Saturday, October 20, 2018

medical explanations for relevant things: heroin

by sam atkins campbell (writer), San Francisco, April 04, 2007

Heroin. heroin is like morphine for the brain, literally. the ultra relaxed mental state depicted in movies like Trainspotting is your brain going limp. when morphine acts on the body, pain sensations are dulled as endorphins are released. similarly, when heroin enters the brain, it binds with opioid receptors and eventually releases endorphins (the body's "natural pain killer").

The end effect is something like your brain going numb, just like with morphine.

This phenomenon of similarity can be explained chemically. chemically, heroin and morphine are similar. morphine has two hydroxyl groups (-OH) whereas heroin has two acetyl groups (-COCH3). this difference, however, makes heroin more lipid soluble. Lipid soluble molecules (like heroin)pass more easily through the blood-brain barrier.

Once in the brain, a change takes place. enzymes in the cerebrospinal fluid remove the acetyl groups from heroin and change it into morphine.

Our brain knows what it wants. not to say that it's trying to go on a trip, but the change from heroin to morphine once again makes the drug less lipid soluble and therefore the newly-minted morphine actually gets trapped in the brain. wow, you say. i know.

About the Writer

sam atkins campbell is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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