Everybody knows that what you put into your body will have a dramatic effect on your athletic performance. But what specific impacts do illegal drugs have? We’ll be answering that question in the following post…
Athletic performance is likely to be affected by a whole host of different factors, ranging from diets, physical environments and mental preparation. But what many people fail to factor in is the potential impact of illegal drugs.
Illegal drugs can, of course, cause untold damage to our bodies, but the impact they can have on athletic performance is very important to understand. This is the case whether you’re a budding athlete or a seasoned professional.
Getting caught with cocaine or being found guilty of taking performance-enhancing drugs as an athlete won’t just land you in hot water with the authorities. It’s also likely to be hugely detrimental to your performance, as you’ll shortly find out in the post below.
Why Do Athletes Take Illegal Drugs?
There are a number of potential reasons why an athlete may turn to illegal drugs, all of which will, naturally, depend on that person’s individual circumstances. It may be the case that an athlete turns to illegal performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids, to simply try and gain an edge over their competition.
On the other hand, they may use ‘street’ drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin to help with mental illness, or to cope with the pressure that often comes hand in hand with being an athlete.
The Potentially Damaging Effects of Illegal Drugs on Athletic Performance
Sudden Weight Loss
Certain illegal drugs will have an immediate effect on someone’s weight which, in turn, will affect their ability to perform at their peak.
Sudden weight loss, often caused by use of illegal drugs such as heroin, will prevent the body from being able to operate as powerfully or quickly as it normally would. This is hugely detrimental in a number of different sports – particularly contact sports and athletics.
Sudden Change in Muscle Mass
A rapid change in muscle mass either way is not going to be beneficial for short-term, or long-term, athletic performance. If someone’s muscle mass increases suddenly, likely due to the use of prohibited drugs like steroids, this may be seen as a positive with regards to athletic performance, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
If the body’s muscle mass unnaturally increases, someone’s dexterity and flexibility will suffer as a result, which may otherwise be very important. For example, a gymnast whose muscle mass suddenly increases may not be able to perform a routine effectively or safely.
On the flip side, rapid loss in muscle mass will result in someone being much weaker, affecting their ability to perform explosive movements or maintain endurance.
Difficulty Concentrating and Coordinating
It’s not just your body which will be affected by illegal drugs – it’s also your mental state. Illegal drug abuse is highly likely to affect your ability to concentrate on what’s going on around you. This means you’ll struggle to quickly react and adapt to different situations as they unfold.
General coordination and balance are also likely to be heavily affected, which are the two most important factors in ‘skill-based’ sports such as football, cricket or rugby. For example, illegal drug use may prevent you from being able to perform certain tasks while also operating at maximum physical capacity (such as passing a ball while running in rugby), as your ‘muscle memory’ fails to kick in.
Increased Aggression and Anger
Many athletes find that being aggressive or angry ultimately helps them to perform to the best of their ability. However, there’s always a line and being overly aggressive will cloud an athlete’s judgement and prevent them from being able to make the right decisions at the right time.
Every good athlete knows that there’s a fine balance to strike. Overstepping the mark, which is often caused by abuse of illegal drugs, can only be detrimental in the long term.
All athletes have a base level of fitness and endurance which is much higher than that of an average member of the public. That said, this can quickly change following use of illegal drugs.
Blood flow and oxygen intake reduces significantly after drug use, which means the muscles around the body become tight and tired much quicker than usual.
Increased Heart Rate and High Blood Pressure
A low heart rate is exactly what is needed in athletes, as it means there is much less strain on the heart to pump blood around the body, increasing their endurance. Illegal drugs such as cocaine or certain steroids, increase someone’s heart rate dramatically.
Illegal drug use can also affect someone’s resting heart rate, so their body is under increased strain even when they aren’t training or competing.
Reduced Lung Capacity
The bigger an athlete’s lung capacity, the better. So, when that lung capacity is reduced, which is a common side-effect of illegal drugs, this quickly results in a shortness of breath.
A secondary effect of this, which subsequently effects athletic performance, is a lack of sleep. A small lung capacity may well prevent someone from being able to get a proper night’s sleep, which can have incremental impacts on their concentration and physical preparation before training or competing.
Ban from Competing
Your athletic performance is null and void if you’re banned from competing altogether. And, if anyone ends up being found guilty of taking illegal drugs, this is exactly what will happen.
The length or permanence of the ban will depend on a number of different factors, but the ruling tends to be strict – especially when it comes to professional sports and athletics.
Have You Got Any More Questions About Illegal Drugs and Athletic Performance?
As you can see, the effects that illegal drugs can have on athletic performance are countless and have the potential to be incredibly damaging, particularly if they spiral out of control.
If you have any more questions about illegal drugs and their effect on athletic performance, please leave them in the comments below so we can keep the discussion flowing.
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 1 – Myriam Zilles via Unsplash
Photo 2 – Braden Collum via Unsplash
Photo 3 – Guduru Ajay Bhargav via Pexels
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