I have been struck down by plague. (And by plague I mean a cold and a bad cough.) It has made me dreadfully grumpy all week. If only there were some sort of drug that could make me a more pleasant, tolerant person.

Oh wait, as it turns out, there is!

The nerd in me immediately started thinking of the movie Serenity, which deals with a drug that makes people so content and peaceful that they stop doing anything. They all just lay down and die. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that drugs such as anti-depressants and mood stabilizers are really so different; simply feeling more optimistic about life can induce all sorts of secondary personality shifts like increasing empathy.

Some questions to consider: What are we counting as “real” morality? What type of moral decisions are these people making? Do they change their religious beliefs? Political views? Who are they becoming more empathetic toward? (The article indicates that it isn’t universal; in fact people are less empathetic toward people outside of their social group. I wonder how far this extends and how it is affected by the intensity of the dose.)

Oxytocin, one of the hormones they highlight, is, like most biological chemicals, multi-functional. It’s affectionately known as the “love hormone” because it’s largely responsible for that warm, fuzzy feeling you get after being sexually intimate with someone. In massage school we were warned that this could be a possible source for transference (the development of inappropriate feelings in a client for a therapist.) And, as anyone who has ever been rejected in love knows, it can make you a little crazy.

Incidentally the drug is also associated with uterine contractions during childbirth and the ejection of milk from mammary glands. The synthetic version is used to induce labor. Which makes me wonder if (hope) this drug would carry warnings against use during pregnancy, even if it’s only very small amounts.

Stay tuned, next week’s episode (provided I stop coughing long enough to type it out) is about bio lab dissections. All the gory details you wanted to know, without that formaldehyde stench!