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Think of the most interesting man you know. Now imagine what he would be like had he grown up in a tarpaper shack without indoor plumbing, joined a monastery, had an extensive career as a female model, actress, author and screen writer, then traded in his weave and acrylic nails for a Ph.D. in neuroscience. If you have been able to conjure up that image, turn it up to 11... and let's do it!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The World's Most Abused Substance

It’s 2011—the peace rally is over, and the hippies are all in 12-step programs with the exception of a few that are not back from Woodstock yet.  People are more concerned about health and the environment than ever before.  Electric Kool-Aid, Peruvian marching powder, and booger sugar are out—spirulina, comfrey root and sparkling water are in.  PCP, THC, KFC, and BK, are just not cool anymore.  Even the So Cal Venice Beach is a smoke free environment these days.   Using aerosol cans is almost as contemptible as wearing fur, which you better not be caught doing—unless you are walking on all fours and have a shiny, wet, nose.  I am NOT talking about women of color, crawling home from a 24-hour Fitness high aerobics class. 
But what about the single most abused substance—the one inescapable vice that we humans have had since the beginning of time?  Love.  Now’s here’s something that’s worse than anything that people were smoking, snorting, or popping in the last four decades. True, cocaine will leave you physically weary, psychologically devastated, emotionally crippled, financially drained and in desperate need of sleep.  A bad love with an unemployed actor will do the same thing in much less time.    Yeah, killing animals for fur is barbaric—but love will take the fur off of anybody’s back and make a necklace out of their very last nerve.  Granted, too many years of too much red meat almost always leads to cardiac arrest; but it only takes a couple minutes and a drop of truly bad love to cause a coronary disaster.  Love is worse than heroin. At least heroin junkies sleep most of the time.  When is the last time you saw a lovesick woman nodded out in a doorway?  
Love makes people do some incredible things.  Love will make Queen Elizabeth check into a Motel-6 with B.B. King.  Look at what it did to Romeo & Juliet, Antony & Cleopatra, Lancelot & Guinevere, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton et al.  Not to mention Bri Vandekamp and Susan Delfino on Desperate Housewives or desperate businessmen married to former Rockettes.  
.  Love once made me write an 83-page, handwritten, letter and attach it to the door with a steak knife.  
 What is more stressful than being in love?  One thing: Being in a bad love.  What’s worse than that?   Not being in love at all.    Now why is that?  Where’s the logic in that?
In the Bible, St. Paul says, “Love is patient and love is kind…”  say that St. Paul never tried to get to a movie on time with my husband.   Corinthians also says “love is not jealous or boastful…” Oh really is that a fact?  Obviously St. Paul never saw Divorce Court or been at Hollywood cocktail party. “Love is not arrogant or rude…” Oh please, doctors fall in love, and you show me a doctor that’s not arrogant and rude and I’ll show you somebody with a phony medical degree.  “Love does not insist on its own way...” On which lost episode of the Twilight Zone did this happen?   “Love is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices at right.”  Tell that to the keyed sports cars and the slashed tires in this world.  Love will stop rejoicing in wrong when one size fits all, Lindsay Lohan gives up shoplifting and Shaq and Kobe kiss and make up. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.  Faith, hope and love abide—but of these three, the greatest is love.”   Right—the greatest single cause of clothes being shredded, plates being smashed, photographs being ripped up and horrible text messages flying around like a gaggle of drunken geese.  
What was St. Paul thinking when he wrote this?  Are we sure it was Christianity he found on the road to Damascus?  This sounds more like something that Timothy Leary and Wavy Gravy found on the road to “…where were we going now?”      Anybody that thinks love does not insist on its own way has not been in love, or at least not with a human.  And love is more irrational than Rush Limbaugh was during his Oxycotin phase, so we have no idea what they’re talking about. 
The marriage vows should say, “Do you promise to compromise, relinquish, surrender, and become a disconsolate, gloomy sex camel trudging the rocky road of an inevitable and ugly destiny until their funeral and your trial do you part?” 
Love is messy, at best.  Who needs it?  As my Aunt Verdean use to say, “I don’t want no messy loving, all I want is a house, a car and a little grocery money.” Yet, there was much messy loving in her life, because as Janis Joplin put it, “One good man ain’t much, it’s only every little thing.”   How could that possibly be?  In this day and age, with our technology, sex is an easy commodity—www.getanythinganywhereanytime.com.  So who needs it? 
Well, let’s start at the beginning and go to the end.   Love usually starts with a look, which in terms of the brain is visual input. The areas involved are, in the cortex, the medial insula, anterior cingulate, and hippocampus.  In the sub cortex, you have parts of the striatum, the nucleus accumbens, which make up the basic parts of the reward system.  The passion that accompanies love creates a euphoric feeling that is illegal in all 50 states when it comes from a powder.   This is because the areas that are activated in response to romantic feelings share the same boundaries with brain regions containing high concentrations of dopamine, a neuro-modulator associated with reward, desire, and the euphoric states leading to addiction.
It is all about the dopamine; humans are dopamine whores. Dopamine is the feel good drug in the brain.    When people are in love, dopamine is released by the hypothalamus, among other neurotransmitters and hormones linked to romantic love.  The hypothalamus is located deep in the brain and serves as a link between the nervous system and the endocrine (hormonal) system.  The nervous system coordinates actions and transmits signals between different parts of the body via neurons. The endocrine system is also a communication network.  It transmits signals via secreting hormones into the blood, regulating mood, metabolism, tissue function, growth and development.  So now think about it.  If you are stimulating something that serves a link between a system that transmits signals regarding actions, and another one that regulates moods, when you crank it up the upward synergy is going to be real good.  When you turn it down, the crash is going to be a mega-sized “ouch”.   That is partially why love is such an upper when you have it, and such a bummer when it goes south.   Since these same brain regions are activated when you use (theoretically of course) euphoria-producing drugs, like cocaine, love has the same addictive qualities.  So it’s the dopamine release linked to the romantic relationship that puts you in that “don't make hurt you cause I love you" state of mind.

1 comment:

  1. Check out this article from The Guardian, Billi. I think empathy has a place at the love banquet table.