Commonly Abused Stimulants Among Athletes


Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

For many athletes, participating at the collegiate level elevates the sport to a whole new dimension.  Student athletes that have the opportunity to compete at a collegiate level have typically dedicated much of their time and effort for training and preparation.  Students competing at the college level may also begin to face increased pressures to perform or succeed, which can be challenging in a whole new way.  Many college athletes are under scholarship, with college tuition hinging on how they perform athletically.  Other athletes may be using their time in collegiate sport as a stepping-stone for competing professionally.  Whatever the circumstance may be, collegiate athletes undoubtedly face more pressures than may be recognized or acknowledged.

Competitive Edge

Some collegiate athletes seeking competitive edge may frequently turn to substances to enhance performance.  A common group of substances that are utilized in this manner include stimulants, or performance enhancing drugs.  The following are some of the most common types of stimulants that may be used among collegiate athletes:

  • Caffeine:  While caffeine is a legal substance, athletes can in fact become dependent and addicted to this substance if overused for stimulating purposes in training.  The overuse of caffeine can cause cardiovascular complications, gastrointestinal distress, and more.
  • Amphetamines: Amphetamine-based substances, including both prescription and non-prescription drugs, can be frequently utilized to increase stamina, endurance, and performance among athletes.  However, the use of amphetamines can lead to many negative and harmful consequences to the user.
  • Cocaine:  This illegal drug is highly addictive and can induce feelings of pleasure and euphoria.  Cocaine use can also increase alertness and energy while delaying fatigue, which may desirable to the student athlete using cocaine.

Stimulants may help temporarily increase an individual’s athletic performance but these substances can lead to dramatic physical problems.  Short and long term consequences are associated with stimulant use, including changes that can not only degrade athletic performance but inhibit a person’s quality of life and wellness.

If you are a college athlete struggling with stimulant abuse, be sure to talk with someone you trust about these behaviors.  Seeking out intervention early can help prevent more serious complications from arising in the future and ultimately preserve your life and career as an athlete.


Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What circumstances are unique to collegiate athletes that may make them more susceptible to stimulant misuse and abuse?  If you are a college athlete, what resources are available on your campus for athletes who may be struggling with drug addiction?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders.  These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.  We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.  

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 4, 2015. Published on