Adrenaline is our friend! It’s one of those hormones that flood our bodies when we severely injure ourselves, feel afraid, or do strenuous exercise. It’s known as “the fight or flight hormone” (along with some help from norepinephrine and dopamine). And it’s interchangeably referred to as adrenaline or epinephrine.
But what happens when too much pours into our bloodstream? We DIE! And that makes for a very interesting method of murder and can become the basis of a dramatic murder scene in writing.
We’ve all experienced an adrenaline rush in some form or another. From whatever cause, when our adrenal glands pump adrenaline (epinephrine) into our bloodstream, we experience: 1) a noticeable increase in strength, 2) no feeling of pain, 3) heightened senses, 4) a sudden burst of energy, and 5) our breathing and heart rate increases.
Such symptoms of extra adrenaline in our bodies may be in response to extreme fear, a life-threatening trauma (either to ourselves or others), or as a result of competitive sports participation. It helps us think clearly, react rapidly and appropriately, and dulls pain when needed. This experience is known as an “adrenergic storm” and is the basis of the fight or flight reaction.
Adrenaline, as an epinephrine drug, also treats severe allergic reactions since the drug narrows blood vessels to raise falling blood pressure. It also opens airway passages that may be constricted with associated wheezing. And there are auto-injectors available for people who may experience such allergic reactions.
The drug is readily available in an intramuscular auto-injector mechanism as an adult dose of 0.3mg (the 1:1000 strength). Since I have asthma, I carry around an injector. I’ve not used it for an asthmatic episode, but I did use it once while experiencing a rather dramatic reaction to an antibiotic.
An overdose of adrenaline (epinephrine) flooding into our bodies can be LETHAL. At times, we’ve seen news reports of medical professionals mistakenly administering a wrong dose of epinephrine and killing the patient.
There are also reports of people using epinephrine as a weapon of murder! And the consequences of an epinephrine overdose can lead to complete cardiac arrest.
Initially, there’s a rapid onset of agitation, blood pressure spikes, the heart beats fast and irregular, slurred speech and confusion ensue, sometimes a severe headache is experienced—and then the person cascades into either a cerebral hemorrhage or cardiac arrhythmias prior to death.
Treatments to prevent the fatal outcome include administration of benzodiazepines and beta-blocker drugs, but administration should be timely since epinephrine acts rapidly, especially if it is given intravenously.
So, with a readily available source, rapid onset and a deadly outcome, adrenaline could easily transition from friend to foe and provide an interesting murder weapon. And it should create a rather dramatic murder scene involving either your protagonist or antagonist.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
Those symptoms sound very much like the reaction of a smitten young man to meeting a beautiful young woman, the subject of his attention. (Hey, my adrenalin pump may have slowed down a tad, but I can still remember that far back!) Great article, James. Thanks.
You make me smile . . .and also remember those days! Thanks for your entertaining comments. They’re always appreciated!
My son is experiencing Adrenaline Storms lately, and it’s a real nightmare. He is autistic, non-verbal, and can’t tell us what he is passing through ! He starts hyperventilating and attacks us with a huge violence. We are trying to understand this better and a doctor has prescribed an alpha-adrenergic blocker (Zyprexa), but we are still struggling against this disease.
My heart goes out to you and your family with this disease. Thanks for your comments.
Hi James – great article (and site), thanks. I’m currently working on a book, and this is exactly how my murderer did the deed…!
I’m glad that my blog could offer further insight into this subject. The best of luck in creating a fabulous book.
I like Luke above am attempting to write a book in which Adrenaline is the murder weapon. My question is, how hard is it to detect as a “murder weapon”? In order to solve the murder I need the information so that it seems realistic and not far fetched like some of the stupid TV shows you see all the time.
Thanks for your time.
Well, an overdose of adrenaline certainly would leave some clinical evidence behind in the victim’s blood. There would be telltale signs of excessive adrenaline in the body and probably a good medical examiner would be able to find the point of entry (a needle mark) somewhere on the body. However, I’m sure an imaginative writer could divert such evidence away from a cleaver fictional villain and possibly mutilate the body at the point of entry to prevent detection of a needle mark. The best of luck in plotting and writing your story.
Adrenaline overdose was the method used to kill in Million Dollar Baby
I didn’t know that. I might have to watch the film to see how that was handled. Thanks for your comments.
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Thanks for sharing!
Can we say it takes more than a half day to cause fatal effects to occur? So that they can be saved in cases of overdose
Thanks for sharing!