Part 2: High Off Life

Fact: Human saliva contains a painkiller more powerful than heroin.

Turns out you don’t need a snake bite to get high: human saliva contains a compound – called opiorphin – which were found to be 6 times more potent at blocking pain than morphine.

This compound is not itself an opiod, but chemically inhibits a number of enzymes in the body which are responsible for the breakdown of enkephalins. Enkephalins are a range of compounds similar to morphine which are released as part of the body’s natural response to pain and block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Thus, a build up these compounds, driven by the action of opiorphin, has a similar effect to that of morphine.

General consensus is that opiorphin is unlikely to be important in blocking pain in normal life, since pain is an essential danger signal for the body to direct responses, but that doesn’t stop us using it as a painkiller in therapy or as an excuse to pull five times in one night.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license, taken from


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