Chapter 2 Blog 2: Getting High: The Adrenaline Surge

Brazilian Footballer

Relief and comfort are two of the key attractions inherent to any addiction, and one that ultimately sustains an addiction. The relief and comfort derived and attained from the addiction keeps us tied and dependent to the substance, the person, or the behaviour. It will be one of the factors that keep us coming back time and time again to the addiction we are dependent upon.

Relief and comfort are components of what is generally termed in addiction as the high. All addiction, whether it is addiction to drugs, gambling, flirting, coffee and caffeine products, internet use, watching sports or working late at night has a high. Relief is the outcome of the addiction’s attempt to attend to the needs and concerns of anxiety. Adrenaline is the ultimate prize.

Adrenaline is a hormone that is released when we are in a fight or flight situation. Its purpose is to provide a surge of energy into our system to ensure survival. When we are in a survival situation, the adrenal glands release adrenaline into the blood stream. When adrenaline is in our system we may run faster than we have ever run before, or we may feel the strength and courage to fight off an aggressor. Adrenaline can also create the clarity needed to instantly see the bigger picture of the situation we may be involved in, enabling us to make choices or take risks necessary for our survival which we would never ordinarily make.

When survival is threatened adrenaline surges to a peak. Every organ, hormone, and nutrient in the body becomes focused on survival. Alongside the huge urge to fly the scene, or in some cases, to fight the aggressor, a heightened level of creativity emerges ready for use as needed. This creativity can result in the most lucid and monumentally brilliant moments. It may urge the climber hanging for his life from a mountain ledge but tangled in a rope to take his glasses off and undo the most knotted part of the rope by magnifying the sun through his glasses and burning a portion of the rope, allowing him to swing freely to the freedom of the ledge. It may urge the yachtsman drifting out to sea to fix a dead radio when he has never looked at a circuit board in his life.

Adrenaline will be released into our system as a result of:

  1. Being on a hunt.
  2. Attaining a goal.
  3. The emotional system sensing danger and/or there is a life threatening situation.

Adrenaline is particularly active in sports. A football team’s sole intention is to win points by getting the ball into the end-zone. The prime goal of basketball and soccer teams is to put the ball in the net. For the golfer, it is putting the ball in the final hole either ahead of his or her personal handicap, or ahead of the other players she or he may be competing against. For the racing car driver, it is driving at the fastest speed possible or driving at a speed that exceeds his competitors.

All of these sports players and teams are on a hunt, where the hunt is focused upon a specific goal. With regards to adrenaline use there is little difference between any one of these sport situations and the hunter who hunts wild beasts for food. As the hunter hunts, the adrenals glands release adrenaline into his body, giving him the clarity of mind to examine the terrain and scan for signs of his ultimate goal, the animal he is hunting. As well, adrenaline provides the alertness he needs to be primed to chase, to pounce, to throw the spear or to aim and shoot the arrow or gun.

Greater quantities of adrenaline need to be released into the system where or when there is danger. If the hunter is hunting so called big game where there is a greater risk of the animal charging and ultimately killing him, he is going to need a greater surge of adrenaline compared to the hunter hunting deer who is exposed to less danger. The big game hunter needs to draw from adrenaline for the extra clarity, awareness, alertness and reflexes to fly the scene if it becomes necessary to do so.

The hunt – whether the hunt is the soccer, football, or the basketball player hunting for the end-zone, basket or goal, or the hunter seeking meat – will always release adrenaline. In Brazil, soccer games have been known to be attended by crowds of over one hundred thousand. The thousands of home supporters, those watching the game on television, the owners of the soccer franchise, the management and coaching staff, and the soccer players themselves are each hoping for one thing, and one thing only – that the team will score goals, enough goals that they outscore their opponents and win the game. Until that is achieved, and that outcome is known, there is a tension and alertness in every dedicated watching supporter, each one holding the question, will my team win, or will my team not win? All are on the hunt, along with the team they support. All will experience the adrenaline of the hunt.

Then when the team the crowd supports scores the decisive goal, two things are experienced by every supporter in and out of the stands: relief of the tension of not knowing the outcome and the relief from achieving the goal everyone has been hoping for and invested in. As well, all experience a surge or a rush of adrenaline from the team achieving the goal and outcome all were invested in. The hunters have found their mark, they have made their kill.

When the goal is scored that wins the game, when adrenaline is released in each of the players and supporters, everyone feels a profound sense of accomplishment. They feel happy, full of energy and life. All feel the relief from the tension of knowing what they want the outcome to be, but not knowing whether that outcome will be realized. The players feel greater confidence and strength in themselves and their winning abilities, the supporters too have more confidence in their team. They may even feel fearless. One young soccer player, after scoring the goal that won the game, putting his team on top of his soccer league, was quoted as saying, “We fear no team.” This is adrenaline talk. The adrenaline rush creates elation, strength and a confidence that can stay with players and supporters alike long after the winning goal is scored. The adrenaline rush may last the rest of the day, into the night and well into the next day and for many days after that.