The neurotransmitters known as endorphins are a chemicals most commonly associated with their relationship to pain, and to a lesser extent feelings of well being. Rather than being one chemical, endorphins are a group of chemical compounds.
The endorphin group of chemicals includes:
The word endorphin itself comes from endogenous morphine, meaning morphine that is produced in the body. In fact, in the human body, endorphins bind to some of the same receptors as opioids do and suppress pain signals in a similar manner.
Endorphins can reduce pain and induce feelings of well being that are comparable to the effect of morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, or many other drugs classified as opioid agonists. Reduced levels can produce the opposite outcome.
Symptoms associated with low endorphin levels include:
--- Chronic Pain (of unknown cause).
--- Reduced Pain Tolerance.
--- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
--- Lethargy (lack of energy/enthusiasm).
People that experience low endorphin levels will be inclined to ingest alcohol, cannabis, opioids, or other drugs that reduce pain. Drug use is not limited to people with low endorphin levels, but it is natural for those experiencing pain to try to reduce it.
Endorphins are associated with physical pain, but emotional pain may also be an issue. Individuals that are emotionally sensitive, cry very easily, or take a long time to get over negative events, may have low endorphin levels that are a factor.
Low levels of endorphins are thought to be involved with Depersonalization Disorder (DPD), a mental illness that produces feelings of depersonalization and/or derealization. It is described as a feeling of disconnection from body, thoughts, or emotions.
Things that can reduce levels of endorphins include:
--- Chronic Pain.
--- Genetic Predisposition.
People who engage in self-harm (also referred to as self-mutilation or self-injury) may in part be doing so for the endorphins that are released. Common forms of self-harm include cutting, burning, scratching, banging, or hitting body parts.
These activities are often symptoms of underlying mental disturbances like anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, various personality disorders.
However, part of the reason at least some people carry out these activities is the release of endorphins that occur, and the subsequent feelings of calmness, peace, emotional and physical pain relief that endorphins produce.
Exercise is a natural way to release endorphins in the body. But if you are experiencing low levels of endorphins, you will probably be feeling pain that makes just moving around a difficult task. Exercise might seem out of the question.
One way to make exercise easier to accomplish is to have a drink or two, or ingest some other type of pain relieving drug, then get some exercise in when you start to feel the pain relieving properties start to take hold.
Even less strenuous exercise like walking at a good steady pace for an hour or two can do wonders. Some will feel the comforting flow of endorphins for hours after exercising. Pain might be a problem the next day though.
Acupuncture is an alternate natural method of increasing endorphin levels. For those whom it works, acupuncture allows the body to release its own endorphins and can result in a more balanced endorphin level.
Price can be a factor for those individuals who have limited funds and no health insurance coverage. They will have to cover the cost, which can be expensive, themselves. Finding a practitioner who knows what they are doing can also be an issue.
Another factor to consider is acupuncture can take time to start working properly. You may have to go back for multiple visits before you feel its full effect. There are people who will feel no benefit at all, regardless of the number of times it is performed.
Drugs that are classified as opioids are a method of introducing chemicals that have similar properties to endorphins to the body. The problem here is the potential for tolerance and addiction if these medications are consumed daily for any amount of time.
People who take them for pain are usually able to eliminate opioids from their lives when the pain is eliminated. Taken to supplement endorphins, they will be near impossible to quit, unless there is another method to duplicate their actions.
In time, you will probably require larger and larger doses. If you choose this route try to limit intake to once every 3-4 days, or less often, to limit or eliminate tolerance and addiction issues. Alternate with other methods of increasing endorphins.
Cannabis products like marijuana, hashish, or hash oil may be of benefit to certain individuals. When smoked, they can produce some analgesic effect, but when eaten they can produce analgesia equal to low doses of opioid pain medication.
Cannabis can be consumed daily with no worry about tolerance issues. Once you find a dose that works, needing larger and larger amounts doesn't happen. For a majority, addiction is not very serious even after decades of daily intake.
There may be some discomfort, but it is nothing in comparison to withdrawal from any type of really addictive drug. One possible problem is the dose size needed to produce pain reducing effect may get people high and interfere with the ability to function.
In some cases reduced caloric intake may raise endorphin levels. People that respond to it with increased endorphin levels may find naloxone, an opioid receptor antagonist (sometimes utilized to treat opioid overdose) can reduce food cravings.
Those who work to excess, have a sense of responsibility that is too strong, act like everything is time sensitive, may be able to reduce or eliminate these tendencies by increasing their level of endorphins or doing something that has a similar effect.
Endorphin deficiency syndrome (can be treated with low dose naltrexone) is the result of a lack of endorphins. In addition to pain, depression, other issues discussed, it includes thing like:
--- A weak immune system.
--- No endorphins from exercise.
--- Crying easily.
1 --- Endorphins are produced by the central nervous system (cns) and the pituitary gland. In humans, the pituitary gland is located at the bottom of the hypothalamus at the base of the brain. It is about the size of a pea and weighs about half a gram.