Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are prohibited for all service members. They include steroids, supplements and other substances. PEDs often improve stamina, muscular strength and appearance. Though results may be enticing, using banned substances can cost you your career, health and more. It is important to remember that even if a substance isn’t banned, it doesn’t always mean it’s safe to consume. Be smart before you start.

Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are prohibited for all service members. They include steroids, supplements and other substances. PEDs often improve stamina, muscular strength and appearance. Though results may be enticing, using banned substances can cost you your career, health and more. It is important to remember that even if a substance isn’t banned, it doesn’t always mean it’s safe to consume. Be smart before you start.

Know the Risks
Know the Risks

Anabolic Steroids

Synthetic, or man-made, testosterone is used to build muscle and improve performance. It can be taken orally, injected into the muscle or applied to the skin via gel or cream. Use of anabolic steroids without a prescription from a health care provider is considered illegal and unsafe. If you use anabolic steroids without a prescription, you are at risk for dishonorable discharge from military service.

Common Side Effects

  • Acne
  • Stunted growth in teens and young adults
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in cholesterol
  • Heart problems (e.g., heart attack)
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • Kidney damage
  • Aggressive behavior

Creatine

Synthetic creatine is a supplement taken to increase strength and endurance. Though not a banned substance, it is not federally regulated for safety or effectiveness. You can get enough creatine through your eating plan by eating meals high in animal protein. Using a creatine supplement can lead to weight gain, possible negative reactions with caffeine use (e.g., coffee and energy drinks) and worsened kidney function for those with existing kidney disorders.

Common Side Effects

  • Weight gain
  • Muscle cramps, strains and pulls
  • Dehydration
  • Upset stomach
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver dysfunction

Stimulants

Stimulants can make you feel more energetic, awake and confident. Some of the most common stimulants include caffeine (e.g., coffee and energy drinks), nicotine, amphetamines and cocaine. Among Warfighters, caffeine and nicotine are the most used stimulants.

Common Side Effects: High Doses

  • Dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Irregular heartbeat

Common Side Effects: Low Doses

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Irritability

Diuretics

Diuretics are used to reduce fluid buildup in the body and may be referred to as ‘water pills.’ They change your body’s balance of fluids and salts and are sometimes used to drop weight or hide signs of drug use in a urinalysis test. Although they are available over the counter and may be prescribed by a health care provider, they can lead to severe illness or death if misused.

Common Side Effects

  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling faint
  • Low potassium levels
  • Low blood pressure
  • Poor balance

Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

Human Growth Hormone, or HGH, naturally occurs in the body to promote growth, maintain body structure and regulate metabolism. Synthetic HGH can increase your lean body mass, but it may not lead to improved performance. When used as prescribed for medical conditions, it is deemed safe. When used illegally, it is considered unsafe and dangerous. Warfighters are not permitted to use HGH for military performance or muscle growth.

Common Side Effects

  • Joint pain in the hands and wrists
  • Increased insulin resistance and risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Swelling in your arms and legs
  • Breast growth (in men)
  • Increased risk of certain cancers
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Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS.org)

Before taking any new medication, supplement or substance, speak with your health care team. Operation Supplement Safety is a free, virtual resource for Warfighters, leaders, health care providers and DoD civilians. It includes:

  • The most up-to-date DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplement ingredients list
  • DoDI 6130.06: supplement instruction
  • Popular topics and current events for supplements
  • Side effect reporting tool (e.g., adverse events)
  • Supplement scorecard tool to check the safety and effectiveness of your supplements
  • A list of third-party organizations to look for when considering supplements
  • ‘Ask the Expert’ tool for any questions or concerns you may have about your supplements

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and many supplement companies do not report the safety or effectiveness of their products. YOU are responsible for ensuring you are using products that are safe and legal during your service. Avoid ‘popping positive’ by using OPSS.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.