Music Really Is a Drug

Rock 'n' roll hits your brain the same way as sex and drugs
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2017 5:35 PM CST
Your Favorite Music Can Actually Get You High
This undated file photo, originally supplied by Island Records, shows singer Bob Marley, who famously sang, "One good thing about music: when it hits you, you feel no pain."   (AP Photo/Island Records, File)

Scientists are developing a deeper understanding of what's going on in our brains when sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll make us feel high, reports Popular Science. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, who wrote the 2006 bestseller This Is Your Brain on Music, has published a study looking into exactly what's going on when, as Bob Marley famously put it, music hits you and "you feel no pain." Reporting in the journal Scientific Reports, his team at McGill University studied naltrexone, a drug that blocks opioid receptors to reduce the pleasure one gets from taking opioids. "We know from animal studies that the same areas of the brain affected by opioids are affected by food and sex," he says. "We didn't know much about music because animals don't enjoy music."

The team had 17 participants bring two tracks to the lab that "reliably produced intense feelings." Songs included everything from Radiohead's "Creep" and Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" to Mozart's "Overture: The Marriage of Figaro." Turns out even sad songs can be pleasurable, releasing the same chemical (prolactin) that mothers produce during breastfeeding, reports Vice. As they'd theorized, when participants were given naltrexone before listening to their favorite songs, their emotional responses to the music were muted. The researchers conclude that "music uses the same reward pathways as food, drug and sexual pleasure." (Doctors are now saying opioids are so addictive they should be the last line of defense for treating pain.)

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