What are Endogenous Opioids?

 

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The brain is what makes you, you. Every single part of your body, from the organs to the skeletal system, is created to ensure that your brain and central nervous system is functioning. The brain makes you aware of what’s around you, what affects you, and what you need to do.

How it makes you do what you do, is all due to the way your brain communicates with your body. It’s composed of star-like cells called neurons, all compact into nerves, which are present all over your body, and a huge majority of it composing your brain. They communicate using electrical signals, and these signals are triggered by special chemicals called Neurotransmitters.

Why all the talk about the brain and neurotransmitters? This is due to the fact that our body creates its own neurotransmitter called Endogenous Opioids.

When the word Opioid is heard, people think of drugs. This is true, as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl, and heroin are some of the substances that belong to the opioid and opiate family.

What Are Opioids?

They are derived from the extracted from the seed pod of the poppy plant. The dried sap is called opium, which is the earliest form of narcotic in history, going as far back as 300 BC. As our technology progressed, we managed to extract the purer substances in opium, maximizing its effect. These extracted substances are called opiates, which still see significant medical use.

As our technology went further, we devised ways to augment the base chemicals in Opiates to make even more powerful versions, like Oxycodone, Hydromorphone, and Fentanyl. These “synthetic” or “semi-synthetic” substances are called Opioids.

Opioids are substances that affect our neurons. Within the arms of our star-like neurons are something called “Receptors”, parts that are meant to receive substances. All cells have receptors that make them react to certain substances or chemicals. The neurons, in particular, have receptors for Opioids. When they receive opioids, two things will happen.

The first effect is when the “Mu Receptor” is activated. It causes the release of the brain’s reward chemical called Dopamine. This triggers a “high” that makes the person feel euphoric. Imagine it as the warm fuzzies multiplied by ten.

The second effect is the blockage of pain transmissions to the brain. They bind to opioid receptors, found in the gut, spine, and brain. With both your spine and brain unable to both send and receive pain transmissions, you do not experience pain. It’s worth noting that the effect is not absolute. Depending on the dosage, it may not affect enough receptors to completely block the pain.

Endogenous Types

It literally means “Opioids created from the inside.” Your body has neurotransmitters called “Endorphins.” These neurotransmitters block pain, triggered when there’s a release of pain receptors. So when you get hurt and feel pain, the pain subsides or lessens over time due to your endorphins.

Endorphin is actually short for Endogenous Morphine. Our body creates these Endogenous Opioids to be used when needed, such as during times when you need to push through the pain. It also triggers the release of dopamine, the reward chemical, similar to what morphine and most opioids do. One good example of how it works is the commonly known “workout high” or “runner’s high”. You place your body in significant pain and stress, triggering the release of Endorphin and Dopamine. As your brain releases more, the better you feel.

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