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Worldwide, opioids are the most common cause of drug related deaths.
But others are exogenous, meaning that they come from the environment, like heroin and morphine, which come from the opium poppy—a flowering plant that oozes a milky white liquid—while others like fentanyl are synthesized in the laboratory.
To understand how opioids work, let’s zoom into a region of the brain tissue that has opioid receptors.
Normally, in the absence of endorphins, inhibitory neurons secrete a neurotransmitter that prevents nearby neurons from releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Now, let’s say someone goes to play a rigorous game of badminton.
Exercise releases endorphins which activate the three major opioid receptors located on the inhibitory neurons, called the mu, kappa, and delta receptors.
The dopamine then gets picked up by a third neuron in the same area.
Opioid dependence is a medical condition characterized by compulsive use of opioids despite knowing the underlying danger, and developing withdrawal syndrome when opioid use stops. Opioids include drugs like morphine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc. The treatment for opioid dependence involves a combination of therapy and medications, with support from family and friends.
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