Why the Wizard of Oz?

Opioid receptors are vitally important but often misunderstood. We think of them as the mechanism activated by opioid pain medications to help reduce our sensation of pain. But that is actually a minor role for them. 

Opioid receptors help us to achieve a goal.

To do that, they give us motivation, energy, confidence, social connectedness, a warm and contented feeling and a sense of joy. 

When Dorothy and her friends emerged from the woods and saw beautiful Oz (and the opium-filled poppies), they were filled with these same emotions. They were energetic, excited and confident that they would soon be reaching their goal. These are all the feelings produced by our own endorphins acting on our opioid receptors. In this case, however, it was caused by the opium in the poppies. 

As with the opioid pain medications and heroin, that feeling is short lived and soon Dorothy, the cowardly lion, and Toto all begin to slow down and soon they cannot funtion. (Remember that the tin man and scarecrow were not affected as they are not mammals and do not have opioid receptors! The scarecrow doesn't even have a brain!)

Fortunately for Dorothy and her friends, Glenda (the good witch) comes to their rescue with snow! When Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the late 1800's, snow was - and still is - a nickname for cocaine. In those days, it was common to take opium or morphine and if too much was consumed, the overdose was reversed with cocaine! 

When we use opioids, they initially activate the opioid receptor and people feel good -whether taking them for pain or pleasure. Our bodies react to that by inactivating opioid receptors and soon robs us of those feelings. That is why people using opioids long-term have higher rates of depression, anxiety, isolation, and lack of pleasure. 

The opioid receptor is an important factor in having a happy life. We must learn to protect it.