Effectiveness-boosting medications: Know the challenges

Hoping to get a aggressive edge by getting performance-boosting medications? Understand how these medications work and how they can have an affect on your overall health.

By Mayo Clinic Staff members

Most significant athletes will convey to you that the drive to gain is fierce. Other than the pleasure of private accomplishment, athletes frequently pursue desires of successful a medal for their state or securing a spot on a qualified group. In these an ecosystem, the use of performance-boosting medications has turn into increasingly common.

But applying performance-boosting medications (doping) has challenges. Choose the time to discover about the opportunity positive aspects, the overall health challenges and the a lot of unknowns about so-called performance-boosting medications these as anabolic steroids, androstenedione, human advancement hormone, erythropoietin, diuretics, creatine and stimulants. You could determine that the positive aspects usually are not really worth the challenges.

Anabolic steroids

What are they?

Some athletes consider a type of steroids — known as anabolic-androgenic steroids or just anabolic steroids — to enhance their muscle mass and strength. The primary anabolic steroid hormone manufactured by your body is testosterone.

Testosterone has two primary outcomes on your body:

  • Anabolic outcomes boost muscle constructing.
  • Androgenic outcomes are accountable for male qualities, these as facial hair and a deeper voice.

Some athletes consider straight testosterone to enhance their performance. The anabolic steroids utilized by athletes are frequently artificial modifications of testosterone.

These hormones have accredited health care works by using. But improving upon athletic performance just isn’t 1 of them.

Why are these medications so pleasing to athletes? Other than building muscles even larger, anabolic steroids could lessen the muscle damage that happens all through a challenging training, supporting athletes recover from the session far more speedily and enabling them to work out tougher and far more routinely. Some athletes, as effectively as nonathletes, could like the muscular look they get when they consider the medications.

Designer steroids

A particularly hazardous class of anabolic steroids are the so-called designer medications — artificial steroids that have been illicitly established to be undetectable by latest drug tests. They are made particularly for athletes and have no accredited health care use. Because of this, they have not been examined or accredited by the Foods and Drug Administration (Fda) and characterize a unique overall health risk to athletes.


Several athletes consider anabolic steroids at doses that are considerably bigger than those recommended for health care explanations. Anabolic steroids have significant bodily facet outcomes.

Men could produce:

  • Well known breasts
  • Shrunken testicles
  • Infertility
  • Prostate gland enlargement

Women could produce:

  • A deeper voice, which could be irreversible
  • An enlarged clitoris, which could be irreversible
  • Increased body hair
  • Baldness, which could be irreversible
  • Rare or absent intervals

The two men and gals may experience:

  • Critical zits
  • Increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture
  • Liver abnormalities and tumors
  • Increased minimal-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
  • Diminished significant-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “superior” cholesterol
  • High blood stress (hypertension)
  • Heart and blood circulation difficulties
  • Aggressive behaviors, rage or violence
  • Psychiatric issues, these as melancholy
  • Drug dependence
  • Infections or diseases these as HIV or hepatitis if you’re injecting the medications
  • Inhibited advancement and development, and risk of long run overall health difficulties in young people

Having anabolic-androgenic steroids to boost athletic performance is prohibited by most athletics companies — and it really is illegal. In the earlier 20 several years, far more-helpful law enforcement in the United States has pushed considerably of the illegal steroid field into the black current market.

This poses additional overall health challenges mainly because the medications are possibly made in other nations and smuggled in or made in clandestine labs in the United States. Either way, they usually are not subject matter to authorities security benchmarks and could be impure or mislabeled.


What is it?

Androstenedione (andro) is a hormone manufactured by the adrenal glands, ovaries and testes. It is a hormone which is commonly converted to testosterone and a type of estrogen (estradiol) in the two men and gals.

Andro is obtainable lawfully only by prescription and is a managed compound. Its use as a performance-boosting drug is illegal in the United States.

Suppliers and bodybuilding publications tout andro’s potential to allow athletes to train tougher and recover far more speedily. Scientific experiments that refute these promises present that supplemental androstenedione does not enhance testosterone and that your muscles will not get more robust with andro use.


Aspect outcomes of andro in men incorporate:

  • Pimples
  • Diminished sperm manufacturing
  • Shrinking of the testicles
  • Enlargement of the breasts

In gals, facet outcomes incorporate:

  • Pimples
  • Masculinization, these as deepening of the voice and male-sample baldness

In the two men and gals, andro can damage the coronary heart and blood vessels, growing the risk of coronary heart assault and stroke.

Human advancement hormone

What is it?

Human advancement hormone is a hormone that has an anabolic result. Athletes consider it to boost muscle mass and performance. Nonetheless, it hasn’t been shown conclusively to boost possibly strength or endurance.

Human advancement hormone is obtainable only by prescription and is administered by injection.


Adverse outcomes linked to human advancement hormone selection in severity and could incorporate:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle mass weakness
  • Fluid retention
  • Diabetic issues
  • Eyesight difficulties
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Impaired glucose regulation
  • Enlarged coronary heart (cardiomegaly)
  • High blood stress (hypertension)


What is it?

Erythropoietin is a style of hormone utilized to handle anemia in individuals with serious kidney sickness. It improves manufacturing of pink blood cells and hemoglobin — the protein that carries oxygen to your body’s organs.

Having erythropoietin enhances the motion of oxygen to the muscles. Epoetin, a artificial type of erythropoietin, is typically utilized by endurance athletes.


Erythropoietin use among the aggressive cyclists was common in the 1990s and allegedly contributed to at minimum eighteen deaths. Inappropriate use of erythropoietin could enhance the risk of stroke, coronary heart assault and blockage in an artery in the lung (pulmonary embolism).


What are they?

Diuretics are medications that adjust your body’s natural balance of fluids and salts (electrolytes), which can guide to dehydration. This loss of drinking water can lower an athlete’s weight, which a lot of athletes prefer. Diuretics could also help athletes move drug tests by diluting their urine and are in some cases referred to as a “masking” agent.


Diuretics taken at any dose, even medically advised doses, predispose athletes to adverse outcomes these as:

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle mass cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Potassium deficiency
  • Fall in blood stress
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Loss of life


What is it?

Several athletes consider dietary supplements as a substitute of or in addition to performance-boosting medications. Nutritional supplements are obtainable over-the-counter as powders or drugs. Creatine monohydrate is a supplement which is well-liked among the athletes.

Creatine is a the natural way taking place compound manufactured by your body that allows your muscles launch vitality. Scientific investigation suggests that creatine could have some athletic advantage by manufacturing little gains in brief-expression bursts of energy.

Creatine appears to help muscles make far more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which outlets and transports vitality in cells, and is utilized for fast bursts of exercise, these as weightlifting or sprinting. But you will find no proof that creatine improves performance in cardio or endurance athletics.


Probable facet outcomes of creatine that can lower athletic performance incorporate:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle mass cramps
  • Bodyweight get

Bodyweight get is sought by athletes who want to enhance their sizing. But with extended creatine use, weight get is far more possible the final result of drinking water retention than an enhance in muscle mass. Water is drawn into your muscle tissue, absent from other components of your body, putting you at risk of dehydration.

It appears risk-free for grownups to use creatine at the doses advised by companies. But there are no experiments investigating the prolonged-expression positive aspects and challenges of creatine supplementation.


What are they?

Some athletes use stimulants to stimulate the central nervous system and enhance coronary heart price and blood stress.

Stimulants can:

  • Make improvements to endurance
  • Decrease tiredness
  • Suppress appetite
  • Improve alertness and aggressiveness

Widespread stimulants incorporate caffeine and amphetamines. Chilly treatments frequently have the stimulants ephedrine or pseudoephedrine hydrochloride.

Power beverages, which are well-liked among the a lot of athletes, frequently have significant doses of caffeine and other stimulants. The avenue medications cocaine and methamphetamine also are stimulants.


Although stimulants can enhance bodily performance and boost aggressiveness on the discipline, they have facet outcomes that can impair athletic performance, which include:

  • Nervousness and irritability, which make it challenging to focus on the recreation
  • Insomnia, which can avert an athlete from finding wanted snooze
  • Dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Habit or tolerance, indicating that athletes need to have bigger quantities to obtain the desired result, so they are going to consider doses that are considerably bigger than the supposed health care dose

Other facet outcomes incorporate:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Bodyweight loss
  • Tremors
  • Delicate significant blood stress (hypertension)
  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Heart assault and other circulatory difficulties

The base line

Do performance-boosting medications enhance performance? Some athletes could surface to obtain bodily gains from these medications, but at what price tag?

The prolonged-expression outcomes of performance-boosting medications have not been rigorously analyzed. And brief-expression positive aspects are tempered by a lot of challenges. Not to point out that doping is prohibited by most athletics companies.

No issue how you seem at it, applying performance-boosting medications is risky business enterprise.