Clenbuterol, or "clen," is a veterinary drug originally used to treat respiratory diseases in horses. It has since been used to add bulk to livestock, though the United States has banned and monitors such use. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), clenbuterol is currently being used illicitly as a muscle-enhancing, fat-reducing agent among athletes, bodybuilders and others seeking a trim, muscular physique. Clenbuterol poses numerous side effects, some of which are life-threatening.
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Psychiatric Side Effects
Clenbuterol has been shown to produce serious psychiatric side effects in women. According to research published in 2000 in "Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics," 33 percent of female athletes studied reported abuse of clenbuterol currently or in the past, often in addition to other performance-enhancing drugs. Of these women, numerous described addiction to clenbuterol. Fifty-six percent of the women who used clenbuterol reported hypomania, which is an elevated or irritable mood, and 40 percent reported depression during withdrawal from the drug. Researchers indicate that female athletes who use or previously used clenbuterol often have history of psychological problems, such as eating disorders.
Neurological and Cardiovascular Effects
Clenbuterol is an adrenergic bronchodilator, meaning it works to open the bronchial tubes. Like other adrenergic bronchodilators, the DEA suggests that clenbuterol can produce serious, adverse neurological and cardiovascular effects. Women and men may experience rapid or irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms and general nervousness. Since clenbuterol is easily absorbed and stays in the body for up to 39 hours after ingestion, these effects may last for one to two days. Women with a family or personal history of heart problems, kidney disease or heart defects may reap the most serious cardiovascular effects from clenbuterol. Severe cardiovascular disturbances associated with clenbuterol may result in death.
Clenbuterol continues to be used illegally as a growth-inducer in livestock in various parts of the world. According to the DEA, numerous outbreaks of flulike symptoms in people who consumed meat containing clenbuterol residue occurred in Spain, Italy, Portugal, China and France. Symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills developed within three hours after eating the clenbuterol-affected food and persisted for two to six days. While the United States and Europe monitor tissue and urine samples of livestock to prevent such outbreaks, similar symptoms may occur in women, men and children who abuse or consume clenbuterol.