Archive for August, 2008

Adrenaline and Endorphins

August 5, 2008

Endorphin & Adrenalin

Endorphin: The true opiate of the brain

Endorphins are known as the neurotransmitters of pleasure. The reason: we are dealing in fact with natural opiates. The effects of these are the same as those of synthetic opiates such as heroin, morphine, and cannabis, but without the harmful side effects. They are produced in the interior of the brain, within the hypothalamus, and its receptors are spread throughout the body. When we suffer from an injury or from pain, endorphins are released into the blood stream which act as analgesics. Furthermore, they have a positive euphoric effect on a person’s disposition. Endorphins are released in great quantities during many pleasurable moments; for example, during sex (especially during orgasm), during extreme sports, when we listen to good music or when we eat chocolate.

Furthermore, studies have shown that intense exercise, even a brisk thirty second run or a series of repetitions with weights can elevate the levels of endorphins within the bloodstream seven times than that of normal sedentary levels measured over several hours.


Adrenalin is associated with positive stress. During a short-term crisis, stress reaction can be beneficial, but harmful during prolonged situations. The first phase of stress reaction is initiated with the stimulation of the senses, which transmit information via the nervous system to the thalamus where the sensory information is organized. The information reaches the cerebral cortex as perception and the limbic system as sensory information. Based on the information that is received the joint cerebral cortex limbic system is formed. If the information received indicates danger, the cortex will activate fear within the limbic system.
The heart responds with speed, which makes more blood flow to the muscles and brain. Other asociate hormones induce vascular constriction, which accelerates blood flow, and fear causes coldness in the extremities accompanied by sweating producing the “cold sweat.”

The Combination of Both:

During intensive muscular activities, such as weight lifting, endorphin levels rise but there is no significant influence of adrenaline since there is no connection to the fight or flight response (stress reaction). On the other hand, with Internet games, we do have these elevated levels of adrenaline since the fight or flight reaction is the dominant of these types of games.

We know that endorphins are capable of lowering stress and causing pleasurable sensations similar to opiates but in a natural and healthy way. The enthusiasm of the adrenaline combined with the introduction of endorphins in the blood stream combine euphoria with pleasure, competitive enthusiasm with relaxation due to the elevated levels of endorphin which will not allow the game to continue beyond healthy time limits while the stress will make weightlifting have the stimulating component they lack for being routine.

We can then conclude that the combination of endorphin and adrenaline will provoke a healthy addiction to physical activity. This will practically eliminate the negative effects of prolonged stress (information overload syndrome) since its benefits will be reached through the synergy of physical and psychological.

I can’t seem to get enough bicycle time anymore. In the past month I’ve also taken up a jogging/calisthentics workout 3 or four mornings a week, and tennis thrice. This in an effort to replace all the exercise I exerted just living day to day in Belize. I believe myself to be healthily addicted.  This morning, as I was returning from a cycling foray {to replace a canceled tennis session}, I got a healthy dose of adrenaline as adjunct to my streaming endorphins. The bright red truck ahead of me, donning Yucatan plates, signalled a right turn going into the intersection. We were both racing to beat the yellow light. All the streets here in Merida are one way, and as it turns out, his was the wrong one. So he’s halfway into the turn, with me on his tailgate. And then here he is, back in my lane! Adrenaline rush. Yes, I cursed him at the time, but had forgotten the whole incident a block later, as the endorphin stream continued to roll.

Cycling has always done this for me, probably even as far back as my childhood days. Running does it too, but is much more taxing to the body–joints and such. I’ll continue to do both as long as my body lets me. Out on the bike, I feel invincible. I like to ride fast, with the traffic. I sometimes try to reel myself back in on both counts, with little effect. Maybe I am invincible when in that psychological space. There are places I won’t ride. The road to Progresso is one of them; a suicide run, in my opinion. And I like to stay out of the extreme city center, and anywhere else that a lot of buses tend to congregate. I tend to be at my most aggressive when dealing with city buses–probably not a healthy thing. But they bring it out in me, so I try and keep clear when i can. Generally though, Merida and its surrounds is THE most bicycle friendly location I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding through, including many parts of the US, Belize, Guatemala and Canada. I’ve seen places in Nicaragua an Nova Scotia I’d like to try out someday though.

I’ve been told by some that it’s a heinous crime to hit a bicycle with a car, here in Mexico, and that makes me tend toward more aggressive riding.  And then I’ve been told that it’s everyone for himself out there on the road.  The one thing NOBODY wants is for the police to show up.  Except maybe the more damaged party.

I don’t want to alarm anyone out there.  All you endorphin/adrenaline junkies can relate though, I’m sure.  We all do what we need to do to get through the day.  Some need heroin, or marijuana, or alcohol, or coffee.  I need endorphins and adrenaline.  And coffee.  In Belize, my adrenaline level was naturally heightened by the ever present fear of the tommygoff, a deadly snake which is quite common in that area.  I hardly put my foot down without having scanned the immediate area first.  I find this sort of acquisition preferable to that.