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Painkillers: Numbing the Mind

The human body manufactures its own painkillers to ensure survival when injured. This program shows how opium and its derivatives, heroin and morphine, hijack that natural pain-numbing ability. Illustrating the brain’s ability to alter its own chemistry when attacked by drugs, the program depicts the process by which brain receptors become desensitized and thus addicted. Tranquilizers—and the potentially lifelong physical dependency and psychological problems they can cause—are also studied. The findings of Brigitte Kieffer, Marc Valleur, Martine Cador, Emiliana Borelli, Alain Ehrenberg, and the Strasbourg Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics are featured. (51 minutes)

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Historical Use of Opium
Opium, one of the world's oldest drugs, helps relieve pain and stress. The addictive practice of smoking opium was relatively uncommon until its legalization in the 19th Century. Opium and its derivative, heroin, were both banned after 1910.