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Love = Chocolate + Cocaine, Tasty but Addictive


No matter in the movies or in real life, people who just break up always chew full mouth of chocolate. On the contrary, those who are in love with somebody rarely eat chocolate. Is it because “falling in love” is already sweet enough that you don’t need the same taste from chocolate any more? Yes, this is nearly the reason and people in love feel they are eating chocolate just because the intense and passionate feeling of love.

Passionate Love Kills the Pain

Professor. Sean Mackey from the Medical School of Stanford University conducted a series of experiments on 15 undergraduates (7 men and 8 women) who were in passionate love. In the experiments, the people involved were holding a computer-controller thermal stimulator that can gradually cause mild pain while they were also looking at the photos of their lover or other people. Their brain activities were monitored with a functional magnetic resonance machine.

The results shows—you may have a guess—that comparing with looking at photos of others, when the undergraduates were staring at their lovers’ photos, they feel less pain. To be simple, passionate love makes them hardly feel pain.

It’s worth taking a moment to flag the fact that the mechanism of analgesia due to passionate love is different from that when you “distract your attention”. “Distract the attention” can make people temporally forget about the pain, while the love-induced analgesia, which is much related with the reward centers, makes you can’t even feel the pain. The reward center, or the one you can call it as “chocolate area”, is where will be lightened when people are eating chocolate happily.

Romantic Love Is an Addiction

There are people studying on passionate love, while there are also research on the break-ups. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist performed a study on people who just broke up and reached a conclusion: romantic love is an addiction.

To the love-as-an-addiction hypothesis, Dr. Fisher recruited 15 college-age heterosexual women and men (that’s why the first experiment chose to study on 15 undergraduates), and let them look at images of their ex-lovers. When the researchers looked at images of the participants’ brains, they found the parts of brain that lit up were the same ones associated with cocaine and nicotine addiction, physical pain and distress and attachment.

Now you know why one just broke up can’t get rid of it—this is just like a cocaine addict feels the rush of cocaine but can’t get anything. For those who can’t find a target to release their addiction, several bars of chocolate are the only choice left.

In the same time, the study also found that the addition to love was also associated with the time duration in love: people in love over six months have more active “chocolate area” than those less than six months; while if one breaks up long before, the chocolate area and the cocaine area are less active and will almost lose any activities after 18 months since break-up, which is far longer than the time period of isolation for drug rehabilitation (normally 3 to 6 months).

Time will heal our broken hearts. However, the discovery of the fact that “love is a painkiller” has significance since those who has a spouse can cut the costs on anesthetic fees when having an operation. Before the operation, hold your lover’s hand tightly, and, WOW!!!


1.      Love Takes Up Where Pain Leaves Off, Brain Study Shows

2.      Addicted to Love? It’s Not You, It’s Your Brain