The endogenous opioid system

The endogenous opioid system and clinical pain management. – PubMed – NCBI | AACN Clin Issues. 2005 Jul

The endogenous opioid system is one of the most studied innate pain-relieving systems. This system consists of widely scattered neurons that produce three opioids:

  • beta-endorphin,
  • met- and leu-enkephalins, and
  • dynorphins.

These opioids act as neurotransmitters and neuromodulators at three major classes of receptors, termed mu, delta, and kappa, and produce analgesia.

Like their endogenous counterparts, the opioid drugs, or opiates, act at these same receptors to produce both analgesia and undesirable side effects.

This article examines some of the recent findings about the opioid system, including interactions with other neurotransmitters, the location and existence of receptor subtypes, and how this information drives the search for better analgesics.

 

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