Seems like the grand and infinite powers of love just keep coming up in science and the news. This is probably not only because everyone wants to read about how love is like crack, but also because love really does have some weird powers. Take this latest study, in which researchers at Stanford University found that new love (that stuff that makes you feel giddy and sort of insane at the beginning of a relationship) can actually relieve pain, much like morphine.
The researchers tested a bunch of Stanford undergrads who were in the first nine months of romantic relationships to see how they tolerated physical pain. Somewhat hilariously, there was no shortage of “madly in love young people” who wanted to participate. College!
First the researchers had people fill out a “Passionate Love Scale,” which asks questions to figure out how crazy in love you are (Would you feel despair if they left you? Do you think about them obsessively? etc.). The 15 students who got the highest (crazy!) scores were then shown photos of either their significant others or “equally attractive acquaintances” while having a thermal device heated up on their arms (the pain portion of the experiment). They reported less pain while looking at the photos of their boyfriends or girlfriends.
Interestingly, other studies have found that simply being distracted also relieves pain, though not to the degree of the love drug, simply because if you’re not focused on the pain, you feel it less (pretty much the principle of Lamaze). Of course, love has the added benefit of generally making you distracted and somewhat woozy to start. A win-win.
The doctors did not address what we see as perhaps the biggest problem with love as morphine. What happens when you run out? Withdrawal is no fun for anyone.