Pub. date: 2004 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952576 | Print ISBN: 9780761923602 | Online ISBN: 9781412952576 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Endogenous Opioids, Stress, and Health
James A. McCubbin
The endogenous opioids are a diverse group of neuropeptides with widespread distribution throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems and with far-reaching behavioral effects. For centuries, learned scholars and physicians appreciated the potency of opium in its influence on the body. This led to the speculation that the body must contain sensitive receptor mechanisms that bind and respond to opium and related substances. Thus emerged the enigma of why humans and other animals would evolve receptors for substances of plant origin. Many suspected that the body manufactured its own opium-like substances, and by the mid 1970s the prototypic opioid enkephalin and endorphin peptides had been discovered and their receptors identified. The subsequent characterization of their functional significance has revolutionized our views of psychological stress and its role in the etiology and expression of certain chronic diseases. The potential medical significance of the endogenous opioids held extraordinary promise. In the 19th ...