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Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00602

Testing a neuro-evolutionary theory of social bonds and addiction. Methadone associated with lower attachment anxiety, comfort with closeness and proximity maintenance

  • 1William James Center for Research, Portugal

Evidence from non-human mammals for the involvement of the endogenous opioid system in prosocial behaviour is reasonably extensive and robust, however studies in humans are lacking. This study tests the neuro-evolutionary hypothesis that exogenous opiates, including morphine, heroine, and methadone, decrease separation anxiety and proximity by hijacking the neuro-peptide endogenous opioid system modulating social bonds.

Participants were 486 subjects, 43% male, with ages between 18 and 62 years (M=26.4 ; SD=9.4), divided in 3 naturalistic groups: 1: addicts in drug-free treatment; 2: addicts in methadone programs; 3: normative non-clinical controls.

Instruments: 1- Adult Attachment Scale (AAS; Collins & Read, 1990) composed of three subscales: Anxiety about being rejected (α= .83), Comfort with Intimacy (α = .68) and Comfort Depending on others (α = .70). 2- Caregiving Questionnaire (Kunce & Shaver, 1994) composed of four subscales: Proximity Maintenance: (α = .83.), Sensitivity: (α= .76), Controlling Caregiving (α = .77) and Compulsive Caregiving (α = 0.68).

Results: MANCOVA models were computed; gender, age and education were included

in the models. Methadone patients and Drug-free treatment addicts were equivalent and reported significantly lower Comfort depending others, Comfort with Intimacy and Caregiving Proximity. However Methadone users reported significantly lower Anxiety about being rejected than drug-free addicts, and were equivalent to non-clinical controls. In addition, correlations between the methadone intake dose and the questionnaires’ scales showed that dose was significantly and negatively correlated with Comfort with Closeness (rs=-.36; p<.01) and with Caregiving Proximity (rs=-.28; p<.05).

Keywords: Addiction, Attachment, Opioids, Opiates, Methadone, caregiving

Received: 03 Jun 2019; Accepted: 30 Jul 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Torres. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Nuno M. Torres, William James Center for Research, Lisbon, Portugal,