What are the differences between the idea of adrenaline to the world of medicine and the idea of adrenaline to an adrenaline junkie? I wanted to find out, so I spoke to medical student, Tom, in his fifth year of studying medicine, as well as doing some research about what adrenaline means to those with a thrill-seeking personality and a keenness for dangerous sports.
What is adrenaline?
Adrenaline, AKA Epinephrine in the US, is a hormone that is produced in two glands situated just above the kidneys known as the adrenal glands.
The adrenaline rush is all part of the high level of risk or drama. A typical adrenaline junkie is usually associated with extreme sports, for example, auto racing, skydiving and bungee jumping. These adrenaline junkies often face a real possibility of serious injury or even death but these activities also provoke that adrenaline rush that the junkies are so famous for loving. You need courage and a risk-taking personality.
What does it do?
Adrenaline plays a number of different roles in the body but I’ll focus on it as an integral part of something called the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is an adaptation in humans whereby, in the presence of threat, the body prepares itself to react: to fight or to flee. In the past, when man was regularly subject to life or death situations, the response was essential for our survival. Using a good old fashioned example, we can highlight the response at work:
It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon and you’re taking a casual stroll through the woods (in Canada) when you happen to come across a grizzly bear. This situation requires a response, and quick. The body needs to be primed to act; it is vital that your muscles are ready to work with the upmost power and efficiency. By the action of adrenaline, and other hormones, this can occur. Your heart beats faster, your lungs inhale more oxygen, stored energy is released and more blood is delivered to your muscles. All of this is so that you’re as ready as you can be to kick the hell out of the bear or run for your life!
It’s a sensation of feeling fully alive; adrenaline junkies are ‘thriving’ and ‘striving’ and have a craving for thrilling adventures. While this is true, an adrenaline rush can wear off after a time and is addictive. Some adrenaline junkies don’t necessarily risk their lives in extreme sports but, instead, fill their lives with drama and conflict. For example, an adrenaline junkie can feel an adrenaline rush from manufactured stress instead of jumping out of a plane!
Tom concluded by stating, ?Life isn’t so tough these days; we don’t depend on our old friend, ‘fight or flight’, any more. Because of this, we miss out on our regular hit of adrenaline, making some people desperately search for the elusive adrenaline rush by partaking in dangerous activities and much more.”
So, ultimately, the medical side of things shows that adrenaline rushes can be explained in more ways than just a thrill but rather the technical explanation of exactly what happens in our body. Adrenaline can be our friend, triggering our instincts for survival, while it can also be the enemy when it comes to those who seek its rush, putting their lives in danger or just causing unnecessary drama.