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Video: Scientists Are Working On A Pill For Loneliness
Scientists are working on a pill for loneliness
Perhaps scientists have discovered at what physiological level one can act to suppress feelings of loneliness.
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Feelings of loneliness are one of the most poorly understood psychological conditions affecting human health. There is reason to believe that loneliness has long-term negative health effects. For example, in a 2015 study, scientists showed that it affects the pattern of the immune response, increasing a range of risks and worsening disease outcomes. Loneliness increases the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease, depression, accelerates the spread of cancer, increases the impact of infections. At the same time, loneliness is becoming a new "epidemic".
Currently, there are medicines that prevent exacerbations of many chronic pathologies: diseases of the lungs, heart, other organs, as well as mental illnesses. Not surprisingly, scientists have come up with the idea of alleviating the health effects of loneliness.
Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the Brain Dynamics Lab at the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine, argues that loneliness is a condition that occurs when we are triggered by chemical signals that encourage us to interact with other people. However, our alert mind instead perceives social danger, anxiety, discouraging the desire for socialization.
Loneliness, according to scientists, reminds us that we are social beings, it is similar to a thirst that needs to be quenched.
Scientists hope that these uncomfortable feelings can be alleviated by the neurosteroid pregnenolone, which may help with anxiety and over-perception of danger.
Cacioppo points out that their goal is not to eradicate feelings of loneliness, but rather to suppress its harmful effects on the body and psyche.
“If we could successfully lower the threshold of signaling systems in the brains of lonely people, we could help them re-engage in communication instead of hiding from others,” she told The Guardian.
In their most recent study, Cacioppo and colleagues followed healthy but single people who were given 400 mg of pregnenolone. The authors talk about their cautious optimism about the results of their scientific work. The study participants felt less lonely.
A 2016 review of research showed that there is a possibility that prescribing the hormone oxytocin may help relieve chronic loneliness. The body's production of this hormone has been linked to increased sociality and trust among people, the authors reported.
Currently, people have access to non-medical ways to combat loneliness: correspondence, visiting clubs and other public places, participating in volunteer programs, and so on.