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Olympic Athletes Endangered by Prescription Drug Side Effects

As if using illegal drugs wasn’t immoral enough, now athletes have taken to misusing prescription drugs to improve their performance as well. Turn on the local news on any given day and you’ll likely hear more than one story about a professional athlete who was hospitalized or even killed due to prescription drug side effects.

The use of steroids and other well-known drugs has been illegal in most athletic associations from the late 1970s. They were declared a controlled substance by the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990, and are illegal to use without a prescription. Also illegal without a prescription due to the Anabolic Steroids Act of 2004 are steroid “precursors”–substances that, when they enter the body, turn themselves into steroids. Because steroids and steroid precursors are commonly used to treat conditions such as wasting away due to AIDS or cancer, the chances of a professional athlete having a prescription for them while still being in good enough shape to work are non-existent. Be advised that one kind of steroid precursor, DHEA, is still available as an over-the-counter product.

Commonly misused prescription and over-the-counter drugs as of 2010 include anti-allergy medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen, anti-asthmatic medications, and oral antibiotics. A questionnaire study performed by the Finnish National Olympic Committee on over 400 Olympic athletes revealed that professional athletes use more than twice the amount of prescription drugs as the same number of non-athletes who were also polled. Over 18 percent of athletes in sports demanding speedy and powerful performances used NSAIDs heavily, and one in five reported side effects of the drugs as well. Those in fields demanding endurance took large amounts of anti-allergy medications –19 percent confessed to using them.

The major side effects of excessive use of NSAIDs are kidney and liver failure, ulcers, and a tendency toward internal bleeding, particularly after being injured (as often happens in sports.)

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