S7 Narcotics


Narcotics prohibited in-Competition are potent pain relievers belonging to the class of opioids. They are used to suppress severe pain. Narcotics are among the oldest doping substances used in sport.

Effect of narcotics

Like their biological relatives, the endorphins produced by the hypothalamus (an area in a part of the brain called diencephalon) and the pituitary gland, narcotics act predominantly on the central nervous system. By docking onto opioid receptors on the nerve cells, they trigger processes in the cells and modulate ion channels with the end effect of reducing the transmitter release. By this mechanism, they suppress the propagation of pain stimuli and reduce the perception of pain.

Administered narcotics act predominantly on the autonomic nervous system.

By reducing the release of neurotransmitters in the target nerve cells, narcotics suppress the propagation of pain stimuli and reduce the perception of pain.

⬇ Pain perception

Side effects and consequences of narcotics abuse

The abuse of narcotics is associated with a high danger of addiction and leads to severe physical and psychological dependence.

Narcotics act predominantly on the central nervous system and impair concentration and coordination. They cause a reduction in mental activity and intellectual performance. As a result, problems and anxieties are repressed – a state that is perceived as pleasant and quickly leads to habituation. For this reason, narcotics have a high addiction potential.

Because the body develops tolerance (i.e. it gets used to the addictive substance), doses have to be continually increased. Concomitant symptoms are convulsive fits, nausea, dizziness and headaches.

The psychological consequences of heavy narcotics abuse include disturbances of consciousness, apathy (indifference) and loss of self-confidence. Depression, delusions and psychosis can also occur.

An overdose can lead to fatal respiratory paralysis, which may result in oxygen deficiency and circulatory failure.

Affected sports

Narcotics can be used in pain-causing sports, e.g. martial arts, to reduce the perception of pain.

In bicycle sports during the first half of the 20th century, narcotics in combination with stimulants were used on a massive scale. The combination with stimulants was intended to trigger a performance high while simultaneously suppressing pain signals.

Nowadays, only a small proportion of positive doping samples are attributable to narcotics, because they are easily detectable and therefore less often abused. Moreover, popular non-opioid pain relievers such as aspirin, Voltaren, etc. are available that are not on the Prohibited List. Nevertheless, professional cyclists have repeatedly been caught in possession of narcotics in recent years. In 2002, large quantities of morphine were found during a police raid at the home of the Belgian professional cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke. In 2009, the athlete died of pulmonary embolism at the age of 34.