Heather Little-White, Ph.D., Contributor
Anyone who wants to enhance performance may resort to taking drugs. There have been accusations and counter-arguments of athletes who use anabolic steroids as a quick way to improve their performance or increase muscle mass. There are others who are not athletes and may use steroids to get a more muscular look. However, it is illegal to use steroids outside of medical purposes but the black market or 'quack' laboratories make supplies available.
The side effects of steroid use are noticeable when taken in excess. There may be radical changes in physical features and there are drastic mood swings and emotional imbalance. There may be more promiscuous behaviour resulting in contracting HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections.
Other performance-enhancing drugs include herbal supplements and energy drinks. The weight-conscious young person is always looking to lose weight, improve their sexual stamina and increase muscle mass. As a result, they are attracted to 'all natural' substances in herbal supplements. Care should be taken in using these natural supplements, classified as herbal drugs.
These supplements may be harmful and at times deadly to users. Several over-the-counter diet aids carry a common ingredient, ephedra. The ingredient is commonly linked to health complications, including death.
Sharpening the mind
Another popular herbal supplement is guarana. The native people of Brazil's rainforest have for ages used this plant to sharpen the mind, boost energy and boost physical activity. The seeds are made into a paste and are used in the same way as coffee or tea with high caffeine content. In South America, guarana is used widely in beverages in the same way the kola nut is used in beverages in the United States. Unlike kola not, guarana is light in taste and some beverages with the substance are referred to as 'champagnes'.
Since the 1970s guarana has appeared in dietary supplements in the United States, sold as a boost for the metabolic rate to speed up weight loss. It also serves as an appetite suppressant and is sold in the form of tablets, capsules, dried extracts and various fluids.
Energy drinks such as the popular Austrian carbonated soft drink 'Red Bull' may also have side effects and complications for health if taken in excess. Marketing strategies target young adults through creative marketing strategies one of which is the popular 'Red Bull', go-cart racing internationally and other sporting events.
Sold as an energy drink to boost mental and physical stamina, 'Red Bull' contains a substance called taurine. This is an amino acid-like compound and is a component of bile acids used to help fats and fat-soluble vitamins. It also helps regulate heat beat, maintain cell membrane stability and prevents brain cell overactivity, though scientific data is inconsistent. 'Red Bull' also contains caffeine.
Caffeine, in any substance, stimulates the nervous system as well as the flow of blood in the brain and increases secretion of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Caffeine is known to invigorate the mind, enhances alertness and decreases fatigue. Caffeine is a mild diuretic and stimulates respiration.
It is advisable that users of performance-enhancing drugs read labels carefully and conduct research on the ingredients listed. It is better to be safe than sorry!