Performance Enhancing Drugs

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What are Performance Enhancing Drugs?

Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are the substances or agents that enhance any form of activity in the body. These are mainly popular in teenagers, athletes, and bodybuilders for different reasons. The individuals consume these drugs to bring about desired changes in body composition and ultimately increased performance. Performance-enhancing drugs may enhance performance by affecting the body in different ways, such as enlarging muscles or increasing the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity.

Individuals use performance-enhancing drugs for a variety of reasons. Some of the circumstances are:
  • When a person has body image insecurity
  • When a person is under pressure to make a strong team or aims to get a competitive edge
  • Desire to gain muscle mass or strength
  • Negative tendency to compare one's appearance with others
Although, the use of any PED is specifically considered illegal and is known as doping, it is still consumed by many individuals. The WADA (World Anti-doping Agency) Code prohibits substances, which meet any of the following criteria:
  • Enhance performance (cheating)
  • Harmful to health (safety)
  • Violate the spirit of sport (unsporting)
This code imposes strict liability on individual athletes with a positive anti-doping test or those found consuming sports enhancing drugs.

What are the Types of Performance Enhancing Drugs?

The types of performance enhancing drugs can be grouped as follows:
Nutritional supplements

Creatine is a very popular nutritional supplement used by adolescents and athletes. It is a non-essential nutrient that helps in the production of ATP or energy. According to a study performed on adolescents studying in grade levels 6th to 12th, it was noted that 75 % of them used these drugs with an intention to have an improved sports performance. It has also been shown to enhance performance in exercises involving high intensity.

Anabolic drugs or steroids (synthetic derivatives of testosterone) - Anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of the male sex hormone, testosterone. The main function of this hormone is to synthesize a protein that builds additional muscle size and increase strength. These steroids are generally consumed in dosages that exceed the body's natural production.
Steroid precursors such as androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are substances, which the body converts into anabolic steroids. They are used to increase muscle mass in the body.

Stimulants - CNS stimulants increase heart rate and blood pressure. They are used to reduce tiredness and fatigue, and increase alertness, concentration, and competitiveness in individuals. The examples include amphetamines, caffeine, ephedrine, cocaine, and some other sympathomimetic drugs. They have ergolytic effects, which result in increased physical energy and mental aptitude. They come under the category of sports enhancing drugs. Studies have revealed that amphetamine shows positive effects on the ATPŠ\CP, lactic acid, and oxygen energy systems. Caffeine is used in beverages, soft drinks, and in pill forms and is effective for sports such as tennis and team sports requiring prolonged activity. Many athletes also use cocaine which is highly addictive.

Nootropics - Nootropics are used more as pre-workout supplements. Professional athletes use this as a wakefulness-promoting agent in order to increase power output. These agents enhance performance by increasing alertness, ramping up motivation and improving stamina. Examples of nootropics include modafinil, phenibut, and adrafinil.

Human growth hormone - Human growth hormone (hGH) is an endogenous hormone which is produced by the pituitary gland. It is helpful in increasing the linear growth of an individual. It is known to be used by many individuals for increasing their height.
Erythropoietin - It is also used as a PED and is more often consumed by cyclists and endurance athletes. Erythropoietin consumption increases production of red blood cells, which in turns leads to increased oxygen delivery to muscles. Lance Armstrong, the American former professional road racing cyclist is known to have been under the influence of this drug during his cycling career.

Masking Agents - Masking agents are drugs or compounds that are taken in order to mask or hide the presence of specific illegal drugs that are being screened for athletic drug testing. Masking agents have the potential to impair the presence of banned substances in the urine. The most common masking agents include diuretics, epitestosterone, probenecid and plasma volume expanders. For example, when athletes take exogenous testosterone, then epitestosterone is also consumed in conjunction with testosterone to mask it.

Types of Performance Enhancing Drugs

What are the Benefits of Performance Enhancing Drugs?

PEDs may offer numerous benefits to competitors or athletes in sports. Benefits can include increasing strength, speed, or endurance (through ergogenic drugs) or by altering body weight or body composition. These drugs may also improve performance by causing changes in behavior, arousal level, or perception of pain.

Some most common benefits are enlisted below:

Increased muscle strength and body size - Studies reveal that athletes who use anabolic steroids get larger and stronger muscles. The results show that anabolic steroids help in strength training in steroid taking groups by increasing muscle size by both hypertrophy (increased size) and the formation of new muscle fibers. The administration of anabolic androgen steroids induces sustained morphological changes in human skeletal muscle, leading to enhancement in physical performance.
Increased healing rate - Studies state that there is a well-recognized interrelationship between hormones, nutrition, and wound healing rate. Exogenous administration of anabolic hormones stimulates the healing process through their anabolic and anti-catabolic actions. Wound healing requires restoration or improvement in net protein synthesis, which is completely offered by these agents.

Health benefits - The PEDs are generally designed to promote health, in order to impart positive effects. For example, they can reduce inflammation caused by allergies or certain sickness. They also have beneficial effects on quality of life and improved physical functioning.

What are the Risks involved in consuming Performance Enhancing Drugs?

Although PEDs offer numerous health benefits that PEDs, they can also result in reduced athletic ability. They may show positive effects in the short term, but these effects may become negative in the long term. Like most other drugs, PEDs also have side effects. Doping or substance abuse for a long period can result in increased cholesterol levels, liver damage, mood swings, hypertension, aggressive behavior, irregular heartbeat and other cardiovascular problems.

Risks Involved in Consuming Performance Enhancing Drugs

Side Effects of Using CNS Stimulants

1. Use of Amphetamines

Amphetamines induce drug dependence making the person psychotic, aggressive, and antisocial. Withdrawal of amphetamines is also associated with mental and physical depression. The major side effects include confusion, delirium, sweating, palpitations, and dilation of the pupil, vomiting and angina. Long-term administration of amphetamine is associated with myocardial pathology and growth retardation in adolescents.

2. Use of cocaine

Cocaine is more addictive than amphetamine and individuals consuming increasingly higher doses may go into a state of irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and paranoia.

Many athletes who misuse cocaine also have negative effects such as perceptual misjudgments and time disorientation.

3. Use of ephedrine

Ephedrine use also leads to negative effects including appetite suppression, nervousness, anxiety, dizziness, vertigo and headache.

Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids

Some of the commonly observed side effects that are associated with long-term steroid use are increased body hair, male-pattern baldness, excessive aggression and stimulation of the sebaceous glands leading to acne production. Steroid use also increases the risk of some medical conditions (elevated cholesterol and triglycerides). In women, some of the masculine effects from steroids are seen, which may become permanent. Steroid use by adolescent males may prematurely arrest linear bone growth, resulting in short height.

Side Effects of Creatine

Adverse effects related to creatine use include weight gain, water retention, gastrointestinal cramping, fatigue, and diarrhea.

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