I usually see adrenaline shots used in films when someone is having an overdose, a massive allergic reaction or something. It’s portrayed like a magic shot that saves people’s lives when they’re steps away from dying. But what does it actually do, and what are it’s limitations?
Adrenaline is epinephrine. This is a hormone that your adrenal glands produce. It has a lot of effects, the main ones being: can expand your airways, constrict blood vessels, increase blood pressure, increase heart rate, and increase how well the heart squeezes. Because of the many things it can do, it can be used in multiple situations.
The big situations epinephrine is used are anaphylaxis, shock states, and cardiac arrests.
In anaphylaxis, you have a severe allergic reaction to something and your body releases chemicals that dilate your blood vessels and constrict your airway. The reaction is so strong that it can stop you from breathing and can tank your blood pressure. Epinephrine can reverse the effects of anaphylaxis.
In cardiac arrest, you heart has stopped beating. A few old studies in medicine show a small increase in reviving somebody if you give them epinephrine. We still use it in arrests because of this.
Shock is a little more complicated of a situation. The gist is that there are different situations that can drop your blood pressure so low that you can’t get blood to your body appropriately. Epinephrine will increase the blood pressure by constricting your blood vessels.
There are problems with epinephrine. One of the bigger ones is that because it constricts your blood vessels, areas that are less important to your body get decreased blood flow to them which can lead to necrosis of body parts. If someone has been on epinephrine for days, you’ll start seeing their fingers and toes turning black because the blood vessels are so constricted that blood isn’t getting to the extremities. Another big problem is the stress it places on the body. You don’t want to use epinephrine willy-nilly because it increases your risk of death. That is why the only uses of epinephrine are in life threatening situations.
Adrenaline shots are epinephrine. Its a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs which can reverse severe low blood pressure, severe skin itching, hives, and other symptoms of an allergic reaction. Dont know all the limitations, but I know you can’t use epipens on anyone under like 20lbs.
As far as ODing, adrenaline WILL restart a heart, potentially, but boosting your body with that much doubles the likelihood of brain damage. Like I mentioned above, it constricts blood vessels, making it easier for your heart to pump blood when it’s restarted, but smaller tubes means less oxygen getting carried to the brain.
Its also way more than your body would normally use at once.