Stop reading this right now, grab your kid and give them a great big hug. Or better yet, run to the couch and engage in a nice long snuggle session. Don’t do this just because you love them or because there nothing is better than a child’s embrace. Do it to prevent your child from becoming a drug addict.
What does hugging and preventing drug abuse issues later in life have to do with each other? According to new studies from Duke University and the University of Adelaide in Australia— lots.
First it should be mentioned that the studies were based on rats. According to Staci Bilbo, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke, “a rat mother’s attention in early childhood actually changes the immune response in the brains of her pups by permanently altering genetic activity.” They also found that, “High-touch mothering increased the brain’s production of an immune system molecule called Interleukin-10, leaving these rats better able to resist the temptation of a dose of morphine much later in life.”
Recent studies on drug addiction had found that there is a molecular response in the glial cells of the brain’s reward centers that some people are more susceptible to than others. In this study the rats were divided. Some were taken from their mothers for periods of time while others were by their mom’s side consistently. The ones who weren’t as close to their mothers were more likely to have a preference for the morphine drip.
“Two exciting things have been uncovered by this groundbreaking research,” said coauthor Mark Hutchinson, a research fellow at the University of Adelaide. “One, we have proven a mother’s touch changes brain function and two, we have demonstrated an exciting way to intervene in the cycle of drug abuse.”
So grab your child, hold them tight- all in the name of the war on drugs.
To read more about their research and how they came to these conclusions check out the Duke article on the subject here.