The Chemical Day

I’ve just read an interesting part in Professor David Nutt’s book ‘Drugs, without the hot air – minimising the harms of legal and illegal drugs’. It takes you through a typical day of a mythical character called Ben, a clean living boy who takes no drugs, not even caffeine, showing what chemicals in the brain do which jobs through the day… fascinating.

To quote:

“As he wakes up and gets out of bed, glutamate is released, kickstarting his body’s transition into being awake. He drives into work, getting stuck in traffic; it’s really important he’s on time today, and his brain is flooded with noradrenaline as he becomes angry and stressed at the thought of being late. When he gets to work, it turns out his boss is late as well so he isn’t in trouble after all, and a rise in serotonin levels makes him feel better. As lunchtime approaches, there’s a dip in his cholecystokinin which makes him feel hungry, so he goes to the canteen and his cholecystokinin level rises again as he eats.

After lunch he gives an important presentation, which his boss is really pleased with, and his being congratulated causes the release of the reward chemicals endorphins and dopamine. On the way home he has an argument on the phone with his wife, and his serotonin drops making him feel miserable, but after going for a run his endorphin levels go up and he feels a lot happier. While making dinner to apologise, he cuts his finger and endocannabinoids and endorphins help numb the pain. As night falls, adenosine builds up in the brain, glutamate falls and GABA levels rise, making him feel tired and ready for sleep.”

The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs website:

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