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Other Commonly Abused Substances

By

Gerald F. O’Malley

, DO, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center;


Rika O’Malley

, MD, Grand Strand Medical Center

Reviewed/Revised Dec 2022
View PATIENT EDUCATION

Recreational drug use typically involves mind-altering drugs, but it may also involve drugs taken for other purposes, usually losing weight or enhancing athletic performance. Taking these drugs without medical need and medical supervision can endanger quality of life, health, or safety and is considered a substance use disorder Substance Use Disorders Substance use disorders involve a pathologic pattern of behaviors in which patients continue to use a substance despite experiencing significant problems related to its use. Diagnosis of substance... read more . Anabolic steroids Anabolic Steroids Anabolic steroids (anabolic-androgenic steroids) are often used to enhance physical performance and promote muscle growth. When used inappropriately, chronically at high doses and without medical... read more are probably the most commonly used drugs in this group. Others include

Diuretics

Some people, including athletes and people with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa Anorexia Nervosa Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness, a morbid fear of obesity, a distorted body image, and restriction of intake relative to requirements, leading to a significantly... read more , take diuretics to help them lose weight quickly. Inappropriate use of diuretics may cause dehydration and severe electrolyte imbalances that can lead to severe illness or death.

Erythropoietin and Darbepoetin

Erythropoietin and darbepoetin are typically used to increase production of red blood cells in people with certain kinds of anemia. These drugs may be taken by athletes to increase red cell production in order to increase the cells' oxygen-carrying capacity, which can enhance performance especially in endurance events.

Using erythropoietin or darbepoetin without medical need may alter normal regulation of red blood cell production, so that red blood cell production suddenly decreases when these drugs are stopped.

Growth Hormone

Some athletes abuse growth hormone because they believe it can increase muscle growth and strength while decreasing body fat.

Laboratory tests to identify synthetic growth hormone are not routinely available.

Ipecac Syrup

Laxatives

People who falsely believe they must have frequent bowel movements as part of being healthy often abuse laxatives. In addition, people with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa Anorexia Nervosa Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a relentless pursuit of thinness, a morbid fear of obesity, a distorted body image, and restriction of intake relative to requirements, leading to a significantly... read more sometimes take laxatives because they believe doing so can help them lose weight.

Laxatives used too often and without medical need may cause dehydration and severe electrolyte deficiencies. Regular use of laxatives can also interfere with absorption of other drugs. Inappropriate use of laxatives over a long period can alter the normal motility of the large bowel. Severe constipation and other intestinal disorders (such as diverticulosis Colonic Diverticulosis Colonic diverticulosis is the presence of one or more diverticula in the colon. Most diverticula are asymptomatic, but some become inflamed or bleed. Diagnosis is by colonoscopy, capsule endoscopy... read more Colonic Diverticulosis ) may result.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Federal agency that supports scientific research into drug use and its consequences and supplies information about commonly used drugs, research priorities and progress, clinical resources, and grant and funding opportunities.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): US Department of Health agency that leads public health efforts to improve behavioral health and provides resources, including treatment locators, toll-free helplines, practitioner training tools, statistics, and publications on a variety of substance-related topics.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
No brand name available
View PATIENT EDUCATION
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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