Recently, the public has heard a great deal about performance enhancing drugs, but many people may not know about these compounds or their side effects. A variety of drugs are used to increase the speed, strength and endurance of athletes.
Who Uses Performance Enhancing Drugs? Professional athletes generally use performance-enhancing drugs when the competitive environment is so stressful that they feel they must increase their abilities artificially. However, even amateur athletes may also test the drugs’ effects on their performance. Athletes in many different areas have been found to use these drugs, including cyclists, runners, boxers, baseball, football, rowers, cross-country skiers, bodybuilders and those involved in biathlon and triathlon events.
Anabolic Steroids: Anabolic steroids are the synthetic derivative compounds of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone. They aid in retaining dietary protein that goes to the muscles. Many people take these steroids not only for athletic performance, but also to look more masculine and to feel more energetic. Anabolic steroids can be taken orally or through injections. The oral form can be highly toxic to the liver. Anabolic steroids have many side effects, including shrinking of the testicles in men, breast development, impotence and reduced sperm production. In women, these drugs can cause reduction of breast size, growth of facial hair, menstrual cycle irregularities and a deepened voice. Other side effects include bloating, acne, weakened tendons, weight gain, liver problems, blood-clotting problems and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. They can cause mood and behavior changes.
Androstenedione: Yet another compound used widely by athletes for its performance enhancing effects is androstenedione. It is produced by the adrenal glands and acts as the precursor to the production of the male and female hormones, testosterone and estrogen. It can increase strength, sex drive and sense of wellbeing. However, because it can raise levels of both testosterone and estrogen, it can have numerous hormonal side effects, such as facial hair growth in women, acne, aggressiveness and hair loss in men. It may also contribute to the growth of prostate cancers.
Human Growth Hormone: Human growth hormone, or HGH, is naturally produced by the pituitary gland. It aids growth in children and adolescents and help to regulate the body’s bone growth, muscles and fluid levels. Though HGH has a number of medical uses, athletes also use it to enhance performance. However, the claims for its effectiveness are not proven, and the FDA has not approved its use for this purpose. HGH is associated with an increased risk of diabetes. It can also contribute to the growth of some cancers. Other side effects include joint and muscle pain, nerve pain, tingling of the skin, high cholesterol levels, edema and carpal tunnel syndromes. Many HGH compounds that are used by athletes have been counterfeited, so that is no clear way of knowing what they are really getting.
Erythropoietin: Erythropoietin, or EPO, is a hormone used in treating patients with kidney disease who develop problems with anemia. The hormone is produced by the body to regulate red blood cell production. The increase in red blood cells helps to deliver more oxygen to muscles. Erythropoietin came into use among cyclists in the 1990s. However, at that time there was no way to test for the hormone in the body until 2000.The synthetic form, called epoetin, is often used by athletes. Unsupervised use of erythropietin can cause heart attack, stroke of pulmonary edema. If any young athlete comes in with symptoms of these diseases, the use of erythorpoietin for performance enhancement should be suspected.
Kathryn Norcutt has been an active member of the health care community for over 20 years. During her time as a nurse, she has helped people from all walks of life and ages. Now, Kathryn leads a much less hectic life and devotes most of her free time to writing for RNnetwork.