How Drug Addiction Can Affect Your Athletic Performance

Drug addiction can be damaging for several reasons, most notably the toll it takes on a user’s physical and mental health. In this article, we’ll be concentrating specifically on how substance use can affect athletic performance…

How Drug Addiction Can Affect Your Athletic Performance‘Doping’ or drug use in sports isn’t a new phenomenon. Each year, an increasing number of athletes are abusing substances as a means to get high, or to improve their athletic performance. Though stimulants and steroids are likely to be the main drugs that spring to mind when discussing drug abuse in the sports industry, they’re not the only types of drugs that are regularly used.

According to the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, only an estimated 3 percent of college athletes use stimulant drugs. In comparison, 75 to 93 percent of college students use alcohol, 52 percent use opiates, around 40 percent use tobacco, and 28 percent use cannabis.

In this article, we’ll discuss some ways in which drug addiction can have a negative impact on your athletic performance and why you should avoid getting caught up in an exchange, or even worse, importation of drugs offence.

Lack of Sleep

Cocaine and amphetamine-like drugs (such as methamphetamine) are among the most potent dopamine-increasing drugs. Their repeated misuse can lead to severe sleep deprivation.

How Drug Addiction Can Affect Your Athletic PerformanceEven depressant drugs, such as alcohol, can cause a lack of sleep if the substance is abused regularly. Though alcohol has sedative effects that can induce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness, chronic users of alcohol suffer from an increase in sleep latency and lack of cause REM sleep. These two factors combined often result in shorter sleep durations and more sleep disruptions.

Ever woke up from a hangover feeling knackered? Well, now you know! It’s no wonder, then, that a of sleep can severely alter an athlete’s performance and leave them feeling worn out, lethargic and weak.

High Blood Pressure

There are several chemical substances and medicines that can cause high blood pressure. Notably, these include antidepressants, alcohol, testosterone, and anabolic steroids, as well as nicotine and even nasal decongestants.

The risks of high blood pressure are great, and one of the main causes of strokes and heart attacks. The problems arise when blood pressure is consistently high, and the heart is continually having to work harder than it should to shuttle blood around your body.

Bearing in mind exercise increases heart rates, high blood pressure is something that all athletes should seriously consider before taking any type of drug. If you’re unsure about your blood pressure, why not visit a doctor to have your blood tested? Normal, or ‘healthy’, blood pressure has a systolic reading of between 90 and 140 mmHg and a diastolic reading of between 60 and 90 mmHg.

Abnormalities in Liver Function

Muscles use creatine to produce energy, which increases lean muscle mass and improves muscle energy. Though creatine is a natural substance, it’s also produced in laboratories around the world and sold as a supplement.

The liver and kidneys must filter creatine, so taking an excessive amount can put a strain on the liver and kidneys. As with excessive use of alcohol or any other drug, chronic use of performance-enhancing drugs can lead to liver abnormalities and even liver tumours – none of which are particularly useful when trying to compete in sports!

Loss of Coordination

Though some sports are based upon speed and strength, many depend on a level of coordination. This is particularly the case in competitive sports where you must aim, such as darts, javelin, and tennis.

How Drug Addiction Can Affect Your Athletic PerformanceA lack of coordination occurs when the communication between the brain, and other parts of your body, is disrupted. One of the things that can cause this break in communication is the chemicals found in drugs that are commonly abused. As such, drug users often find that their addiction impairs their motor functions and leaves them less coherent.

Early signs of ataxia include dizziness, hearing problems, issues with balance, clumsiness and difficulty swallowing.

Fluid Retention & Swelling

Another common side-effect of drug addiction can be fluid retention, which results in mass swelling. Usually, fluid is released from the blood into body tissues through a network called the lymphatic system, and fluid retention occurs when the fluid isn’t removed from the tissues.

As well as it not looking particularly attractive, fluid retention can cause aching and pain in the joints, as well as rapid weight gain. As a result, athletes that experience swelling may find it difficult to train and work to the best of their ability.

Can You Think of Any Other Ways Drug Addiction Can Affect Athletic Performance?

In this post, we’ve discussed five main ways that extreme drug use can harm your body. As with most lists, this isn’t exhaustive and we advise that, if you’re struggling, you contact a doctor for further information.

Drug use is heavily prevalent in the sports industry, and the ease with which you can buy prescription drugs and performance-enhancing drugs online spurs this even more. What’s more, competitive sports are often incredibly stressful, so it’s no surprise that athletes are tempted to purchase substances to help their performance.

To reduce the number of athletics that are taking these types of drugs, legislation needs to tighten. What’s more, the industry needs to improve awareness of the long-term negative effects, rather than drugs short-term gain.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

Photo credits:

First image – MART Productions
Second image – Andres Ayrton via Pexels
Third image – Oliver Sjöström via Pexels



About Lauren

Lauren is the Content & Community Manager for Wellness Force Media. According to Lauren, wellness is about finding gratitude and joy in doing any type of physical or self-care activity that we love. Wellness means providing ourselves with self-love, good nutrition, and the inner peace that our individual minds and bodies need.

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