In this article for Discover Magazine, I dive into all the ways your own body can make you feel good. From endogenous opioids to dopamine and serotonin, I explore the effects, interactions and limits of a menagerie of chemicals. And it’s not as simple as “dopamine makes you feel good.” These endogenous chemicals can produce surprisingly subtle effects, especially when they work together. What can these chemicals tell us about the causes of “runner’s high?” How much of the effect might be placebo? And where, exactly, should we draw that line?
Long before we humans discovered the blissful effects of cannabis or the addictive sleep of morphine, our distant evolutionary ancestors were already evolving complex internal systems for regulating pain and managing mood. When we use, or abuse, drugs that activate these receptors, we’re tapping into systems that have already been humming along for millions of years, serving up relaxation and dampening agony when we need help the most.
Read my full article at Discover Magazine.