After reading this chapter, the student will:
Understand the variety of products that can be stimulatory in nature.
Understand the pharmacokinetics of stimulants.
Understand the adverse effects and additive effects of stimulants on the human system.
Understand the effect that caffeine has on the body during exercise.
Understand the effect of caffeine on habitual and naïve users.
Understand some of the questions that athletes might have about caffeine use in sports.
Understand how stimulant levels in the body affect athletic performance and drug testing.
Recognize the signs of stimulant abuse by the athlete.
As our society develops more interest in sports and athletics, we become more fixated on winning matches, races, or games. To win, athletes must be in top physical and mental condition every time they compete. A close analysis of most sports calendars indicates that, despite an increasing number of games, none of the sports-governing bodies want to encroach on another sport's season, so athletes in each sport are required to play more games in a shorter time period. This abbreviated schedule requires athletes to be ready to play almost daily in certain sports like basketball and baseball. For athletes, competing every day or almost every day can be both physically and mentally fatiguing.
To keep up with ongoing participation requirements, some athletes elect to use a drug, such as a stimulant, to increase their energy level. For the purposes of this book, the term stimulant is defined as "any agent temporarily increasing functional activity".33 These drugs provoke a stimulating action on the central nervous system (CNS) through a number of different actions. Because this book cannot discuss every drug that can provoke a stimulatory effect on the athlete, this chapter focuses on the over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that appear to be most commonly used as stimulants by athletes. Because OTC stimulants are more available to athletes than prescription drugs, the athletes may choose to use these drugs to maintain energy during the playing season. Some also use prescription drugs that stimulate the CNS (such as methylphenidate/Ritalin). These drugs are available legally by prescription only, but can be obtained illegally and abused by an athlete. As with other products, the spectrum of available ways to achieve a stimulatory effect can broaden as new products or alternative uses for current drugs are discovered.
Sympathomimetics are drugs that produce a stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system that is similar to the normal excitation response by the body. They are available in different forms.
In this chapter we begin by discussing products containing the OTC formulation of ephedra, and conclude by summarizing the effects of caffeine on athletic performance. As you will read, many manufacturers are now combining ephedra and caffeine in their products because both are stimulatory in nature. Some of the other drugs that are used as stimulants are discussed in Chapter 14...