Sauna use, depression and addiction — the dynorphin thermoregulatory connection | Roland Griffiths

[Rhonda]: I know you’ve done a little bit
of work on Salvinorin A, and it’s not something I’m so familiar with so much as the kappa-opioid
pathway. A good friend of mine, Sheba Meucci [SP],
had told me a little bit about the Salvinorin A pathway. He was doing some literature reading on it
some years ago for whatever reason, and so how it came into my awareness. And he was telling me about how agonism of
the kappa-opioid receptor had a feedback loop effect where it actually caused mu-opioid
receptors which bind to beta-endorphins to become more sensitized to the endorphins. And so I read up on this, checked the literature
and references, and found that indeed the agonism of it does actually cause mu-opioid
receptors to become sensitized to endorphins and I thought that was very interesting. Around the same time, I started getting into
using the sauna, so heat stress. And I started to notice…so when I was in
graduate school, I was very stressed out, lots of pressure, failed experiments, and
exams. And so I started using the sauna a lot before
I’d go into the lab and I noticed that there was a very profound effect on my brain because
I started to be able to handle stress better. My anxiety was lower. I felt good, and these were lasting effects. I felt good days later. And so I started reading about what’s going
on here. I started reading about heat stress, and I
came across the dynorphin pathway which is an endogenous opioid that we make in our brains,
sort of the counter to endorphin because it sort of makes you feel dysphoric rather than
euphoric. And then I started reading about how dynorphin
actually is a part of the…both endorphin and dynorphin are part of the thermoregulatory
pathway. So dynorphin actually cools the body down. And when your body heats up, you increase
dynorphin to cool it down. It’s sort of a response mechanism. So when you’re sitting in a hot sauna or when
you’re working out really vigorously and you feel that sort of uncomfortable heat where
you’re like, “Oh, I want to stop. I feel…” I think that’s probably dynorphin. So dynorphin binds to the kappa-opioid receptor
which then sensitizes the mu-opioid receptors. So now, I was thinking, well, maybe some of
these lasting effects from the sauna were mediated through that. Of course, that’s all anecdotal. I mean, I know some of the biochemistry is
out there, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily been shown, but that’s how I became really
interested in that pathway, my sort of personal story. And then I started reading somewhere, someone
sent me some article about people that were addicted to…I think it was opioid, prescription
opioid. They were being treated by giving them the
sauna as a detox, “detox,” which I don’t know if that’s actually legitimate. But I started thinking about possible, maybe
there’s some truth to it by resetting the mu-opioid receptor pathway or something. So I just thought that was something very
interesting that maybe I could send you some of the studies if you’re interested in seeing
some of those. [Roland]: Yeah, yeah. I’d be interested in that

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