New paper: No love drugs today

Dr Robbie Arrell's latest paper explores the ethical dilemma around whether psychoactive substances should help people work through relationship difficulties.


Is there a pill for love? What about an "anti-love drug", to help us get over an ex? 

In their recent book Love is the Drug: The Chemical Future of Our Relationships (2020)ethicists Brian D Earp and Julian Savulescu argue that certain psychoactive substances, including MDMA — the active ingredient in Ecstasy — may help ordinary couples work through relationship difficulties and strengthen their connection.

Other already existing drugs, such as SSRIs and antiandrogens, may help sever an emotional connection during a breakup. Controlled studies are underway to see whether artificial brain chemicals can enhance couples therapy. And conservative religious groups are experimenting with certain medications to quash romantic desires — and even the urge to masturbate — among children and vulnerable sexual minorities.

As this makes clear, and as Earp and Savulescu are at pains to stress in their book, the time to think through such issues is now. Biochemical interventions into love and relationships are not some far-off speculation. In fact, many of us are already taking "love drugs" that are shaping our relationships in all kinds of ways; we just don't realise it yet.

So, what should we make of the prospect of biochemically interfering with love? Is it one we should welcome? Or should we be worried? And is it really true that the horse has already bolted? Robbie Arrell of IDEA was invited to comment on some of these issues as part of a symposium published in Philosophy & Public Issues dedicated to Earp and Savulescu's work entitled Enhancing Love: Killing Romance or Defending Autonomy

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