The endogenous opioids are naturally occurring pep-tides that are the products of four known gene families. The gene responsible for the production of the endo-morphins, a new class of endogenous opioids, has yet to be identified. The enkephalins, the first opioid peptides identified, were first discovered in the brain and were therefore given the name enkephalin, which means from the head. The dynorphins were so named because they were thought to be dynamic endorphins, having a wide range of activities in the body, a hypothesis that has proved to be accurate.
The endogenous opioids have been implicated in the modulation of most of the critical functions of the body, including hormonal fluctuations, thermoregulation, mediation of stress and anxiety, production of analgesia, and development of opioid tolerance and dependence. The endogenous opioids maintain homeostasis, amplify signals from the periphery to the brain, and serve as neu-romodulators of the body's response to external stimuli. As such, the endogenous opioids are critical to the maintenance of health and a sense of well-being.
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