What's the Difference Between Oxytocin (What I’m advocating) and Oxycontin?

Oxycontin is a sedative from the same family as morphine, codeine, and heroin. You may have remembered some years back the football player Brett Farve became addicted to it. It’s used most commonly as a very powerful pain reliever. My dad was prescribed it during his final stages of leukemia. Among the side effects are dry mouth, constipation, lethargy, hallucinations, kidney failure, and death!

That is not what I am talking about.

I am talking about (read my lips…well try too) O-X-Y-T-O-C-I-N. (pronounced oxy-toe-sin) It’s also referred to as the "love hormone", "the cuddle hormone", and some refer to it as the "anti-stress hormone". The only studies I’ve read related to oxytocin and addiction are ones indicating that it has possible uses for helping people overcome addictions like over-eating and smoking.

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin, a peptide that functions as both a hormone and neurotransmitter, has broad influences on social and emotional processing throughout the brain and body. Oxytocin is a peptide of nine amino acids that is produced in the hypothalamus and released into both the brain and bloodstream. Functioning as both a neurotransmitter and hormone, oxytocin’s role throughout the body is widespread. Included is the hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, brainstem, heart, uterus and regions of the spinal cord which regulates the autonomic nervous system, especially the parasympathetic branch (Neumann 2008). Oxytocin’s role in reproductive functions is well known. Its contribution to pair-bond formation has been systematically studied (Gimpl and Fahrenholz 2001).

When was it Discovered?

In 1906, the English researcher Sir Henry Dale discovered a substance in the pituitary gland that could speed up the birthing process. He named it oxytocin from the Greek words for "quick" and "child labor". Later, he found that it also promoted the expulsion of breast milk. Now it appears that oxytocin plays a much larger physiological role than previously recognized, since under many circumstances, it has the ability to produce the effects that we associate with the state of calm and connection (Moberg 2003).

Who can benefit from Oxytocin?

Everyone! Everyone needs oxytocin. Everyone’s body was designed to release Oxytocin. Some of us have experienced stress and trauma to the point that our body’s natural ability to create oxytocin is depleted. Nearly everyone I know experiences stress to a degree where things that they are expecting to be pleasant turn into stressful experiences, like shopping with your children, taking the family vacation, holidays with the in-laws, bath time, bed time, meeting with your child’s teacher. I hear of these stories every day. The reason these situations become stressful is because we experience them in our body as a threat on some level and therefore the amount of cortisol released outweighs our bodies natural oxytocin response. If you are mindful enough you can breathe through these experiences, recognize them as merely moments for growth, take a step back, and then approach the situation anew and more relaxed. However, if you are like most people, you get completely caught up in the moment, overwhelmed, stressed out, anxiety increases, and before you know it what’s supposed to be enjoyable, sucks! Yet, just by increasing our oxytocin production by just a hair, these same experiences can become more tolerable, and even pleasant.

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