Effectiveness-maximizing medicines: Know the threats

Hoping to obtain a competitive edge by using functionality-maximizing medicines? Discover how these medicines get the job done and how they can have an effect on your health.

By Mayo Clinic Staff members

Most major athletes will notify you that the drive to gain is fierce. Apart from the satisfaction of individual accomplishment, athletes generally pursue desires of profitable a medal for their country or securing a location on a professional team. In these an environment, the use of functionality-maximizing medicines has develop into increasingly typical.

But applying functionality-maximizing medicines (doping) has threats. Take the time to understand about the likely advantages, the health threats and the many unknowns with regards to so-named functionality-maximizing medicines these as anabolic steroids, androstenedione, human growth hormone, erythropoietin, diuretics, creatine and stimulants. You may possibly make a decision that the advantages are not worthy of the threats.

Anabolic steroids

What are they?

Some athletes just take a sort of steroids — known as anabolic-androgenic steroids or just anabolic steroids — to maximize their muscle mass mass and energy. The most important anabolic steroid hormone created by your system is testosterone.

Testosterone has two most important consequences on your system:

  • Anabolic consequences advertise muscle mass developing.
  • Androgenic consequences are dependable for male characteristics, these as facial hair and a deeper voice.

Some athletes just take straight testosterone to raise their functionality. The anabolic steroids utilized by athletes are generally synthetic modifications of testosterone.

These hormones have authorized medical takes advantage of. But enhancing athletic functionality is not one of them.

Why are these medicines so captivating to athletes? Apart from building muscle mass even larger, anabolic steroids may possibly lessen the muscle mass destruction that occurs in the course of a tricky training, assisting athletes get better from the session extra speedily and enabling them to get the job done out harder and extra regularly. Some athletes, as well as nonathletes, may possibly like the muscular look they get when they just take the medicines.

Designer steroids

A notably dangerous class of anabolic steroids are the so-named designer medicines — synthetic steroids that have been illicitly made to be undetectable by present drug assessments. They are manufactured exclusively for athletes and have no authorized medical use. Since of this, they have not been tested or authorized by the Foodstuff and Drug Administration (Fda) and represent a individual health danger to athletes.


A lot of athletes just take anabolic steroids at doses that are much larger than all those approved for medical motives. Anabolic steroids have major physical side consequences.

Adult males may possibly create:

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

Gals may possibly create:

  • A deeper voice, which may possibly be irreversible
  • An enlarged clitoris, which may possibly be irreversible
  • Elevated system hair
  • Baldness, which may possibly be irreversible
  • Rare or absent periods

Both equally guys and women might knowledge:

  • Severe pimples
  • Elevated threat of tendinitis and tendon rupture
  • Liver abnormalities and tumors
  • Elevated very low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “undesirable” cholesterol)
  • Decreased substantial-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “very good” cholesterol
  • High blood tension (hypertension)
  • Heart and blood circulation issues
  • Aggressive behaviors, rage or violence
  • Psychiatric disorders, these as despair
  • Drug dependence
  • Infections or diseases these as HIV or hepatitis if you happen to be injecting the medicines
  • Inhibited growth and development, and threat of upcoming health issues in young people

Using anabolic-androgenic steroids to improve athletic functionality is prohibited by most sports activities organizations — and it’s unlawful. In the earlier twenty many years, extra-effective law enforcement in the United States has pushed much of the unlawful steroid business into the black industry.

This poses supplemental health threats for the reason that the medicines are either manufactured in other nations around the world and smuggled in or manufactured in clandestine labs in the United States. Either way, they are not topic to authorities protection standards and could be impure or mislabeled.


What is it?

Androstenedione (andro) is a hormone created by the adrenal glands, ovaries and testes. It really is a hormone that is commonly transformed to testosterone and a sort of estrogen (estradiol) in both of those guys and women.

Andro is readily available legally only by prescription and is a managed substance. Its use as a functionality-maximizing drug is unlawful in the United States.

Producers and bodybuilding journals tout andro’s capability to make it possible for athletes to prepare harder and get better extra speedily. Scientific reports that refute these promises exhibit that supplemental androstenedione won’t maximize testosterone and that your muscle mass don’t get more robust with andro use.


Facet consequences of andro in guys incorporate:

  • Zits
  • Diminished sperm production
  • Shrinking of the testicles
  • Enlargement of the breasts

In women, side consequences incorporate:

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

In both of those guys and women, andro can destruction the coronary heart and blood vessels, growing the threat of coronary heart assault and stroke.

Human growth hormone

What is it?

Human growth hormone is a hormone that has an anabolic outcome. Athletes just take it to increase muscle mass mass and functionality. On the other hand, it hasn’t been proven conclusively to increase either energy or endurance.

Human growth hormone is readily available only by prescription and is administered by injection.


Adverse consequences linked to human growth hormone range in severity and may possibly incorporate:

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


What is it?

Erythropoietin is a sort of hormone utilized to treat anemia in men and women with significant kidney condition. It increases production of purple blood cells and hemoglobin — the protein that carries oxygen to your body’s organs.

Using erythropoietin improves the movement of oxygen to the muscle mass. Epoetin, a synthetic sort of erythropoietin, is normally utilized by endurance athletes.


Erythropoietin use amongst competitive cyclists was typical in the 1990s and allegedly contributed to at the very least 18 deaths. Inappropriate use of erythropoietin may possibly maximize the threat of stroke, coronary heart assault and blockage in an artery in the lung (pulmonary embolism).


What are they?

Diuretics are medicines that change your body’s natural stability of fluids and salts (electrolytes), which can lead to dehydration. This reduction of drinking water can minimize an athlete’s pounds, which many athletes choose. Diuretics may possibly also assistance athletes pass drug assessments by diluting their urine and are occasionally referred to as a “masking” agent.


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

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle mass cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Potassium deficiency
  • Drop in blood tension
  • Decline of coordination and stability
  • Loss of life


What is it?

A lot of athletes just take dietary dietary supplements alternatively of or in addition to functionality-maximizing medicines. Dietary supplements are readily available above-the-counter as powders or products. Creatine monohydrate is a dietary supplement that is preferred amongst athletes.

Creatine is a the natural way occurring compound created by your system that aids your muscle mass release strength. Scientific study indicates that creatine may possibly have some athletic gain by producing modest gains in small-term bursts of ability.

Creatine seems to assistance muscle mass make extra adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which outlets and transports strength in cells, and is utilized for rapid bursts of activity, these as weightlifting or sprinting. But you can find no evidence that creatine improves functionality in cardio or endurance sports activities.


Attainable side consequences of creatine that can minimize athletic functionality incorporate:

  • Abdomen cramps
  • Muscle mass cramps
  • Pounds obtain

Pounds obtain is sought by athletes who want to maximize their measurement. But with prolonged creatine use, pounds obtain is extra possible the result of drinking water retention than an maximize in muscle mass mass. H2o is drawn into your muscle mass tissue, away from other areas of your system, putting you at threat of dehydration.

It seems risk-free for older people to use creatine at the doses recommended by manufacturers. But there are no reports investigating the long-term advantages and threats of creatine supplementation.


What are they?

Some athletes use stimulants to encourage the central nervous procedure and maximize coronary heart level and blood tension.

Stimulants can:

  • Improve endurance
  • Lessen exhaustion
  • Suppress appetite
  • Improve alertness and aggressiveness

Common stimulants incorporate caffeine and amphetamines. Chilly treatments generally incorporate the stimulants ephedrine or pseudoephedrine hydrochloride.

Electrical power beverages, which are preferred amongst many athletes, generally incorporate substantial doses of caffeine and other stimulants. The avenue medicines cocaine and methamphetamine also are stimulants.


Despite the fact that stimulants can raise physical functionality and advertise aggressiveness on the area, they have side consequences that can impair athletic functionality, such as:

  • Nervousness and irritability, which make it tricky to concentrate on the match
  • Insomnia, which can avoid an athlete from getting wanted snooze
  • Dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Habit or tolerance, that means that athletes need better quantities to realize the wished-for outcome, so they will just take doses that are much larger than the meant medical dose

Other side consequences incorporate:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Pounds reduction
  • Tremors
  • Delicate substantial blood tension (hypertension)
  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Heart assault and other circulatory issues

The base line

Do functionality-maximizing medicines raise functionality? Some athletes may possibly seem to realize physical gains from these medicines, but at what value?

The long-term consequences of functionality-maximizing medicines have not been rigorously studied. And small-term advantages are tempered by many threats. Not to point out that doping is prohibited by most sports activities organizations.

No make a difference how you appear at it, applying functionality-maximizing medicines is dangerous enterprise.