An excerpt from a study authored and published by Project Know - an organization dedicated to informing the public on addictions, drug abuse, and treatment options.

Our innate competitive drive  – at play on levels both biological and societal – can reach cutthroat levels in the world of sports. Athletes often seek every available opportunity to gain a competitive edge. With so much pressure placed on winning, shortcuts like performance-enhancing drugs begin to look appealing, despite their potentially fatal consequences.

Performance-enhancing drugs are thought to gives athletes an edge in competition, but do so with adverse health effects in the long-run. Many of these substances cause cardiovascular conditions, organ damage, tumors, and endocrine effects, all of which do more harm to the athlete than good. We broke down the effects of substances such as anabolic agents, peptide hormones, beta-2 antagonists, diuretics, stimulants, and narcotics on the body to explore how performance-enhancing drugs may actually impede performance.

Click here to explore Project Know's step-by-step look at PEDs affects on the brain, hair & skin, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, and reproductive organs.

Anabolic agents and peptide hormones can severely affect the brain. Anabolic agents such as testosterone promote muscle growth in the body. Using them can lead to increased aggressiveness and sexual appetite – also known as ’roid rage.  Post-steroid withdrawal can result in depression and, in some cases, suicidal ideation. Peptide hormones like erythropoietin (EPO) control the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen. EPO doping essentially thickens the blood – its use without close medical supervision can lead to an increased risk of blood clots and strokes.

Stimulants and narcotics can also cause other psychological effects. Stimulants, such as caffeine, amphetamines, and methamphetamine, are used to trigger responses that allow the body and mind to perform with elevated levels of focus and energy. This increase in energy can lead to nervousness and irritability. Furthermore, stimulants in the amphetamine family can have numerous pathological cardiovascular effects.

In sports, narcotics are sometimes employed to mask an athlete’s pain, and this can result in an increased pain threshold and a resulting failure to recognize injury. Certain substances also produce a false sense of invincibility, which can lead to further injury. Both stimulants and narcotics can cause dependence and addiction as well, which can further impair an athlete’s ability to perform.

Peptide hormones such as EPO increase the red blood cell count, which raises the percentage of the blood composed of red blood cells. Side effects of this include the thickening of the blood, which requires the heart to pump harder and can lead to a heart attack.

Stimulants can also cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Beta-2 antagonists, drugs used to treat respiratory ailments that have effects similar to stimulants, can cause heart palpitations. Misuse of hGH can also lead to high blood pressure and, in some cases, heart failure. Narcotics, on the other hand, can decrease the heart rate, and diuretics – drugs that expel water from the body, often used by athletes who need to meet certain weight restrictions – can cause a drop in blood pressure.

Click here to explore Project Know's step-by-step look at PEDs affects on the hair & skin, kidneys, liver, lungs, and reproductive organs.