Effects of Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Many athletes pursue their dreams of winning medals or becoming part of a professional lineup. Aside from intense practice, some may even resort to using performance-enhancing drugs to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents. Common used PEDs include steroids, hormones, diuretics, and other stimulants. Although they may improve athletic performance, they can be very dangerous and sometimes, even deadly.

Health Effects of Performance-Enhancing Drugs

PEDs can cause harm to the following organs or systems:

1.   Brain

  • Testosterone is popularly used to promote the growth of muscles. Using it can also increase your sexual appetite and aggressiveness. However, withdrawal from this hormone can lead to depression and suicidal tendency.
  • Erythropoietin (EPO) is a peptide hormone that controls the production of your red blood cells which carry oxygen to different parts of the body. Doping on EPO can thicken your blood, which leads to blood clot formation and stroke.
  • Caffeine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine are stimulant drugs used to enhance focus and improve response and energy. However, too much increase in energy may lead to irritability and nervousness. Furthermore, these drugs can also cause side effects that can harm the heart or cause dependence and addiction, which can impair your ability to perform as an athlete.

2.   Heart

  • EPO increases your red blood cell count and may cause thickening of your blood, which may make your heart pump harder.
  • Stimulants and human growth hormone (HGH) can increase your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Narcotics can decrease your heart rate and diuretics can lower your blood pressure.

3.   Liver

Using high doses of steroids can damage your liver. Steroids are metabolized in the liver and excessive use can cause liver enzyme elevations, hepatic peliosis, and development of liver tumors.

4.   Lungs

Peptide hormones cause blood thickening, which can increase your risk for forming clots within the lungs, leading to pulmonary embolism. The blood clots can hinder normal circulation and oxygen exchange. Doping on water-expelling diuretics may also increase the risk of developing blood clots.

5.   Bones

Anabolic agents can also lead to premature closure of the bones’ growth centers in adolescents, which can cause stunted growth. Excess hemoglobin can cause acromegaly, which may lead to bone disfigurement and thickening of cartilages.

6.   Endocrine System

What are the effects of performance-enhancing drugs on your hormones? Prolonged use of HGH can lead to the development of a functional tumor in the pituitary gland, which can lead to enlargement of your hands and feet. It can also lead to insulin resistance and increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A disturbance in your blood sugar levels may cause weight loss and fatigue, which can decrease your performance as an athlete.

7.   Reproductive System

Anabolic agents can alter levels of hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.

  • In women, increased testosterone levels can cause the development of male sex characteristics such as deepening of voice and disturbance in the menstrual cycles.
  • In males, altered levels of testosterone can cause breast tissue development and reduced sperm count.

8.   Eyes

Human growth hormone (HGH) occurs naturally in the body. It stimulates cell growth and regeneration. However, excessive intake of HGH may cause the development of a slow-growing tumor called pituitary adenoma, which may compress the nerves to the eyes. The result is loss of vision, which is one of the unexpected effects of performance-enhancing drugs.

9.   Hair and Skin

In women, the use of testosterone can promote male characteristics, such as hair growth on their faces, while in men, it can lead to male pattern baldness.

The effect of PEDs on the skin is an increase in oil production, leading to acne.

10.   Dehydration

The use of diuretics such as furosemide or spironolactone for a loss of water weight within a short period of time can cause dehydration. They can also help cover the use of other illegal drugs. Dehydration can lead to dangerous side effects, such as electrolyte imbalance, dizziness, exhaustion, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, and heart problems.

The Bottom Line

Doping is strictly prohibited by sports organizations. Performance-enhancing drugs can give athletes an unfair advantage over their opponents; these drugs can cause physical damage and even strip them of their title. So this risky business should be avoided. The best way to improve your performance in sports is proper training, sincere dedication, adequate hydration, and a healthy diet.

For more information about effects of performance-enhancing drugs, click here.

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