Norepinephrine’s Role in Impulse, Anxiety and Addiction

Norepinephrine’s Role in Impulse, Anxiety and Addiction

The brain and body are controlled by various neurotransmitters and hormones that are released throughout the nervous system. Norepinephrine acts as both a neurotransmitter within the brain and a hormone within the body; healthy levels of it are essential to normal functioning. When people experience high levels of stress, norepinephrine has an essential role in a person’s ability to protect herself from a perceived threat. This reaction is often referred to as the fight or flight response, which means a person’s impulses kick in and enable her to fight the situation or flee from it. During a fight or flight response, norepinephrine is released into the brain and body to increase their functioning. Whether a person flees or fights, her body will require greater abilities for her to succeed.

Dr. Neil F. Neimark explains more about the role of norepinephrine in the fight or flight response. Norepinephrine and noradrenaline are interchangeable terms, as they both refer to the neurotransmitter and stress hormone. When the fight or flight response is activated, norepinephrine causes a sudden and drastic change in the mind and body, which enables someone to have heightened senses. A person’s heart rate increases and blood flow is redirected to muscles and limbs to prepare him for heightened activity. Blood is actually redirected from digestive systems, which the body does not need during fighting or fleeing.

Norepinephrine increases awareness and alertness, and it also quickens impulses. This chemical also increases the amount of oxygen that goes to the brain, which enables someone to think both clearer and faster. The increased blood flow helps muscles work faster and more efficiently. Blood sugar is also increased, which gives the muscles something to feed on as they work harder. In response to this powerful chemical, the body and mind become better prepared to fight or flee.

Norepinephrine can also cause hyper arousal when the level of norepinephrine in the brain or body is too high. Jacquelyn Jeanty of eHow explains that hyper arousal can cause someone to experience prolonged states of anxiety and irritability. When abnormally high levels of norepinephrine are continuously present, a person may develop anxiety disorders or experience a more severe panic attack.

Just as high levels of norepinephrine can cause anxiety, low levels of norepinephrine can lead to depression. When depression or anxiety occurs due to abnormal neurotransmitter and hormone functioning, people or more likely to seek out an immediate solution to their emotions in the form of drugs or alcohol. People who struggle with depression may turn to a stimulating substance or an alcoholic beverage to drown their debilitating symptoms. Conversely, someone who suffers from anxiety may utilize a depressant to calm down. The drugs trigger a pleasure and reward system; as long as they produce these desired effects, a person is more likely to continue abusing the substance to self-medicate her symptoms. Eventually, the process of drug abuse in response to pain leads to addiction, and this issue causes more severe problems then the initial depression or anxiety.

Drug and alcohol addiction completely take over a person’s life and cause him to engage in abnormal behavior to maintain his substance abuse habits. People are more prone to violence, theft and risky sexual behavior when they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. These behaviors can lead to significant loss in all areas of life, including finances, friends, family, employment, health and possessions.

Abnormal norepinephrine levels may also cause a development of a mental disorder that can co-occur with a substance abuse problem like addiction. Professional treatment is essential to overcome drug addiction and see real improvements in personal health and wellbeing.

Professional treatment services vary depending on location and type of treatment desired. There are addiction treatment services that emphasize a basic, primal treatment approach that involves camping and being out in nature. Other treatment services provide luxury living quarters and spa-like treatment to help the body heal from substance abuse.

Whichever type of treatment an addict chooses, rehab is essential for people to learn to cope with daily stressors without alcohol or drug abuse. Treatment providers teach recovering addicts how to overcome anxiety and depression in healthier, more natural ways. Rehab will also equip recovering addicts with several techniques for avoiding or overcoming relapse triggers. In other words, you can get and stay clean from drug abuse if you have professional support.

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