Adrenaline And Epinephrine
Everyone has heard or used one of the references in their life, but what is adrenaline, where does it come from, and how is it used and abused by people?
What Is Adrenaline And Where Is It Produced In The Body
Adrenaline is a hormone released by the adrenal glands at the top of each kidney. Adrenal glands are responsible for producing hormones including aldosterone, cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
Adrenaline, also called epinephrine, is a chemical messenger that transmits signals to different organs, forcing them to behave in a certain way.
The adrenal glands are controlled by the pituitary gland located in the brain. The pituitary gland is no larger than a pea and is located at the base of the brain, attached to the hypothalamus.
When you’re scared, angry, or startled, adrenaline is quickly disbursed into your bloodstream. This is commonly called an ‘adrenaline rush’ because it happens so fast and feels incredibly good.
Adrenaline is what primes your body to ‘fight or flight’ in a confronting situation. Stressful situations can also trigger adrenaline to be released, such as an interview for a new job, or finding yourself in an unfamiliar environment or situation you need to navigate safely.
Adrenaline in the form of epinephrine is also used in autoinjector devices for people having anaphylactic reactions who require immediate First Aid.
Unfortunately, like any drug that produces a high, it can be abused and cause significant organ damage and death.
What Does Adrenaline Do To A Person
The role of adrenaline is to make your heart beat faster and your lung function exchange more efficient by allowing the lungs to expand and breathe in extra oxygen to enrich blood cells allowing them to carry the adrenaline compound around the body more effectively.
This amazing chemical causes the blood vessels to widen, allowing more blood to the brain and muscles, increases the acuteness of your senses to potential danger, and raises sugar levels in the blood to give you a burst of energy referred to as the ‘adrenaline hit’.
Adrenaline is the chemical that gives people superhuman abilities in an emergency or crisis situation, like a mother lifting a car off a child trapped beneath or running for your life over a distance you normally couldn’t run unless it meant ‘literally’ saving your life. Adrenaline has a long list of accolades to its credit when it comes to what powers it gives the body and allows it to achieve in times of crisis.
It also rewards the brain and body when you are undertaking a physical activity that is scary or potentially fatal in nature. Skydiving is the perfect example of a reward-based adrenaline rush and why people become addicted to having risky, even potentially fatal adventures in order to feel that rush.
Epinephrine Abuse Is A Growing Problem In Youth
The term Adrenaline Junkie is familiar to most people when referring to a group of people who live for the thrills and danger that produce the ‘adrenaline hit’ that creates an adrenaline rush creating a temporary high.
Adrenaline, while a naturally occurring chemical in the body, can become addictive. People have been known to abuse adrenaline in the form of epinephrine to obtain a manufactured high without leaving the house and engaging in risky behaviour.
Epinephrine is injected directly into the vein via a needle or an IV cannula access port. It can also be found in Autoinjectors used as First Aid to treat anaphylactic reactions.
Like any drug of addiction, the more you use it, the larger the dose you need to deliver the next adrenaline rush. The body can only produce so much and can only handle so much before damage to your vital organs occurs. Prolonged use of adrenaline or epinephrine can result in death.
What Happens To The Body During An Adrenaline Rush
Imagine you are out riding your bike in the woods, and out of nowhere, you are being chased by a hungry Grizzly bear that wants to eat you.
Your heartbeat will skyrocket, and you will hear the blood pounding in your ears like you are standing beside the speaker at a rock concert. The adrenaline will flood your system, telling you to either stand and fight or flee as fast as you can. You will begin to sweat profusely from places you didn’t know sweat was possible and decide that cycling away in a burst of speed you didn’t think was possible by human leg power is the only option.
Amazingly, you make it out of the Grizzly’s domain and reach safety. As fast as your body produces the adrenaline rush to fuel your burst of superhuman speed, it will cease production and return to normal when the brain recognises it is safe.
The release of adrenaline into the bloodstream triggers several responses, including but not limited to:
- A decreased perception of pain
- An expansion of airways in the lungs
- Rapid breathing
- Dilation of the pupils
- An increase in heart rate
- An increase in blood pressure
- Sweating in the skin
- A heightening of the senses
- Preparation of the muscles for sudden physical exertion
What Is Epinephrine Used For In First Aid
Adrenaline isn’t just used by the body as a reward for facing danger or ‘fight and flight instincts.
In medicine, adrenaline is manufactured as epinephrine and used to combat some medical conditions like heart attack and anaphylactic shock. When someone is allergic to something to a severe degree, the body can’t tolerate the allergen, and the person enters a state of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can result in death without the administration of epinephrine and possibly CPR.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency requiring immediate hospitalisation and attending emergency services by dialling 000 in Australia and asking for an ambulance.
Epinephrine Abuse And Organ Damage
A person’s adrenaline addiction and turn to abuse without undertaking any of the stereotypical activities. The need for an adrenaline hit can manifest in everyday life in a variety of mundane ways and can result in potentially hazardous situations without a person consciously realising they are seeking the rush, and in some people intentionally seeking the thrill.
- Behaving aggressively and picking fights with people
- Lying or manipulating others for personal satisfaction and gain
- Creating drama and conflict in the workplace and then stepping back to watch it play out
- Driving at excess speed, hooliganism, road rage
- Drink driving
- Stealing, vandalism, arson, or intentionally damaging property
- Mixing alcohol and drugs with known dangerous interactions to see what happens.
First Aid Using Adrenaline Pens And Autoinjectors
First Aid for epinephrine is limited and applies to the use of Epi-Pens and autoinjectors in the event of someone entering a state of anaphylaxis. Instructions on correctly using an autoinjector pen can be found on the web and in the instructions on the side of the device itself.
Booking yourself onto a First Aid course with an accredited, registered training organisation like FACE is guaranteed to see you gain certification in First Aid and CPR that is nationally recognised. Check out our FACE Home page and use the easy-to-navigate toggles to find the course and venue of your choice. At the same time, check out our Blog page and read up on a range of topics to broaden your current knowledge base.