, Volume 21, Issue 11, pp 1469-1488
Date: 21 Mar 2013

Opioid receptors: Some perspectives from early studies of their role in normal physiology, stress responsivity, and in specific addictive diseases

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Abstract

The early history of research on the possible existence of specific opioid receptors and on developing a new form of pharmacotherapy for the treatment of heroin addiction in New York City, from 1960–1973, along with the special relationships between two leading scientists conducting these research efforts, Dr. Eric Simon and Dr. Vincent P. Dole Jr., are presented in a historical perspective. The linkage of these early efforts and the subsequent identification and the elucidation of the effects of exogenous opiates acting at specific opiate receptors in human physiology, including some findings from perspective studies of heroin addicts at time of entry to and during methadone maintenance treatment, are presented in the context of the important clues which thereby were provided concerning the possible roles of the endogenous opioids in normal mammalian physiology. From many of these early clinical research findings and studies in animal models, the hypothesis that the endogenous opioids system may play an important role in stress responsivity was formulated along with the related hypothesis, first presented in the early 1970s, that an atypical responsivity to stress and stressors might be involved in the acquisition and persistence of, and relapse to specific addictive diseases, including heroin addiction, cocaine dependency and alcoholism. More recent studies of the possible involvement of the specific opioid receptors in these three addictive diseases—heroin addiction, cocaine addiction and alcoholism—from our laboratory are discussed in a historical perspective of the development of these ideas from the early research findings of not only Dr. Eric Simon, but his numerous colleagues in opioid research in the United States and throughout the world.

Special issue dedicated to Dr. Eric J. Simon.