Eli5: Coevolution?


Did animals coevolve with different substance in order to gain neurological receptors for them? Hence us having opiate receptors, tetrahydrocannabinol receptors etc?

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No, animal organisms use these receptors for their internal regulation, e.g. opiate receptors are used in a reward system which pushes the animal behavior towards doing things which are good for the procreation of its genes – like having sex, eating nutritious food and so on. Plants like opium poppy produce some substances for their own purposes (like defense against parasites), and the effect of these substances on the animal brain receptors is a coincidence.

Opioids are naturally produced by our body, hence why opioid receptors exist. the THC receptor usually binds proteins that are also naturally present in out brain, it just so happens that they also bind THC. It’s a mistake to assume that, just because we have a receptor in our body that binds a certain molecule, that’s its “purpose”.