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6 Performance-Enhancing Drugs More Common Than You Think

#3. Beta Blockers

As used by musicians, dancers, actors, surgeons.

Beta blockers are a class of drugs used in the professional medical world to manage heart conditions and high blood pressure. But in the plucky amateur medical world, beta blockers are prized for their anti-anxiety properties, particularly their ability to reduce nervousness and shaking extremities.

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Also, sweaty palms.

These effects have made beta-blocker use a common occurrence among professionals whose jobs require calm nerves and steady hands, such as musicians, actors, surgeons, and crooked pool players. We're not kidding about that last one -- common beta blockers like Propranolol are banned by the International Olympic Committee for amateur shooters and archers.

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But if you've somehow contrived to become a professional archer, there's nothing to stop you.

#2. Painkillers

As used by soldiers, laborers, you (probably).

Obviously we all suffer minor aches and pains on occasion, due to our hangovers and clumsiness and fight clubs, and it's hardly "performance-enhancing" when we treat these with an Advil or two. Where this does start to become performance enhancing is when the aches and pains are intrinsic to the job, where performance would be expected to suffer because of them, but isn't, because of the painkillers. Much as a boxer who doesn't feel pain would have a tremendous advantage in a fight, a day laborer who could shovel rocks until his arms fell off would be able to work longer and earn more than his peers.

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And at $2.50 an hour, that adds up. Really slowly, but it does technically add up.

But the most prominent profession that uses pain-killers to enhance performance is that of a military soldier, who probably takes just about every other drug on this list, as well. It turns out that due to some of the more horrible aspects of their job, soldiers get hurt -- a lot, even if everything goes right. Carrying a heavy pack across several miles of rocks, then unloading that pack to find that, because of some mix-up, it was filled with rocks, and then sleeping on those rocks, is a pretty standard day for many soldiers. And you can be damned sure that doesn't tickle. The resulting bumps and bruises and blisters are inevitably self-medicated with over-the-counter painkillers. Sometimes to excess. Retired soldiers have an alarmingly high rate of substance abuse problems, in part because of all these painkillers. And that's not even considering the big owies they sometimes have to deal with, the ones dealt with by big painkillers, like, for example, these orally administered Fentanyl lozenges, which are essentially morphine lollypops.

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If that sounds like fun, consider that if you're ever handed one, it means you're not having a good day.

What's the lesson for you? Well, if pain is a common, even necessary part of your job -- like if you're a teacher or something -- then painkillers can help you perform at your peak levels of adequacy and dull the urge you'll have to look for a better job. Or at least grease the path to your inevitable experimentation with dangerous psychotropics.

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"Alright, children. Who wants to go on a freaky magic bus ride?"

#1. Diuretics

As used by dancers.

Diuretics are drugs which make the body expel water, not as you might hope (out of the nose) but rather by modifying kidney functions to increase urine production. These (along with weight loss pills) are regularly used by people who have to weigh themselves for professional reasons, most notably dancers.

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Toes: "AHHHHGR! YOU JUST HAD TO HAVE FIVE TACOS LAST NIGHT, DIDN'T YOU!?"

In the world of sport-doping, diuretics are also often used as masking agents, their ability to provoke massive torrents of urine useful for diluting the presence of other performance-enhancing drugs. Now, we're not going to encourage you to mask anything illegal you might have done ...

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"Good, good."

... but if you ever happen to need to make a lot of urine all at once, say, for your career in German pornography, maybe hook yourself up with some diuretics? Make a name for yourself.

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"Goddammit, Cracked."


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and can get you buddy prices on seriously anything, just ask. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to ensure that an electronic log will be kept of all your future dealings.

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