Amphetamines, Stimulants, and Performance Enhancing Drugs

Serious Risks and No Benefit to Sports Performance

Athlete Practicing the the Boxing Ring
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Amphetamines, sometimes called "speed" or "uppers," are central nervous system stimulant drugs that increase alertness, self-confidence, and concentration, and decrease appetite while creating a feeling of increased energy. The chemical structure is similar to the naturally occurring adrenaline and noradrenaline that is produced by the body. The effects of amphetamines are similar to cocaine but last longer.

Amphetamines, such as Benzedrine, Adderall, and Dexedrine, are sometimes prescribed for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Amphetamines may provide some minor, short-term benefits. Current research shows that 10-30 mg methamphetamine may improve reaction time, and cognitive function, increase the feelings of alertness, decrease a sense of fatigue and increase euphoria. But this also came with a tendency to make more high-risk choices. The researchers also stated that at a higher does, they expected subjects to experience agitation, an inability to focus attention on divided attention tasks, inattention, restlessness, motor excitation, increased reaction time, and time distortion, depressed reflexes, poor balance and coordination, and an inability to follow directions. One of the risks of even moderate amphetamine use in an athlete is that due to a distorted perception of pain or fatigue, he may ignore injury warning signs and play even when injured.

Other Effects of Amphetamines

Potential short-term side effects of amphetamines include:

  • headaches
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • insomnia
  • weight loss
  • hallucinations
  • convulsions
  • heart rhythm abnormalities
  • heart attack

Long-term use of amphetamines can result in an increasing tolerance for the drugs and the need to continually take more for the same effect.

It’s not uncommon for athletes to become dependent on the drug and have difficulty withdrawing from amphetamines. Sudden withdrawal can cause depression, weakness, and extreme fatigue. Long-term use of amphetamines can result in:

  • uncontrollable movements of the face
  • paranoid delusions
  • nerve damage
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • confusion
  • tremors
  • anxiety
  • irregular heartbeat
  • dizziness
  • hypertension

Use in Sports

Despite the negative side effects and addictive nature of amphetamines, some athletes continue to use them in hopes of gaining a small performance advantage. If you are considering using these stimulants, keep in mind that nearly all forms of amphetamines are on the banned substance list of most, if not all, sports organizations.


Bohn AM, Khodaee M, Schwenk TL., Ephedrine and other stimulants as ergogenic aids. Current Sports Medicine Report. 2003 Aug;2(4):220-5.

Logan BK. Methamphetamine - Effects on Human Performance and Behavior. Forens Sci Rev 2002;14(1/2):133-51

Trends in prescription drug abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIH Publication Number 05-4881. Printed July 2001, Revised August 2005