Every sport in the world, past, present, and future, has performance and drugs. Professional gaming is no different. But obviously, the drugs will differ from sport to sport. A high-level Counter-Strike player is not going to benefit from steroids that much.
So, what sorts of drugs improve performance in competitive gaming? How common are they? And what are the risks associated with them? We will look at these topics to gain understanding.
Because for many people, particularly prospective pro gamers, there needs to be an explanation. They want to know why these drugs are banned, whether through tournaments or made illegal by society at large.
The Drugs that are Used: Stimulants
In pro gaming, the drug most commonly used is a whole class of drugs: Stimulants. These drugs hone one’s ability to focus and shorten reaction times.
It is probably apparent why they are used. Whether playing something fast-paced like Starcraft or something more methodical like online chess, you benefit from focusing.
Think of the human brain as a computer that is completing operations. The greater your focus, the greater the number of functions you can complete in a set period. Whether you need to react quickly or have time to consider many thoughts, stimulants help with this.
But what specific drugs are used within the stimulant class?
The most common stimulant used by far is the ADHD medication Adderall. This is because Adderall acts directly upon the brain to induce a state of heightened awareness and alertness.
Not only does it make focusing more effortless, but it also makes the brain work overtime. That means switching focus from one thing to another is easier. People do not usually multitask well, and stimulants do not help. In fact, they can antagonize it, which is why some are not used.
Adderall is unique in that respect. At least while being used, it appears to have no downsides.
This is another popular one. It also works with the brain, though to a lesser extent than Adderall. It is less potent in general, increasing one’s mental capabilities and ability to focus without making their multitasking abilities any better. It also has more noticeable drawbacks.
Citicoline is more readily available outside the United States compared to Adderall as well, meaning that you will see it in many Korean esports teams.
Moving away from stimulants for a moment, Fluticasone is an anti-inflammatory drug. What is it doing in the systems of pro gamers? One of the most common problems they face is carpal tunnel syndrome. This is an affliction characterized by problems with small movements in the hands that are performed repeatedly, as most games require.
Pros free up their muscles to act without issue by using these anti-inflammatory drugs. Pain and tension built up while training suddenly goes away, and they can move more quickly.
While many esports tournaments have banned these drugs, they are the ones that see the most discussion around being unbanned. After all, they can be legitimately prescribed for precisely the purpose of helping deal with one’s carpal tunnel. They give an unfair advantage.
What are the Side Effects of These Drugs?
As powerful as stimulants are, it should be no surprise that they offer some severe downsides.
The most common issues are irritability and muscle control issues. These become worse as the effects of the stimulants wear off. As with many performance-enhancing drugs, stimulants demand a lot out of the body. As the body returns to normal, the extra effort drags users down.
That means their awareness and attention plummets compared to what it was like during the “high” of the drug. They can seem distant and zombified. And these are just the cognitive issues. Adderall, in particular, can lead to heart and nervous system problems later in life.
How Easy is it to Get Addicted to These Drugs?
Adderall is indeed habit-forming. It takes heavy chronic use for a person to become addicted, but the side effects of the habit will be felt relatively quickly and get worse from there.
What that means, in a nutshell, is that after the Adderall wears off, a person will usually feel exhausted and mentally foggy. Forming thoughts will be challenging and words harder. This period of fogginess will last longer as use becomes more chronic. And the negative feedback loop starts when a person begins to solve the problem created by Adderall with more Adderall.
Citicoline works much the same way, but due to its reduced power, it expresses itself differently. The mental fog is lessened, but it is still there. And a person is likely to become somewhat immune to the effects of the drug, requiring more and more of it for it to work on them.
Fluticasone, meanwhile, does not have the same mental effects due to being a drug that works on the muscles rather than the nervous system and brain. Its issues are that a person will feel weaker without the drug, as well as sluggish and unable to make a fist.
This can make it hard for them to perform basic tasks like making food or using the computer without first taking the Fluticasone to make their muscles responsive.
Performance-enhancing drugs are as common in gaming as in other sports, perhaps more so. There have been many scandals in the last few years regarding stimulants in the Counter-Strike scene, with some players saying they were instructed to take them.
Other players in the League of Legends community have said that few teams were not taking Adderall before big tournament games. Surprisingly, tons of players at the highest levels are reported not to be taking these drugs at all.
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