People who use performance-enhancing drugs often view them as a temporary way to reach a target goal or get a competitive edge. For many, they do not consider themselves at risk for addiction because they don’t classify performance-enhancing drugs in the same category as they do “street drugs.”
The reality is, performance-enhancing drugs can be just as dangerous and habit forming as any other drug, legal or not. Once the fear of failure or decreased output combines with a growing physical dependency, the addiction is real.
The History of Performance-Enhancing Drugs
Believe it or not, the history of performance-enhancing drugs can be traced back to animal testicles. The most commonly used variety were dog, rabbit, sheep or guinea pig.
Since the time of the first Olympic Games (776 to 393 BC), people have been using performance-enhancing drugs. Ancient Greek athletes would consume concoctions of wine, hallucinogens and animal testicles.
Thousands of years later, these same animal parts were used in the creation of Charles Brown-Sequard’s “Elixir of Life.” Pud Galvin of the Pittsburg Alleghenies used the substance in 1889. Galvin went on to win while on the elixir and was publicly open about it.
At the time, The Washington Post used his win as an example for reporting on the success of the elixir. They also praised Galvin’s “resourcefulness” in the win.
It wasn’t until around 1933 that the word “doping” began to appear in sporting dictionaries. The origin of the word can be traced back to the Dutch word ‘doop,’ which is described as a viscous opium juice.
While Europe was becoming averse to the practice, it took America a few decades to catch up. The concept of doping to gain an edge did not become immoral in Western sport until the mid-1900s. Even then, the early efforts were on horse racing, rather than human sport.
Doping in American sports took off after World War II. Some soldiers had been introduced to amphetamines as a way to cope with the pressures of combat. Back then, amphetamines were not yet under any federal control, so the soldiers brought these drugs back to the clubhouse.
By the mid-1960s, amphetamines were popular in a number of sports, from cycling to track. They had also started to penetrate the locker rooms of American sports teams.
Although sporting leagues in concert with the Feds would eventually outlaw the drugs, early attempts at eliminating doping from sport were little more than half-hearted attempts to mitigate the bad press. It wasn’t until the end of the 20th Century that the problem had grown too large to ignore.
The “desire to win” has never gone away, especially in an era where how well one performs can be the difference between millions of dollars or the end of a career. This is why performance-enhancing drugs still exist to this day.
Types of Performance-Enhancing Drugs
While many automatically think of steroids when talking about doping, the reality is there are a wealth of different drugs used to enhance performance in various ways. There are several different types of performance-enhancing drugs that cause different reactions within the body.
Indeed, it is becoming more and more difficult for sport governing bodies to keep track of all the new drugs constantly hitting the market. Once a testing method for one drug has been perfected, another drug appears.
Here is a list of common performance-enhancing drugs, what they are used for and what their side effect profiles are:
|Anabolic steroids: Anabolic steroids are more commonly known as synthetic variants of testosterone. They are most commonly used to beef up muscle mass and increase strength, but also mimic natural functions that produce greater endurance. Although they’ve been around forever, that doesn’t make them any safer.
|Androstenedione: This synthetic compound is designed to give athletes greater endurance and stamina. It is almost identical to testosterone, but it is a synthetic variant. The goal with this substance is to be able to train harder and recover faster. Unfortunately, it also comes with some wicked side effects.
|Human Growth Hormone (HGH): HGH is generally only available by prescription and must be administered using injections. It is used to increase muscle mass, stamina and endurance. In regular people, it is used to treat cancer and aid babies born prematurely. HGH taken over a long period for athletic reasons can result in some serious health conditions.
|Erythropoietin: This synthetic chemical is taken by athletes to increase the muscle’s ability to absorb oxygen. Muscles with higher oxygen counts are quicker to respond and have greater longevity. Unfortunately, these drugs are not fun.
|Diuretics: Diuretics are used to change the body’s natural water and salt levels. Manipulating hydration is done to increase endurance, lower body weight or clean out the body before a drug test. The problem lies in the user’s inability to determine when they’ve taken too much.
|Creatine: Creatine is quite possibly one of the most popular performance-enhancing substances insport today. It is an over-the-counter medicine marketed to help the muscles release stored energy. Although this product is technically legal, it is not without danger.
|Stimulants: Stimulants are used with no regard for personal health. These powerful substances increase the user’s heart rate and blood pressure. They are taken to reduce fatigue and increase alertness. Strenuous activity combined with stimulant abuse makes for a dangerous combination.
While these substances represent the vanguard of performance-enhancing drugs, new variants are hitting the scene daily. As competitive sports evolve into even more intense affairs, expect doping to consistently remain a part of the sport scene.
Even so, a question remains: Can performance-enhancing drugs be addictive? Although they do not cause the same high as other drugs, their use is reinforcing and can still lead to addiction.
Performance-Enhancing Drugs Addiction
The root cause for most addiction lies in the release of dopamine from the brain. Drugs like heroin and cocaine cause a dopamine burst that gives the user a temporary sense of euphoria, hence “the high.”
While most performance-enhancing drugs don’t act on the brain the same way street drugs do, they still carry with them the danger of addiction. Once a person settles into an accepted routine, their physical actions become just as addicting as would a burst of chemicals within their brain.
The one exception to this rule is in the use of stimulants. Not only do these performance-enhancing drugs present physical dangers, but they act on the mind in much the same way “street” drugs do, in that they trigger a dopamine release that feeds into a potential addiction.
For many, the fear of failure or not meeting up to their own standards leads to the use and abuse of performance-enhancing drugs. Fortunately there are ways to spot and treat an addiction to performance-enhancing drugs.
How to Spot a Doping Addiction
There is a different type of acceptance for performance-enhancing drugs in modern culture. Someone who is addicted to heroin will be less inclined to bust out the needle and start shooting up in front of friends or family members.
However, for performance-enhancing drugs this may be an obvious sign. If someone is taking the substance more frequently or openly than they first stated, the onset of addiction is likely.
Signs of performance-enhancing drug addictions also include:
||Lack of focus|
Once an addiction to performance-enhancing drugs is isolated, it must be met head on with effective treatment protocols. As with any addiction, the user must first acknowledge their desire to change.
Once the desire is there, it is time to address the physical and mental symptoms. For those who have been addicted for some time and suffer with physical symptoms, professional medical help may be required. Mental health counselors or therapists may also be needed to address any mental health needs.
Withdrawals from performance-enhancing drugs can be just as difficult as those from “street” drugs. Whether it be physical or psychological, the symptoms are real.
Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms from quitting performance-enhancing drugs:
- Fatigue: After the body has been hopped up on foreign substances for energy, fatigue is one of the first things to set in. The body will need to re-discover natural ways of staying awake, but it will remain tired in the meantime.
- Decreased libido: One of the first things to go is a person’s sex drive. When one is feeling utterly miserable, the last thing on their mind is copulation.
- Anorexia: Keeping food down – especially while abusing stimulants – isn’t easy. Many performance-enhancing drug users report decreased appetite as a major withdrawal symptom.
- Depression: Depression is one of the main mental withdrawal symptoms. As you begin to revert back to your pre-doping form, your brain is convinced you’ve lost something, and depression can ensue.
No one wants to feel awful because they’ve been addicted to performance-enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, using these substances ruins lives.
Performance-Enhancing Drugs Ruin Lives
The pull of performance-enhancing drugs is just as strong in great athletes as it is in anyone else. Since the 2004 Olympics, adverse findings in athletes have almost doubled. Here are some more sobering statistics on doping in modern professional sports:
- Out of all sports, weightlifting, cycling and boxing have the most problems with performance-enhancing drug abuse.
- Over 20 percent of high school students say their decision to use steroids was influenced by professional athletes.
- A study completed in the 1970s revealed that 25 percent of German athletes who took anabolic steroids got some form of cancer. In females, the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth was 32 times higher than the normal population.
- There are a total of 192 banned substances in sports.
You don’t have to be a high-powered athlete to succumb to the pull of performance-enhancing drugs. College kids who need to stay up late to study are prime examples of doping for non-sport related purposes.
Are performance-enhancing drugs addictive? Yes. If you or a loved one is using performance-enhancing drugs to get a competitive edge, we can help. Our effective programs work regardless of the addictive substance being used. For more information on what we offer, contact 12 Keys today.