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Paracelsus Recovery is a haven for ultra-high-net-worth individuals and their families. Our treatment programmes are the most advanced and comprehensive worldwide. This means our team consists of experts in each specific addiction, including a performance enhancement specialist. Our PED-expert psychotherapists will help you understand why you felt the need to abuse PEDs and help you process these issues. We will also help you create healthy strategies for achieving your goals that do not require hurting your health. 

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The drive to win for professional athletes is immense, making it understandable why someone would want a ‘competitive edge.’ Then, for non-athletes, the rise of social media apps means there is also a newfound pressure on everyone to look their best at all times.

Our lifestyle and societal norms have also become inherently competitive. So, even the most secure person may find themselves googling ‘smart drugs’ as a way to get ahead in school, work or life. While performance-enhancing drugs may seem like a ‘quick fix’ for these issues, the risks far outweigh the benefits.

What are PEDs?

Simply put, performance-enhancing drugs are substances designed to enhance our physical performance, cognitive capacity, or our appearance. Many PEDs exist, including appearance and performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs), physical-PEDs and cognitive-PEDs. Each comes with its own set of dangers.

Nonetheless, when used in moderation and under medical supervision, PEDs aren’t necessarily dangerous. But like any artificial supplement, they can be dangerous when misused. Talk to a doctor or specialist before adding steroids to your workout routine or taking stimulants for concentration issues.

At Paracelsus Recovery, we have seen an exponential rise in the number of PED-related substance abuse issues. For the majority, a lack of awareness or education played a substantial role in why they started taking those drugs in the first place. As we adopt a harm-reductionist approach to substance abuse dependency, we asked our experts to answer each and every FAQ below. 

PED’s Examples

Examples of PEDS, and the risks they pose, include:

Anabolic steroids are artificial variants of testosterone. They are used to build muscle and increase strength. Still, they can cause blood pressure issues, liver problems, kidney failure, aggression, heart disease and decreased fertility.  Steroid precursors, such as androstenedione (andro) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are also popular.

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Blood doping involves boosting red blood cells to increase oxygen supply to the muscles and lungs. It can be done via a blood transfusion or using drugs like erythropoietin (EPO). However, using this medication when it is not medically necessary is highly dangerous, often leading to blood clots and death.

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HGH is designed to treat childhood growth disorders. It works by stimulating cell reproduction and regeneration, which means athletes looking to gain that ‘edge’ misuse it to speed up their recovery time. However, complications include enlarged organs, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic disease, to name a few.

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Amphetamines are a form of Cognitive PED, commonly referred to as nootropics or smart drugs. Examples include central-nervous-system (CNS) stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil. However, when consumed for non-medical reasons, these substances can increase focus, concentration, and memory. CNS stimulants not only increase your risk of overdosing, but they are also highly addictive.

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These drugs are often abused to enhance appearance as they decrease body fat and promote leanness. Examples include Xanthine’s, Sympathomimetics and thyroid hormones, each of which poses a significant risk to our cardiovascular and nervous systems.

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Anabolic steroids
Blood doping (EPO)
Human growth hormone (HGH)
Amphetamines
Ergo/thermogenic’s

Anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids are artificial variants of testosterone. They are used to build muscle and increase strength. Still, they can cause blood pressure issues, liver problems, kidney failure, aggression, heart disease and decreased fertility.  Steroid precursors, such as androstenedione (andro) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are also popular.

Read more

Blood doping (EPO)

Blood doping involves boosting red blood cells to increase oxygen supply to the muscles and lungs. It can be done via a blood transfusion or using drugs like erythropoietin (EPO). However, using this medication when it is not medically necessary is highly dangerous, often leading to blood clots and death.

Read more

Human growth hormone (HGH)

HGH is designed to treat childhood growth disorders. It works by stimulating cell reproduction and regeneration, which means athletes looking to gain that ‘edge’ misuse it to speed up their recovery time. However, complications include enlarged organs, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic disease, to name a few.

Read more

Amphetamines

Amphetamines are a form of Cognitive PED, commonly referred to as nootropics or smart drugs. Examples include central-nervous-system (CNS) stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Modafinil. However, when consumed for non-medical reasons, these substances can increase focus, concentration, and memory. CNS stimulants not only increase your risk of overdosing, but they are also highly addictive.

Read more

Ergo/thermogenic’s

These drugs are often abused to enhance appearance as they decrease body fat and promote leanness. Examples include Xanthine’s, Sympathomimetics and thyroid hormones, each of which poses a significant risk to our cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Read more

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FAQs

Performance-enhancing drugs (PED) are artificial substances used to improve human performance. Examples include physical performance-enhancing drugs used by athletes and bodybuilders and cognitive performance-enhancing drugs used by students to improve academic performance. The vast majority of PEDs are illegal due to the immense risk they pose to our health and wellbeing.

Popular PEDs include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), beta-blockers, stimulants and diuretics. Steroid precursors, such as androstenedione (andro) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are also common. Central-nervous stimulants, such as ephedrine, are also used. 

Appearance and performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs) are most often used to build muscle mass. Some athletes abuse performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs)—like anabolic steroids and stimulants — to help them perform better. Some students and professionals may abuse cognitive PEDs to increase focus, attention, and memory.

No, but there are safe performance-enhancing supplements. These include Hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB), Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), Carnitine, Chromium and Creatine. These supplements are naturally produced in our body and taken to strengthen muscles, build muscle mass or enhance recovery. 

Risks include addiction, heart palpitations, enlarged organs, heart rhythm abnormalities, weight loss, tremors, high blood pressure, hallucinations, stroke, heart attack, increased anger, paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, diabetes’s, blood clots, depression, anxiety and many more.

Reasons to ban performance-enhancing drugs include recognition that natural talents are the point of sport and the prospect of an ‘arms race,’ in athletic performance. PEDs are also dangerous, and it would be extremely harmful if PEDs became the norm, as every athlete would essentially need to risk their health to keep up with the competition.

Beta-blockers are a highly debated type of PED. They enhance performance insofar as they mask the effects of anxiety. For instance, propranolol comes from a class of drugs known as beta-blockers, which lower blood pressure by blocking particular sympathetic nervous system receptors. These receptors also become activated in times of anxiety. Without nerves or fear, our concentration and focus improve.

Doping by professional athletes has been a problem since the 1960s, and it is only worsening. For instance, according to one study (2017), up to 57% of several thousand world-class amateur athletes admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in that year. 

Yes, worryingly so. For example, PED abuse by both children and teenagers has skyrocketed in the past decade. In one study (2012), 3.3% of high school students admitted to abusing anabolic steroids. In another, 8% of girls and 12% of boys reported using substances to improve appearance, muscle mass or strength.

In the case of physical-PEDs, they mimic our endocrine system. Firstly, our body naturally produces hormones in our glands, which are transported around the body in our bloodstream. When a hormone encounters a cell with receptors that fit, it binds to that cell. This binding leads to a chemical change in the cell, thus causing changes in bodily functions.

So, if PEDs mirror this system, surely I could take a drug that mimics a hormonal effect I would like to produce? i.e. I want to be bigger, so if I take anabolic steroids (testosterone), they will bind to the target cells and lead to increased muscle mass? Not exactly. The hormonal system is highly complicated and complex. This means it is impossible to seek out one effect without triggering a range of other possible outcomes, most of which are dangerous. 

In the short term, hormones or steroids strengthen muscles, bones, and tendons. But, in the long term, they cause impotence, worsening acne, balding and ‘steroid rage.’ PEDs also cause growth issues in children and adolescents. 

More severe effects include heart damage, liver damage and blood clots. For example, the heart is a muscle, and it isn’t designed to have excess testosterone stimulating it. So, it will grow abnormally in response to this excess number of hormones. The liver also breaks down testosterone, so if too much accumulates, it will lead to damage.

Research (2018) suggests that about 32% of people who misuse performance enhancing drugs become dependent. Although steroids won’t produce a typical “high” or sense of euphoria, those who regularly abuse these drugs are at risk of developing withdrawal and tolerance symptoms which are quintessential signs of dependency. These numbers skyrocket when it comes to brain-enhancing drugs, as both Ritalin and Adderall are both highly addictive.

The main type of banned substances includes anabolic steroids, peptide hormones and growth factors (such as HGH), beta‑2 agonists, hormones, diuretics, and illicit drugs.

It depends on the drug in question and why the person is taking it. For instance, if someone starts taking anabolic steroids because they suffer from body-image issues, it will exacerbate these problems, leading to deeper insecurities and body dysphoria. Steroids can also increase aggressivity and paranoia. Cognitive performance enhancers, such as Ritalin and Adderall, also negatively impact our feel-good neurotransmitters, leading to depression or anxiety.

Yes, but not without risks. Low doses of stimulants lead to increased arousal, attention, and cognitive enhancement. Moderate doses will increase feelings of euphoria and power and set the stage for addiction or cognitive impairment. Then, very high doses lead to psychosis and circulatory collapse.

Some studies (2004, 2016). show that modafinil may benefit specific populations, such as sleep‐deprived doctors and shift workers. But, in our opinion, claims that nootropics improve a healthy person’s cognitive performance do not outweigh the side effects and health risks.

It depends on the substance in question, how much was taken and for how long a duration. For example, anabolic steroids will show up in a urine test for up to 14 days if taken orally. If injected, it can show up for up to one month. HGH is detectable for up to three weeks, while EPO only remains in the body for two days. Amphetamines can be detectable for up to three months.

The withdrawal symptoms from steroids occur due to the low levels of natural testosterone in the body.  Although the physical side-effects are rarely dangerous, many users develop major depressive episodes and suicidal ideation. Amphetamine-withdrawal symptoms include agitation, irritability, nightmares, slow reactions, twitches, fatigue and many more. Always speak to a professional before coming off any medication, prescribed or otherwise.

If you want to naturally improve your cognitive performance, focus on stress relief and activity. For instance, make sure to include some form of mental stimulation and physical exercise into your lifestyle. Mindfulness, yoga or meditation are excellent methods of clearing your mind and improving your focus. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco or alcohol will also improve brain-performance. Supplements such as fish oils, resveratrol, ginkgo biloba and creatine may also help.