of love, kind of ignoring it and just staying together anyway is also a natural part of those relationships, because breaking up is hard and what if you never find anyone else and also you have a dog and an apartment and maybe a kid or two and do you really want to go back on dating apps?

Fortunately, if you’re determined to stay in your dying relationship for the sake of kids or societal norms, science may have finally come up with a way to breathe some life back into your cold, dead romance: drugs. According to a recent Dazed report, “love drugs” — as in (presumably) legal, mood-altering substances designed to mimic or enhance the feeling of love — could soon be a reality for people looking to boost and/or salvage their capacity for romance.

Dr. Anna Machin, an evolutionary anthropologist at Oxford University, claimed such drugs “are on the horizon” while speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival earlier this month. According to Machin, the experience of love is basically just a cocktail of feel-good hormones — as far as science is concerned, anyway. So if love is just a combination of dopamine, serotonin, beta-endorphins and oxytocin, there’s really no reason we can’t take it in pill form. Such “love drugs” would, in theory, stimulate the production of those hormones, thus enhancing our capacity for experiencing love.

This may all sound a little cold and clinical to those of us who like to believe that love is some sort of spiritual force and not just a chemical reaction. But as Dazed‘s Serena Smith noted, “love drugs” really aren’t anything new. From ancient Greek potions to medieval elixirs and even aphrodisiacs, humans have been relying on substances to conjure and sustain love for as long as people have been falling in and out of it. Meanwhile, drugs that make us fall in love (kind of) already exist. Party drugs like MDMA are known to enhance feelings of bonding and romance, and have probably even led to a number of spontaneous celebrity marriages.

While today’s more scientific approach may seem a little less romantic than a medieval love potion in a fairytale, mood-altering drugs designed to enhance our capacity to feel good things have been commonplace in medicine for years now. After all, if we can take anti-depressants to better experience joy, why shouldn’t we take a drug that helps us fall or stay in love? Of course, it wouldn’t be as simple as “take this pill, fall back in love with your partner.” Dr. Brian Earp, co-author of Love Drugs: The Chemical Future of Relationships, told Dazed that such drugs would ideally be taken along with couples therapy and other forms of “work” partners are so often told they must put in to keep their relationship healthy.

“Couples should not think that love drugs will work like magic to solve their problems,” said Earp. “They should not be pursued in a misguided attempt at a ‘quick fix’ for fading intimacy or other relationship woes.”

Still, there’s something a little disillusioning about the idea that love is something you can take in pill form along with your probiotics, SSRI and multivitamin. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think I’d rather fall out of love than trick my brain into believing it still feels something. Then again, there’s a reason the “love is a drug” metaphor is so overplayed: because it’s one pretty kickass high. If it were a high you could actually access and maintain with a simple prescription, who wouldn’t want to?

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