Blocking mu-opioid receptors inhibits social bonding in rituals.
Charles SJ., Farias M., van Mulukom V., Saraswati A., Dein S., Watts F., Dunbar RIM.
Religious rituals are universal human practices that play a seminal role in community bonding. In two experiments, we tested the role of mu-opioids as the active factor fostering social bonding. We used a mu-opioid blocker (naltrexone) in two double-blind studies of rituals from different religious traditions. We found the same effect across both studies, with naltrexone leading to significantly lower social bonding compared with placebo. These studies suggest that mu-opioids play a significant role in experiences of social bonding within ritual contexts.