Look at the graphic on page 69. Close your eyes and picture anandamide being constructed in your brain’s synapses and being sent to inflammatory cells to shut off the inflammation. Anandamide serves many functions in the body, working on cannabinoid receptors. One of its main functions is to control local inflammatory responses started by nerve cells that are firing on their own, in a process known as Long Term Potentiation (LTP). Anandamide is quickly constructed in synaptic spaces and rapidly reduces the release of inflammatory cytokine molecules. This sets off a chain reaction and results in the shut down of long term potentiation. In this way, anandamide is a major modifier of persistent pain.
If modifying pain this way was all that anandamide did, it would be a very valuable tool in our molecular toolbox, but it does so much more. It is known as an endocannabinoid and modifies everything from mood to appetite, sleep to wakefulness, pain to anti-inflammation. Remarkably short-lived, anandamide does its job and then quickly breaks down into its chemical components, waiting for it’s next call to duty.
Anandamide stimulates the brain in its pleasure centers and creates a state of bliss. In fact the person who discovered this molecule named it Anandamide, because in the ancient Sanskrit language Ananda means Bliss. There is a great overlap in pleasure and pain circuits. When pleasure molecules such as anandamide are released, they dominate pain chemistry. Consciously pursuing the experience of pleasure and happiness is a wonderful way to counteract pain.