Chasing the dragon: Understanding the science behind adrenaline junkies

Make no mistake, adrenaline is a drug; It’s highly addictive, you always want more, and every rush has to be a little bigger, and little better than the last. If you don’t think so, ask Kyle. Some of his first words after he was actually able to speak again were about attempting the same jump that damn near landed him in a coffin just a week before.

It doesn’t matter. He’ll try it again because he has to; it’s in his blood, literally. Most of us will have such a hard time understanding that. If we were hurt badly doing something, why would we ever want to do that again?

When adrenaline is released under acute stress several things happen to our bodies very rapidly. Our heart rate increases, our lungs expand for more oxygen, our muscles are sent extra blood, and our pupils dilate. All of this happens in a mere seconds as the adrenaline rushes from your adrenal gland into your bloodstream.

This reaction can only be produced when your body feels is under acute stress. So, if you are afraid of heights and you stand on your roof and walk slowly to the edge, you might feel the effect of adrenaline as you inch closer. But if you stood on your roof every day and walked to the edge for a few months, you would become used to it, and eventually your adrenal gland would stop emitting for that alone.

That means you would have to go bigger, go badder, and harder than before in order to get that same high. This time, you’d have to stand on the edge and jump up and down. After a few months of that, you might have to try a handstand.

Once your adrenaline is released, your pituitary gland releases endorphins and cortisol, which is a steroid hormone. You literally become high on the adrenaline and endorphins and the cortisol gives your metabolic rate a boost, giving you more long term energy.

In short, you’re high. They high achieved is not a result of synthetic chemicals produced in lab or even worse, some greasy dude’s bathtub. It comes directly from your body and there’s no way to achieve it on demand, you have to get your body to release it. The only way to do that is from real acute stress.

Enter the extreme sports enthusiasts like Kyle or Scummy Morrison. These guys felt the rush at a young age and wanted to go back for more, for one more high, for one last chance at completing something the rest of us would think to be impossible.

That’s part of it, too. When the rest of us our burying our head in our hands, barely able to peek through our fingers, they’re eyes are wide open, soaring through the sky, turning the impossible into a recordable feat; turning a mere mortal man into a superhero before our eyes. Just like Kyle.

It’s just that instead of wearing a cape he’s riding a Kawasaki.

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