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Amphetamines are stimulants used by athletes and sports participants for several years, although their use appears to be diminishing and being replaced by cocaine. Amphetamines indirectly affect the nervous system through the release of catecholamines. Amphetamines are a stimulant to the central nervous system and can have the greatest effect when the individual must perform after a period of reduced sleep or when fatigued. Strength, speed and endurance can be enhanced with the use of amphetamines, but addiction can develop. The adverse affects of amphetamines on the nervous system can include nervousness, insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations, or paranoia.

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids were used as early as the mid 1950's, but only in the past decade has their use become pervasive. Not only have world class athletes been detected using these substances, but also it is estimated, for example, more than 6% of high school male seniors in the U.S.A. have tried anabolic steroids by the age of 18. Although anabolic steroids appear to have little or no effect on aerobic performance, they can enhance a person's strength and body dimensions. There are both oral and injectable forms of anabolic steroids, which are basically synthetic hormone, testosterone.

Although anabolic steroids can increase both body size and muscular strength, these increases are rapidly lost following the discontinuance of their use. This decrease in mass, apparently, is related to reduced levels of testosterone following the removal of the ergogenic aid. Individuals who take anabolic steroids may experience increased acne about the face and upper body, changes in sex drive, testicular atrophy, irritability, aggression, and gynaecomastia. Many of these changes, however, are reversible when steroid use is stopped. The liver is especially sensitive to anabolic steroids, and liver function tests are recommended for individuals taking anabolic steroids. Psychological abnormalities are also frequently associated with the use of anabolic steroids. In some cases the anabolic steroid appears to become addictive both physiologically and psychologically.

Beta Blockers

To improve motor performance, beta blockers are used by some individuals to reduce tremor during athletic activities requiring fine-motor skill, such as shooting or archery. The anti-tremor affects of the beta blockers appear to be peripheral in origin. While beta blockers can reduce tremor, they also can have a negative affect on athletic performance. In particular, a sport participant's aerobic capacity can be reduced by as much as 15% when beta blockers are used. This reduction in performance may be related to the adverse affect beta blockers can have on the respiratory system.

Blood Doping

In an effort to increase the red cell volume in an athlete's blood, the technique of reinfusing previously drawn blood, prior to competition, has been used in recent years. This ergogenic aid is called Blood Doping. Blood Doping has been shown to produce a small but detectable increase in endurance performance.


Caffeine is a member of the methylated xanthine group comprising theophylline and theobromine. Caffeine can be found in cocoa, tea, coffee and soft drinks, and it is also available in tablet form. Higher dosages of caffeine (250-350 mg) can enhance performance in endurance sports. The stimulation induced by caffeine can increase the alertness of an athlete. Blood levels of caffeine typically reach their peak approximately one half hour after ingestion of caffeine. Caffeine can increase the plasma levels of free fatty acids, and the greater amounts of fatty acids can accelerate lipid metabolism and reduce the reliance on muscle glycogen during exercise. Thus caffeine may have a positive physiological effect in endurance activities. Excessive caffeine ingestion, however, can have a negative effect on sleep habits, fine motor coordination, and if withdrawn suddenly, headaches, lethargy, and nervousness can result.


Cocaine, which occurs naturally in the leaf of the Erythroxylon cocao plant, has a long history of use. Although cocaine may have legitimate usages as a local aesthetic or for other therapeutic purposes, the abuse of cocaine is now wide spread. It has been estimated between 25 and 30% of adults between the ages of 20 and 40 have used cocaine at least once. The active drug is cocaine hydrochloride, and because this can be a potent stimulant, sports participants and athletes have used it as an ergogenic aid. With cocaine an athlete may feel primarily the effects of norepinephrine release, including euphoria, reduced fatigue and a heightened sense of improved performance - although typically, actual performance levels are degraded. Addiction can occur with continued use. Because a typical mode of ingestion of cocaine is by "snorting" or absorption of the crystals through nasal membranes, with extended use there is the potential of ulceration and perforation of the nasal septum, as well as rhinitis, bronchitis, or sinusitis. The most catastrophic consequences of using cocaine can be cardiovascular failure and death.


Crack is a term used to describe a precipitate of pure cocaine. It is produced after the hydrochloride from cocaine hydrochloride is removed. Crack can be smoked, because it vaporizes at higher temperatures, and therefore can be very quickly absorbed into the vasculature of the lung. Initially there is a "rush" of euphoria the user experiences, but there is an increased frequency of cardiac arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, and seizure activity with the repeated use of crack.

Growth Hormone

Growth hormone is one of the principal products of the human anterior pituitary gland, with growth hormone comprising about 10% of the gland's normal dry weight. Growth hormone stimulates somatic growth, is important for proper human growth, and appears to influence the growth of essentially every tissue in the body. Some sports participants are starting to use growth-hormone because they believe growth hormone supplements might provide benefits similar to anabolic steroids. Growth hormone can have an overall anabolic effect on tissues, as it increases the transport of amino acids in the tissues and increases the rate of their corporation into protein. Muscular work, combined with growth hormone, can increase protein synthesis in skeletal muscles. Some amino acids, such as arginine, ornithine, and lysine, can stimulate the release of the body's own growth hormone. Although there may be some beneficial use of growth hormone, extensive growth hormone ingestion can contribute to abnormalities such as osteoporosis, diabetes, acromegaly, impotence or menstrual irregularities.


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