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Cons of Performance-Enhancing Drugs

author image August McLaughlin
August McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as "Healthy Aging," "CitySmart," "IAmThatGirl" and "ULM." She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit—a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.
Cons of Performance-Enhancing Drugs
A buff man is strength training. Photo Credit Djordje Rusic/iStock/Getty Images


Performance-enhancing drugs refer to medications used to enhance muscle growth, physical endurance and other aspects of athletic performance. Though the specific effects of the drugs have not been thoroughly inspected, according to the Mayo Clinic, they are linked with numerous disadvantages. Performance-enhancing drugs include anabolic steroids, better known as simply steroids, and drugs containing stimulants and/or diuretics. Use of performance-enhancing drugs may lead to adverse physical, emotional, legal and financial consequences.

Reduced Athletic Performance

Performance-enhancing drugs may hinder athletic performance. According to the Mayo Clinic, drugs that contain diuretics--substances that flush fluid from the body--may cause muscle cramping, exhaustion, dizziness and dehydration during or between athletic activities. Drugs containing stimulants, such as ephedrine and caffeine, may cause nervousness and sleep problems. Steroid use may trigger depression--a condition characterized by sadness, reduced motivation and purposelessness. This may also reduce athletic ability or desire to participate in sports.

Sexual Side Effects

Numerous performance-enhancing drugs are linked with sexual problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, steroid abuse may lead to shrunken testicles, infertility and breast enlargement in men. Women may experience an enlarged clitoris, menstrual irregularities and shrunken breasts. Men and women may experience reduced libido, or sex drive, as a result of taking steroids and drugs similar to steroids. Pubescent boys may develop enlarged or painful penis size and excessive erections. Boys and girls may experience delayed sexual development.

Altered Appearance

Steroids used to enhance athletic performance may cause appearance changes in men and women. Women may develop excessive body hair. Men and women may experience baldness and/or develop severe acne, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In general, men may appear more feminine and women may appear more masculine, because steroids replicate and affect sexual hormones.

Health Problems and Death

Performance-enhancing drugs are linked with a variety of potentially serious health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, steroid abuse increases the risk for liver abnormalities and psychiatric illness. They may also lead to viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis, when drugs are injected with shared needles. Drugs with stimulant properties may cause increased blood pressure, heart palpitations and increased risk for heart attack and stroke. In some cases, performance-enhancing drugs have been linked with death.

Emotional Effects

The DEA lists mood swings, irritability, nervousness, depression, hostility and delusions as potential side effects. Dependency and withdrawal after stopping use of the drugs may also develop. People with psychological disorders or family history of psychological disorders may hold heightened risk for emotional side effects while using the drugs.

Legal Penalties and Expense

According to the DEA, sale or possession of anabolic steroids without doctor's legitimate prescription is illegal in the United States. Selling or owning prohibited steroids may result in one year of imprisonment and a fee of $1,000 or more for first-time offenders. Trafficking of steroids may lead to five years' imprisonment and $250,000 for first-time offenders. Prison terms and fines double for people caught abusing or selling illegal steroids more than once. Athletes found using performance-enhancing drugs in various forms may also be pulled from competitions and/or lose achieved awards and medals. Performance-enhancing drugs are also expensive, particularly for those who become dependent.

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