Happy pill cure for loneliness

Loneliness breaks the spirit  >  We are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic which is blamed for increasing the risk of depression, diabetes, dementia, mental illness and even premature death. So maybe we should welcome the loneliness pill being developed at the University of Chicago.

A clinical trial is already underway on the merits of a steroid called pregnenolone*.  It is hoped it will reduce over-activity in the parts of the brain which handles heartsickness.

The neuroscientist in charge of the project says pregnenolone therapy will soothe the brain activity that makes us feel anguish in isolation. She explains that we are social creatures, and the isolation we feel emotionally also causes changes to the brain and body. 

Lonely people are more likely to develop diabetes and dementia, take up destructive activities like smoking and drinking in place of physical activity. Their risks of death increase, too.

All of this is probably true. Indeed, the connection to dementia has been explored perhaps more thoroughly than any other clinical link to loneliness. Changes in the brain linked to isolation are thought to cause inflammation that in turn promotes memory loss.

The broken-heart effect

Loneliness takes a toll on the heart, too – the so-called broken heart effect. The phenomenon contributes to the shocking 66% increased risk of death for a widow or widower in the first three months after losing a spouse.

Well, that has cheered us all up!  **

But what is even more depressing is the idea that popping loneliness pills will solve our woes. People need people and no amount of drugs can remove that basic human instinct. Fortunately Tonic is a drug free zone.

Footnote  > * Pregnenolone, which is naturally made by our bodies, is actually already commercially available, being touted mostly as an anti-aging and pro-memory supplement.

** If you think a loneliness pill is depressing, maybe the alternative making the news this week will be equally scary. It is claimed that housework therapy keeps dementia at bay (the researchers are, of course, male!)

13 thoughts on “Happy pill cure for loneliness

  1. In an age where our constant connectedness is, paradoxically, making us feel ever more socially isolated, pregnenolone might nudge our brains to withdraw a little less, put down our phones, and be a little less alone. But maybe not. The truth is loneliness is brutal and it is a killer. But taking a pill is no answer.

  2. Though loneliness and anxiety are not identical, some of the same brain systems – particularly those associated with hyper-vigilance – are involved in both conditions.

  3. Slogger Will says:

    What’s so wrong in being alone? It is the young who seem to be so scared of silence – not the old who enjoy the serenity of their own company. My dogs are my listeners and huggers. I just find listening and dealing with others and life’s crises too tiring.

    • George Myers (medical researcher) says:

      You forget that loneliness may give evolutionary advantages (ie less likely to pick up illnesses). But I agree that there is no point in medicating normal human emotions. The trick is to keep your mind active. If you doubt this, then visit an old people’s home and see how people are rotting away from the inside because they have no mental stimulation. Just a TV to watch in a passive state. If you do not stimulate the brain through use of language i.e. talking, your brain will literally start to shrivel. It, and exercise, are incredibly important for mental health.

    • A pill for everything! As a society we are too quick to dish out medication, rather than attempting to get to the root of the problem. As for me, I have a split personality and I am never lonely.

  4. Maria Elm says:

    No mind altering drug will overcome loneliness – it is by definition a lack of social cohesion. Families and neighbours need to interact more with the elderly.

    • Arthur (Bournemouth - an old gits' paradise) says:

      People need to learn the difference between boredom and loneliness. Taking pills is not the answer but joining socials clubs is. And I should know as they have helped turn my life around. Even if it is just a coffee or a tea in a supermarket or a pub it can make a big difference to that single person. But at the end of the day (or should that be … at the end of your days!) you can’t take a pill to replace proper one to one counselling for mental health. Pills cannot create friends

  5. pissed-off Tim says:

    Pharmaceutical companies make you sick! Seriously, they will make a pill for anything if they can make a fast buck out of you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>