Consider a couple with an infant (or two) whose lives have become so harried and difficult the marriage is falling apart. Would it be ethical for them to take oxytocin to help them renew their emotional bonds, or would this be an unethical evasion of the hard work that keeping a marriage going requires? What if someone has sexual desires that they consider immoral – should they be able to take a drug to suppress those desires, or alternatively can society force them to? Debates about the ethics of using drugs for enhancement rather than treatment usually focus on the individual, such as doping in sports.
In Love Drugs: The Chemical Future of Relationships
(Stanford University Press, 2020), Brian Earp
and Julian Savulescu consider the case for using drugs to alter our love relationships. Earp, who is Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and and Health Policy at Yale University, and Savulescu, the Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, note that drugs that alter sexual desire and attachment are already available, although are restricted or illegal. What is needed, they argue, is more research into the interpersonal effects of drugs, and more discussion of the ethics of their use for non-medical purposes. Let’s turn to a fascinating interview on a complex topic with no easy answers.