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College athletes on performance-enhancing drugs may misuse other substances too

November 12, 2009 |  7:41 pm

It figures that athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs would want to avoid anything that could hamper their abilities during a game. But a new study suggests that athletes who use such drugs might also be more inclined to misuse alcohol and recreational drugs.

Iipuxrkn Researchers from the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey gave surveys to 234 male varsity athletes at a northeastern university to determine their use of performance-enhancing drugs and other substances. Included on the list of performance enhancers were anabolic steroids, hormone precursors (which are thought to change to active hormones in the body), analogs (chemically similar compounds) and nutritional supplements banned by the NCAA. The participants were also asked about alcohol and recreational drug use, and their risk-taking behaviors were noted.

Those who used performance-enhancing drugs in the last year (31% of the sample) were more likely to use drugs and alcohol. In that group, 70% said they had used marijuana, and a third said they had used cocaine. But in the non-drug group, it was far less: 22% and 3%, respectively.

Those who used performance enhancers also had higher rates of alcohol use and binge drinking, had more alcohol-related problems, smoked more cigarettes and used more prescription drugs than the non-drug group.

As to why these athletes used recreational drugs and alcohol more, researchers speculate that it may be linked to their risk-taking profiles -- they were more apt to be sensation-seekers and were also more likely to use the substances to deal with anxiety and stress.

"This really says that we have to focus on the motivations for athletes' substance use and make them aware of the consequences that are likely to come of it," study co-author Robert Pandina, the center's director, said in a news release.

The study appears in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

-Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times