Opiates and opioid peptides affect many different physiological systems. As well as having well-known analgesic and behavioral properties, opioids can affect neuroendocrine function and, depending on the specific hormonal axis, stimulate or inhibit the release of hypothalamic releasing factors and pituitary and target gland hormones. Opiates have important uses in clinical medicine, and altering the hormonal milieu can have pathophysiological consequences by affecting reproductive and immune function, growth, and development, as well as disrupting circadian rhythms and the responses to stressors. For example, opiates used during surgery as part of balanced anesthesia may alter the stress response to surgery, and the response to other stressors may be altered in individuals taking opiates for the treatment of pain, individuals abusing opiates, or those on methadone maintenance for the treatment of opiate dependence. In addition, because opiates are subject to abuse, their effects on neuroendocrine systems can contribute to the adverse sequelae of drug exposure. Aside from the clinical implications of opiate-induced changes in neuroenÂ docrine function, these responses can be used as a functional response to study the underlying mechanisms of drug action. Although researchers have been studying the effects of opiate alkaloids on neuroendocrine function for several decades,
Annual Review of Pharmacology and Toxicology – Annual Reviews
Published: Apr 1, 1993
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