Is there a pill for love? What about an "anti-love drug", to help us get over an ex? This book argues that certain psychoactive substances, including MDMA—the active ingredient in Ecstasy—may help ordinary couples work through relationship difficulties and strengthen their connection. Others may help sever an emotional connection during a breakup. These substances already exist, and they have transformative implications for how we think about love. This book builds a case for conducting research into "love drugs" and "anti-love drugs" and explores their ethical implications for individuals and society. Scandalously, Western medicine tends to ignore the interpersonal effects of drug-based interventions. Why are we still in the dark about the effects of these drugs on romantic partnerships? And how can we overhaul scientific research norms to take relationships more fully into account?
Ethicists Brian D. Earp and Julian Savulescu say that the time to think through such questions is now. Biochemical interventions into love and relationships are not some far-off speculation. Our most intimate connections are already being influenced by drugs we ingest for other purposes. 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. Simply put, the horse has bolted. Where it runs is up to us. Love Drugs arms us with the latest scientific knowledge and a set of ethical tools that we can use to decide if these sorts of medications should be a part of our society. Or whether a chemical romance will be right for us.
About the authors
Brian D. Earp is Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy at Yale University and the Hastings Center and a Research Fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford.
Julian Savulescu holds the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics and is Director of the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford.
"This book offers a fascinating, game-changing scientific argument for the use of unconventional medicines by those struggling with matters of the heart. We all suffer; some even kill or die for love. If 'love drugs' can alleviate the pain of rejection, curb domestic abuse, and even enhance feelings of attachment in struggling partnerships, many of the important ideas here could enrich—even save—lives around the world."
—Helen Fisher, author of Anatomy of Love
"Love Drugs reports current science on the effect of drugs on love and sex, adds anecdotes and case studies, and combines that with ethics and wisdom on what is important. The result is a fascinating account of a future that is starting to unfold right now."
—Peter Singer, author of Ethics in the Real World
"The psychopharmacology of love has been with us since the ancient Greeks celebrated the wine-soaked festivals of Dionysus. But not until this intoxicating, astonishing, dangerous book have we had the deep chemistry of our eroticism revealed. If you want to learn to be a better lover—and who doesn't?!—Earp and Savulescu show you how the drugs we have developed are expanding our capacities for connecting with each other."
—Clancy Martin, author of Love and Lies
"[Earp and Savulescu] suggest that familiarity with something's inner workings—how all the ingredients affect one another, how adjusting their ratios might help or hurt the end product—not only won't spoil the magic, but might enhance it. And in the case of a relationship that has produced a family, that knowledge might just save it."
—Ashley Fetters, The Atlantic
"[There] is an energy and passion in the writing here that sets it aside from 99% of the philosophy that I have read in the past year. I applaud Earp and Savulescu for their ambition, and hope that the book generates the kinds of debates that its highly controversial subject matter clearly deserves."
—Elizabeth Robson, The Philosopher
"Earp is not offering a cure-all—there is currently no panacea for poisoned love—but is calling for the discussion....[We] need an answer to why we can't fix a broken heart when 50-year-old science and a steady trickle of modern anecdotes say we can."
—Rich Wordsworth, Engineering and Technology
"Part of the argument in the book is that if we know that certain drugs can help relationships, we might want to lean into those drugs. [The] recommendation is a guided meditation on MDMA in a clinical setting with a therapist there to facilitate, and not just the couple in the woods on MDMA....Fascinating...I recommend the book highly."
—Dan Savage, Savage Lovecast
"More philosophy than science, Love Drugs is still a must-read for those interested in the recent revival in drug-assisted therapy....Love Drugs aims to mediate the struggle between conservative drug regulations and human welfare through thoughtful and ethical consideration of the past, present, and future of drug-assisted therapies."
—Aaron Tremper, Scientific Inquirer
"With cogent arguments, vivid experimental detail, and engaging storytelling, [Earp and Savulescu] show that chemical interventions to foster, enhance, and diminish love will only become more sophisticated as scientists discern the biochemical nature of the romantic bond."
—Brian Gallagher, Nautilus
"[A] philosophically rigorous, scientifically informed, and yet wholly accessible study of the science and ethics of 'love drugs' (and 'anti-love drugs'). It is a must read for anyone interested in either the nature and value of love or the ethics of biomedical enhancement. A major strength of the book is the seriousness with which Earp and Savulescu address the arguments of their opponents. Anyone who is initially skeptical of the claim that the use of (anti) love drugs can sometimes be the best overall option should prepare to be challenged."
—Jake Blair, American Journal of Bioethics
"Earp and Savulescu make a compelling case that current policies regarding these drugs are largely the result of unreliable, at times irrational political processes....[One] of the main purposes of Love Drugs is to argue in favour of research that might decrease their unpredictability and make them both more effective and less hazardous."
—Troy Jollimore, The Philosopher's Magazine
"With the publication of Love Drugs, Brian Earp and Julian Savulescu have achieved the status of leading public intellectuals. They have done something quite rare: produced a book that is eminently readable and that will appeal to the broadest thinking audience, but which is sufficiently nuanced and rigorous in its argumentation to satisfy the most demanding moral philosophers."
—Allen Buchanan, Philosophy and Public Issues
"Love Drugs feels, in some ways, like the culmination of a fascinating philosophical debate the authors set in motion more than a decade ago about the prospects of using biotechnology to enhance love. In other ways, though, the book marks a new beginning, which will hopefully see their work break new ground and bring these ideas to wider audiences than ever before. In particular, what Earp and Savulescu have to say about MDMA-enhanced relationship counselling, the prospect of which takes centre stage in the book, strikes me as deserving of the widest audience there is. In that respect, I found the authors' arguments to be utterly compelling and was left quite convinced of the sensibleness and necessity of tearing down barriers to research that might one day enable the reintroduction of MDMA and psychedelics as legitimate therapeutic tools."
—Robbie Arrell, Philosophy and Public Issues