The rush to adrenaline: Drugs in sport acting on the beta-adrenergic system

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Abstract

Athletes attempt to improve performance with drugs that act on the beta-adrenergic system directly or indirectly. Of three beta-adrenoceptor (AR) subtypes, the beta(2)-AR is the main target in sport; they have bronchodilator and anabolic actions and enhance anti-inflammatory actions of corticosteroids. Although demonstrable in animal experiments and humans, there is little evidence that these properties can significantly improve performance in trained athletes. Their actions may also be compromised by receptor desensitization and by common, naturally occurring receptor mutations (polymorphisms) that can influence receptor signalling and desensitization properties in individuals. Indirectly acting agents affect release and reuptake of noradrenaline and adrenaline, thereby influencing all AR subtypes including the three beta-ARs. These agents can have potent psychostimulant effects that provide an illusion of better performance that does not usually translate into improvement in practice. Amphetamines and cocaine also have considerable potential for cardiac damage. beta-AR antagonists (beta-blockers) are used in sports that require steadiness and accuracy, such as archery and shooting, where their ability to reduce heart rate and muscle tremor may improve performance. They have a deleterious effect in endurance sports because they reduce physical performance and maximum exercise load. Recent studies have identified that many beta-AR antagonists not only block the actions of agonists but also activate other (mitogen-activated PK) signalling pathways influencing cell growth and fate. The concept that many compounds previously regarded as blockers may express their own spectrum of pharmacological properties has potentially far-reaching consequences for the use of drugs both therapeutically and illicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584 - 597
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Volume154
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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