Is epinephrine the same as adrenaline?

It is very common in medicine and pharmacology to use terminology that can cause confusion. There are multiple reasons why it can happen, in most cases it depends on patents and the discoveries that are obtained in continuous research.

This is the case with adrenaline, which is also known as epinephrine. As a consequence, in some aspects of these sciences it becomes more popular to use one or the other term . The origin of both is explained below as well as what are their uses today.

History of both terms

The etymological origin of the term epinephrine is found in the Greek language. Specifically from the union of two words which are “epi” which means “on” and “nephros” which means “kidney”, plus the suffix “ina”. The term adrenaline comes from the Latin of the words “ad” which means “next to” and “renis” which means “kidney”, they also join “al” which is “relative to” and “ina” which is a suffix that is used to refer to substances that were obtained from natural sources.

Adrenaline and Epinephrine are considered valid terms to refer to the same chemical compound. The fact that this substance has two different names is due to the distinction made from some pharmacological patents. That is, in the case of the United States, USAN epinephrine is registered as a trade name for this drug, while in Great Britain the same drug is registered under the name of adrenaline BAN.

In medicine adrenaline is mentioned as the hormone and neurotransmitter , which is naturally led in the human body. Epinephrine is properly considered to be a substance that is obtained by being isolated from adrenaline.

The history of epinephrine begins in 1894 in the Physiology Laboratory of the College of London. Two practitioners named George Oliver and Edward Schäfer were preparing certain substances extracted from gland fluids in combination with some solvents and other substances. They realized that the substance resulting from this experiment had an effect on the blood vessels of the heart and skeletal muscle.

It would begin to be marketed for topical use as a hemostatic preparation. It caught the attention of Sigmund Fränkel who realized that this substance responded to the amine and the catechol structure. Later Otto von Fürth prepared a chelate with this substance plus iron which he called suprarenin.

The first time that this preparation was marketed under the name epinephrine was from the work carried out by John Abel from the United States. The choice of the name is in reference to the fact that it is obtained when it is isolated from the glands located on the kidneys.

However, it would not be until the year 1900 when it would begin to be commercially distributed with greater popularity. A responsible was Jokichi Takamine an industrial chemist from New Yersey. In 1901 the synthesis procedure was patented under the name of adrenaline. But also Thomas Aldrich in 1899 had achieved the synthesis of Epinephrine.

Already at the beginning of the 20th century, scientists from different branches of science referred to the same substance with the two terms. The World Health Organization takes the initiative to create an international name for medicines to avoid this type of confusion. The Recommended International Nonpropietary Name, whose acronym is r-INM, designates the official names for each drug that is commercially distributed.

Until now, both names are still considered valid, including other terms derived from demethylated forms such as norepinephrine and norepinephrine.

Are adrenaline and epinephrine the same?

Adrenaline and epinephrine are terms used to identify the same chemical substance. This means that both can be considered as the same element but nevertheless it is necessary to make certain dimensions. It acts as a hormone and also as a neurotransmitter that provide an immediate adrenergic effect once they are released in the body.

These two terms can be considered synonymous , however to be more precise within the pharmaceutical and medical fields there are relevant differences. In the case of pharmaceuticals, it is more common to hear the use of the word epinephrine in reference to injectable drugs that are distributed to treat allergies, for example. But you should also take into account other terms such as norepinephrine and norepinephrine that are also associated with this issue.

Chemically adrenaline and norepinephrine are substances that have certain functional differences and in their biosynthesis. The use of any of these terms is generally accepted when referring to injectable drugs, this is because they generate a very particular reaction in the body that cannot be compared with others.

Both are catecholamines which means that they can synthesize the amino acid tyrosine. However, a notable difference is that adrenaline is a hydrogen of the amino group that replaces the methyl group. Epinephrine has a methyl group (-CH3). 

The origin of these substances is produced from the adrenal glands , they are essential for the proper functioning of the sympathetic nervous system and the central nervous system. These chemical compounds have a biosynthesis that is characterized by a series of enzymatic reactions that originate from the amino acid L-tyrosine.

What are its applications?

Although today we know that the chemical structure of adrenaline is simple, in other times deciphering it was not so easy. Eventually significant progress has occurred in the techniques used in research within the field of organic chemistry .

Investigations carried out in 1903 in Germany led by Friedrich Stolz and Henry Dakin made it possible to identify its chemical structure. As a result, a ketone preparation from epinephrine was marketed, it was marketed as a hemostatic and nasal decongestant.

It is important to clarify that the adrenaline obtained by synthesis has half the power , compared to that obtained from the adrenal glands. However, this is a problem that has been solved by synthesizing the acid salt of tartaric acid to obtain a methanol solution.

The main use of adrenaline is for the treatment of asthma, it is the most effective alternative after atropine is used. It is administered during asthmatic attacks, but also for the chronic treatment of asthma and rhinitis. It continues to be valid as a hemostatic in surgeries, because it allows control of bleeding.

When administered intravenously, it helps to control cardiac arrest, however, its effect on peripheral vasoconstriction that causes a drop in blood pressure must be taken into account .

The increase in the frequency of the heartbeat is possible due to vasoconstriction, also the respiratory system is benefited by the dilation of the airways . The increased flow of blood and oxygen prepares the major muscles for eventual danger or stress. Also this is a situation that influences metabolism.

Naturally during a risky situation or of considerable stress an adrenergic response is activated . As a consequence, it is observed that at the physiological level or the central nervous system begins to send signals through the sympathetic nervous system. They will target all organs and also the adrenal glands, it is there where the production and release of adrenaline has its origin. It is subsequently released into the bloodstream.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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