Falling In Love Is Like Being On This Drug, According To Research

Love can be just as dangerous as drugs — specifically, this one.

Last updated on Oct 25, 2023

Man and woman falling in love kickers | peshkov | Riska | Getty Images / Lany-Jade Mondou | Pexels

If you're convinced that science only confirms the obvious, we've got some mind-boggling news for you. According to 2010 research conducted by Dr. Stephanie Ortigue, a professor at Syracuse University, love can actually occur at first sight — and it happens within a fifth of a second.

Ortigue explains that romantic feelings originate not in the heart, but in the brain, which reacts to romance as if it were influenced by cocaine. When you fall in love, twelve areas of the brain sync up to release "happy" chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine, and adrenaline. 


RELATED: 10 Things That Must Happen For Two People Fall In Love

Like a love potion concocted by the brain itself, these chemicals induce feelings of euphoria in the brain's cognitive centers that manage metaphors, language comprehension, visual processing, and body image. The whole process occurs faster than you can even blink.


To study what happens to people when they fall in love, Ortigue measured electrical activity among the brain cells of people who were shown the names and photographs of those they claimed to love passionately.

After seeing the pictures, the men's and women's brains exhibited rapid activity in the areas associated with rewards, euphoria, and drug use.

RELATED: 10 Signs You're In Love With Someone (& They Love You Right Back)

Although we aren't surprised at how the brain reacts to romance, the notion of instantaneous love is perplexing. For every guy we've crushed on instantly, there's been another who had to work pretty darn hard and for a pretty long time to win us over.


What about boyfriends who started out as platonic guy buddies? What about people we meet online? The process of falling in love with someone you meet on a dating site often unfolds over long periods of time, as it's difficult to gauge physical attraction before you meet in person.

Maybe the line between love at first sight and the love that grows over time lies at the point of realization. Sure, there are some guys we learned to love, but realizing we were attracted to them felt like an epiphany. The passion might have arrived long after the second we met, but the euphoria was just as striking.

RELATED: The 8 Major Differences Between Being 'In Lust' And 'In Love'

Whatever the case, Ortigue's findings present major implications for heartbreak and mental health. Love may occur at first sight, but it takes ages to get over.


By knowing how the brain handles love, counselors and psychologists are better equipped to help clients understand their reactions to heartbreak. Her research may also contribute to new therapies for dealing with lost love.

Let's just hope those techniques don't veer into Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind territory.

RELATED: 6 Scientific Reasons Falling In Love Feels So Good


Denise Ngo is a freelance web writer and editor specializing in love, dating, and relationships. She is the Managing Editor of Loverish and a writer for PopSci.