Endorphins are opioids that are produced by the body itself. The name "endorphin" comes from "endogenous morphine".
Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus during strenuous exercise, excitement, and orgasm. A substance that has been shown to stimulate endorphin release is Capsaicin, the active chemical in red chili peppers.
Endorphin mechanisms were first discovered in 1975 and are still not very well understood.
The term endorphin rush has been adopted in popular speech to refer to feelings of exhilaration brought on by pain, danger, or other forms of stress, supposedly due to the influence of endorphins. When a nerve impulse reaches the spinal cord, endorphins are released which prevent nerve cells from releasing more pain signals. Endorphins allow someone to immediately after injury feel a sense of power and control over themselves which allows them to persist with activity for an extended time.
Another widely publicized effect of endorphin production is the so-called "runner's high", which is said to occur when strenuous exercise takes a person over a threshold that activates endorphin production. Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. This also corresponds with the time that muscles use up their stored glycogen. Workouts that are most likely to produce endorphins include running, swimming, cross-country skiing, long distance rowing, bicycling, weight lifting, aerobics, or playing a sport such as soccer, basketball, rugby, lacrosse, or American football.
Scientific doubts have arisen whether the "runner's high" effect comes from endorphin release or from other mechanisms such as a release of anandamide.
Endorphins and spanking
Among BDSMers and spankophiles, it is assumed that the phenomenon known as subspace, headspace, flying, or floating, is the result of a release of endorphins, enkephalins and epinephrine (adrenaline). This can explain the trance-like state with a considerably increased pain tolerance, up to a peak level where no more pain is felt at all.
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