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The Hidden Addictive Substances in Sports

Posted by Megan Hull

Nov 1, 2018 9:30:00 AM

The Hidden Addictive Substances in Sports

The Hidden Addictive Substances in Sports


Most sports are inherently competitive. As an athlete, you might often feel compelled to outperform your peers and push past your own limits. It can be frustrating to hit a wall in your performance, especially when you feel like you’re already giving your all in training and practice sessions.

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A healthy sense of competition and motivation are part of the fun of sports. However, this drive to continually exceed limits can become dangerous when athletes are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. This may include taking performance-enhancing drugs, many of which can be addictive. It may also mean pushing themselves to the point of injury. In these cases, athletes are often prescribed pain medications. While these can be useful for helping athletes recover from injuries, they can quickly become addictive.


Throughout your time in athletics, you might be exposed to many of these potentially dangerous substances. By learning about their risks of use, you can ensure you stay safe and healthy, so you can continue to enjoy participating in the sports you love for years to come once you have recovered from your injury.


Some of the most commonly used (and potentially addictive) substances in athletics today include:



Anabolic Steroids


Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the hormone testosterone. While anabolic steroids are sometimes prescribed to address naturally-occurring hormonal issues, some athletes abuse these medications to increase muscle mass, improve the strength of their muscles and reduce body fat.


While these medications don’t trigger a high in the same way as most other drugs do, anabolic steroid use can still lead to addiction. Taking anabolic steroids regularly can dramatically alter an individual's mood and behavior. Some people may even experience withdrawal symptoms after they stop using anabolic steroids, pointing to substance’s potential to create physical dependence.


Both short and long-term anabolic steroid use can lead to a number of harmful side effects, including:

  • Paranoia.
  • Impaired judgment.
  • Increased irritability.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Enlarged heart.
  • Liver damage.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Increased risk of stroke and heart attack.


These medications also carry a number of risks specific to each sex. Men may experience decreased sperm count, gynecomastia and a higher risk of developing prostate cancer after using anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroid use can cause women to grow excessive facial or body hair, experience male pattern baldness, disrupt their menstrual cycle or deepen their voice.



Human Growth Hormone


Human growth hormone (HGH) is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pituitary gland. In the body, this hormone regulates muscle and bone growth, body composition and the metabolization of fat and sugar. Synthetic HGH is approved by the Federal Drug Administration to address several medical conditions, including Turner’s syndrome, chronic kidney disease and Prader-Willi syndrome.


While HGH is essential the the functioning of the body, using synthetically produced HGH to enhance athletic performance can have a number of adverse health consequences. Synthetic HGH is commonly used in weight-lifting communities to build muscle quickly, reduce fat and increase energy levels. While this hormone is often injected, it can also be consumed in the form of pills and sprays.


Using synthetic HGH for performance enhancement can have a number of adverse side effects of the body, including:

  • Muscle, joint or nerve pain.
  • Heightened cholesterol levels.
  • Increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Increased risk of diabetes.
  • Increased risk of cancerous tumors.





Stimulants are a group of substances that increase energy, alertness and concentration. Because of these effects, many athletes use stimulants to boost productivity in training sessions, increase endurance and sharpen focus.


While some stimulants, like caffeine, are relatively harmless when consumed in moderation, others, like Ritalin, Adderall and Benzedrine, can be extremely addictive and dangerous when abused. Because of this, high-risk stimulants are banned by most sports organizations.


At high doses, stimulants can cause a number of harmful side effects, including:

  • Insomnia.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Paranoia.
  • Increased irritability.
  • Confusion.
  • Tremors.
  • Hypertension.


Moderate stimulant use can also distort an athlete’s sense of pain or fatigue. This may lead them to push themselves past their limits, and increase their risk of moderate and serious injury. In turn, this may increase the chance that they’ll be prescribed pain medications. Like stimulants, these medications also have a high potential for addiction and abuse.


Prescription Pain Medications


The occasional injury is an unfortunate, but often inevitable, reality for many athletes. To help relieve pain and speed up the recovery process, doctors often provide patients with opioid medications. While these medications can be helpful if taken as directed and used only in the short-term, they carry a high potential for addiction and abuse. In some cases, prescription opioid use can be the springboard for addictions to illicit street drugs, like heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.


While the short-term effects of opioids can be euphoric, the long-term consequences of use and abuse are devastating. Over time, the body grows dependent on the effects of opioids. Many people experience withdrawal symptoms that are uncomfortable at best and life-threatening at worst when they stop taking them. Fortunately, while opioid addiction can be difficult to overcome, there are a number of reputable rehab facilities across the country, like The Recovery Village, that can help people begin the recovery process.



The demand to be better and push further can be overwhelming. However, you can still stay competitive and participate in the sports you love without putting your health and happiness at risk. If you or a loved one currently struggles with addiction, receiving help from a professional treatment center like The Recovery Village can help you take back your life. Reach out to a representative today for more information.




Topics: Think Deeper, Mental Health