The authors of the new book Love Drugs: The Chemical Future of Relationships really, really want readers to know they have not written a book promoting love potions—drugs that will hypnotize, brainwash, or otherwise ensnare people into being artificially in love (or artificially not in love).
Rather, over the course of some 200 pages, the ethicist Brian D. Earp and the philosopher Julian Savulescu make a measured case that doctors and mental-health practitioners could (maybe, someday) repurpose the known side effects—particularly mood-altering ones—of certain medications and substances as relationship aids. One example from early in the book: Even otherwise compatible romantic partners can be rendered miserable by a big difference in sex drives. If, say, the more desirous partner is already taking a medication, and a different version of that medication is known to decrease sex drive, the authors ask: Would it be so bad for that person to switch versions, in hopes of improving the relationship?
Calling a book Love Drugs—a title that evokes psychedelic, ’60s-era free love and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World—and then promptly delving into the complicated nature of human horniness certainly makes a provocative first impression. But one of the book’s more surprising arguments is less titillating. The most justifiable use case for biochemical intervention, the authors argue, is to rescue what they call “gray” marriages—unhappy unions that aren’t hateful or abusive, just unsatisfying—between people with kids, and especially those that are at risk of divorce.