The Cuddle Chemical


What do bad science and bad journalism have in common? A few common traits, off the top of my head:

  • Lack of critical thinking in a field totally dependent on it

  • Expediency aimed at getting published, rather than doing a good job

  • A lowly, pathetic need for recognition, with no bottom to the depths of sensational smut they're willing to plumb

  • A deep fondness for each other

Journalists like Danielle Teutsch and scientists like Mark Dadds and PhD (student) Rebecca McErlean are a match made in heaven, like oil companies and politicians, or investment banks and politicians, or pharmaceutical industries and mainstream media outlets. Combine cutting-edge, shot-in-the-dark medical studies with a news platform squeaking by as a middleman between Big Pharma drug dealers and paranoid, hapless, neurochemical cyborg consumers, and you get this:

Love drug may help baby bond

A hormone nasal spray may help mothers bond better with their babies.

A world-first trial by Sydney researchers involves giving mothers a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin, often dubbed the ''love drug'' or the ''cuddle chemical''.

You have to see it for yourself. This article is PR for these "researchers," and nothing more. Lo and behold, if you shoot oxytocin up your nose, you become overwhelmed with love. Way to go, science. Meanwhile, this article floats opaque claims from anonymous sources, including the world-renowned "Huge Body of Research," unsubstantiated statistics, and really stupid quotations from purportedly intelligent people. Check out this jewel:

''It's a new age of psychology and medicine working together and magnifying the effects of each other.''

– Professor Dadds

Haha! Professor Dadds... studying moms! Get it?

Of course, the article closes with the stalwart con used by ad execs, bad scientists, and bad journalists everywhere, the Personal Anecdote.

Trial participant Tessa Dean, 28, said she had never had problems bonding with her baby, Luka, now three months old, but she occasionally found her new life ''overwhelming''.

''At the beginning it was very tiring and I did feel some anxiety,'' she said.

''I was never depressed but sometimes it was hard to relate to the life I had before. Overall I'm more confident now. The adjustment to motherhood is totally life-changing.''

Okay, great. Good study, guys. That's a wrap. We don't want to get into whether the body provides natural hormonal signals to create bonds between mothers and offspring, or what might cause a mother to feel that her bond with her child is insufficient (such as a damning, cynical media apparatus constantly telling her You Are A Bad Mother! Buy More Stuff!). We certainly don't want to touch that "overwhelming" feeling she mentioned. We, Big Pharma, we get it. People are overwhelmed. Don't worry. We can prescribe something for that.