Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands of the kidneys. It can increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels, dilate pupils, increase sweating and breathing and inhibit digestion in the stomach and intestines.
The hormone is released in response to exercise or stress as part of the ‘fight or flight response’ to help the person fight or flee in times of danger. Energy is made available for instant use in threatening circumstances and this can prove life preserving.
However, prolonged stress can cause health problems and result in disorders such as immune system depression and infertility.
Adrenaline is also medicinal and is used in a drug formulation under the name epinephrine. Epinephrine is used in various medical situations, including:
Due to its ability to increase heart rate and blood pressure, it makes an excellent drug for regulating an irregular or arrested heart beat. It also narrows blood vessels which re-directs blood to vital organs and stimulates receptors that open airways, helping the person breathe.
It can be used to treat anaphylaxis caused by adverse drug reactions or food allergies. People with food allergies may carry epi pens with them to self-administer epinephrine in an emergency.
Epinephrine may also be used in injectable local anaesthetics such as lidocaine because it constricts blood vessels and therefore prolongs the action of anaesthetics.
It can also be used for:
Fainting due to heart block
Inhibition of uterine contractions.
Side-effects of Epinephrine
Side-effects include anxiety, headache, fear and palpitations. These are the same symptoms that can occur when the hormone adrenaline is released in the body.
It can also cause seizures, central nervous system depression and psychological effects such as hallucinations and paranoid schizophrenia. It may cause heart pain in people with heart disease.
It is currently the most effective drug for use in life-threatening situations.