The Effects of Performance Enhancing Drugs on Athletes
The risks of taking performance -enhancing drugs to improve an athletes’ performance outweighs the benefits. Along with the fact that all performance-enhancing drugs are illegal to use in sports, there are also serious side effects and addiction risks to the drugs. Athletes may choose from a variety of drugs and each may achieve different benefits. However, most of the time, athletes are uneducated in their decision to take the drugs, which can cause short term and long-term problems.
Athletes may choose from many different types of performance enhancing drugs. Anabolic steroids are the most common performance-enhancing drug used by athletes. Anabolic steroids are synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone (Drug Enforcement Administration). Athletes use steroids to increase strength and promote tissue growth which increases muscle mass (Hoffman). The biggest benefit from using anabolic steroids is that they allow the athlete to train harder and have a quicker recovery (Hoffman). Designer steroids are another form of steroids that has been created specifically for athletes to be undetectable in drug testing. These steroids have not been approved or even tested by the Food and Drug Administration so the risks are unknown (Mayo Clinic Staff).
Diuretics and stimulants are two more classes of drugs that athletes may use to enhance performance. Diuretics are used to help rid the body of salt and water (Monroe 5). Athletes take diuretics to decrease their weight and enable them to compete in specific events or to dilute their urine in order to pass a drug test (Mayo Clinic Staff). Stimulants are sometimes used to stimulate the central nervous system, which can help an athlete improve their endurance, reduce fatigue, and suppress their appetite (Mayo Clinic Staff). Athletes take stimulants because they can get a quick boost to improve their physical performance.
Taking performance-enhancing drugs can have serious behavioral and/or physical side effects. Anabolic steroids have both behavioral and physical side effects. Some of the side effects go away once the user stops taking steroids. However, there are some side effects that may be permanent such as stunted growth in adolescent users (“Dangers”). Steroids may cause an increase in aggressive behavior as well as impaired judgment and feeling invincible (“Steroids (Anabolic)”). Serious psychiatric dysfunctions are linked to taking steroids. This includes paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, and delusions. Some physical side effects of using steroids are head baldness and increased hair on the body (“Dangers”). Acne on the back is one of the biggest signs that someone is a user (Hoffman). Since steroids supply the body with testosterone, the body does not make its own testosterone anymore. This causes testicles to shrink and may cause a reduction in sperm (Hoffman). Steroids also increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol (Mayo Clinic Staff). Risk of having a stroke is greater for steroid users (“Dangers”). Steroids can be lethal to anyone having a mental or cardiovascular disease (Hoffman). Athletes take anabolic steroids at higher doses than a doctor would prescribe for medical purposes, which makes it easy to become addicted (“Dangers”). Abusers have increased risk of heart attacks, coronary disease, liver damage, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure, prostate cancer, and death (“Dangers”). Withdrawing from steroids has additional risks, which include; mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, loss of appetite, and depression that may lead to suicide attempts (“Steroids (Anabolic)”).
Taking diuretics and stimulants do not have as many serious side effects as steroids. However, there are still serious side effects involved with these drugs as well. Diuretic side effect risks are dehydration, muscle cramps, exhaustion, and dizziness (Monroe 5,6). Other serious side effects include heart arrhythmias and drop in blood pressure (Monroe 6). Stimulant side effect risks are dehydration, heat stroke, insomnia, tumors, weight loss, hallucinations, and convulsions (Mayo Clinic Staff).
Using any type of performance-enhancing drugs in organized sports by an athlete is strictly prohibited. Therefore, athletes who take these drugs are doing so on their own and not in a clinical setting. Athletes get their information on what drugs to take from other users, not from doctors
(Hoffman). They tend to take doses that are much higher than what a doctor would prescribe for a medical reason. Many use a “stacking dose” to achieve greater benefits and they are uneducated on what side effects may occur (“Steroids (Anabolic)”).
Not only are anabolic steroids illegal for use in sports, they are illegal for anyone to have unless prescribed by a doctor for medical reasons. In 1991, Congress placed the anabolic steroid class of drugs into the Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)(Drug Enforcement Administration). Just having possession of these types of drugs carry a minimum of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine (Drug Enforcement Administration). Since anabolic steroids are illegal, the industry has been pushed into the “black market”. Some of the street names used for anabolic steroids are; juice, gym candy, pumpers, and stackers (“Steroids (Anabolic)”). Black market steroids are usually smuggled in from Mexico and European countries because a prescription is not required to purchase steroids in these countries (Drug Enforcement Administration). Less often, steroids are made in clandestine labs. This poses yet another risk because the drugs can be impure or mislabeled (Mayo Clinic Staff). A user may not even know for certain what they are putting into their body.
In conclusion, there are many risks that an athlete takes if they choose to use performance-enhancing drugs. Athletes are not under medical supervision. They are uneducated in the proper dosage amounts, behavioral side effects, physical side effects, and addiction risks. Performance-enhancing drugs are prohibited for use in sports. The International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association, and many other professional sports leagues have banned the use of steroids by athletes, because of the potential side effects and because they give the user an unfair competitive advantage (Drug Enforcement Administration). Therefore, the risks that athlete’s take in using performance-enhancing drugs to improve their performance is not worth the short-term benefits.