Pert explained why humans get addicted to opiates.
She discovered the receptor in the human body to which opiates attach, fitting like a hand in a glove and allowing both for the calming of pain and the addiction to the substance produced by the opium poppy.
Her research and discoveries have never been more timely than they are today, amid a nationwide opiate epidemic.
Great quote from the story: “God presumably did not put an opiate receptor in our brains so that we could ultimately discover how to get high with opium,” Pert told Smithsonian magazine.
Still it was others who discovered the reason for the receptors: substances produced naturally by the human body — endorphins — that reduce pain and produce euphoria when they attach to the receptors.
Utterly fascinating, I think, that one plant, alone in all that we know of nature, produces a molecule that fits so perfectly onto this receptor in humans.
For this reason, one unseen particle, the morphine molecule, produces both heaven and hell — the most merciful pain relief and most harrowing enslavement — in the planet’s dominant mammal.
We are seeing the effects of this all across the United States, from rural America to the wealthiest suburbs.
It appears from Maugh’s obituary that Pert was largely blunted in her research by male researchers above her, then had most of the recognition usurped by those same men.