The language of substance use is evolving as much as the substances themselves. Here’s some terminology to help understand the discussion:
Alcohol: A central-nervous-system depressant derived from fermenting sugars. At high dosages, effects include mood swings, impaired judgment and inability to control motor functions. Alcohol can impair an athlete’s performance through dehydration, depleting vital nutrients and interfering with restful sleep and recovery.
Amphetamines: Central-nervous-system stimulant synthetic compounds.
Anabolic Steroids: Synthetic derivatives of testosterone that promote muscle growth. Steroid use changes the body’s hormonal balance, exaggerating make sex characteristics, and can contribute to increased acne, mood swings, secondary sex characteristic changes and violent behavior. Long-term heavy use has been implicated in organ damage.
Banned-Substance List: Unfortunately, there is not a complete list of banned/prohibited supplements due to the ever-changing market. The NCAA lists banned drugs by class, and any substance that is chemically related to the class is banned (unless specifically exempted.) When the NCAA originally developed the banned-drug classes, many examples were listed under each class, though the list was never an exhaustive one. But it became clear that listing examples, instead of providing some clarification, actually created a false sense of security to student-athletes and staff alike, who believe that if the ingredients on a product were not found on “the list” in the same manner the product manufacture names them, they were not banned.
Cocaine: A stimulant that can contribute to agitation, elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure. Toxic levels can result in respiratory failure and heart attack.
Dietary Supplement: Congress defined the term “dietary supplement” in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 as “a product taken by mouth that contains a ‘dietary ingredient’ intended to supplement the diet.’ The “dietary ingredients” in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and such substances as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars and metabolites. Dietary supplements can also be extracts or concentrates, and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, liquids or powders. They can also be in other forms, such as a bar, but if they are, information on their label must not represent the product as a conventional food or a sole item of a meal or diet. Whatever their form may be, the DSHEA places dietary supplements in a special category under the general umbrella of “foods,” not drugs, and requires that every supplement be labeled a dietary supplement.
Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act: The 1994 federal legislation radically changed the dietary supplement marketplace by expanding dietary supplement category further to include ginseng, fish oils, enzymes and others. The DSHEA removed much of the FDA’s control over dietary supplements and as a result created what is considered to be a virtually unregulated industry. Some supplement products change frequently, often because of market recalls driven by adverse health-related reports or the finding of unlisted ingredients in the contents. This uncertainty is why dietary supplement ingredients should always be checked, because last year’s formula could now be obsolete, and the new product could include ingredients banned by a sport’s governing body.
False Positive: The term “false positive” is frequently misused. It’s often used when a person has a positive drug test, but didn’t knowingly take a banned substance or “illegal” substance. A true false positive would be an instance where a substance is identified incorrectly. The use of a product that is contaminated with a banned substance and leads to a positive drug test is not a false positive. The banned substance was ingested and was correctly identified by the laboratory; such a finding is a positive drug test. For example, the use of a dietary supplement that contains 19-norandrostenedione could lead to a positive drug test for the metabolites of the anabolic steroid nandrolone. In addition, the use of a medication that is banned and leads to a positive drug test is a positive drug test. Such a finding is a positive drug test, not a false positive.
False Negative: This rarely used term is what a cheater is hoping for. A false negative is a drug test that is incorrectly reported negative. This means a banned substance was present in the urine but was not identified by the laboratory.
Marijuana: Any product containing THC, the primary psychoactive agent in marijuana. Marijuana use is linked to anxiety and panic reactions, respiratory damage, short-term memory impairment and a decreased focus on goals and personal achievement.
Narcotics: Pain relievers derived from opium and its synthetic substitutes. Narcotics block pain and cause sleepiness, and at higher doses affect breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.
Nutritional Supplements: Herbs, botanicals or any dietary substance ingredient or product marketed for ingestion to meet dietary needs.
Stimulants: The drugs include a variety of chemicals, ranging from caffeine and ephedrine to Ritalin and Adderall (amphetamine). Stimulant abuse can cause anxiety, panic, paranoia and delusions.
Tobacco (cigarettes and spit tobacco): Products derived from tobacco plants, and containing the stimulant nicotine, delivered through inhaled smoke or absorbed through mucous membranes. Smoking damages lung tissue and reduces lung capacity. Spit tobacco use contributes to inflammation of soft tissue in the mouth and raises the risk of oral cancer.