The issue of stimulants use has been widely discussed in the eSports community. It is suggested that the stimulants can provide an advantage in the game to a player, who uses them, over his rivals. We decided to study the question in-depth.
Psychoactive drugs, stimulants
When incompetent journalists speak about psychoactive drugs, they often make inappropriate generalizations. Furthermore, they even equate heroin and cocaine, hallucinogens and stimulants , bringing much confusion to the understanding of the subject by the readers. In reality, there's a wide range of psychoactive agents, which have little in common with each other.
In accordance to Wikipedia, psychoactive drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and results in alterations in perception, mood, or consciousness. These substances may be used recreationally, to purposefully alter one's consciousness, or as entheogens, for ritual, spiritual, or shamanic purposes, as a tool for studying or augmenting the mind. Some categories of psychoactive drugs, which are prescription medicines, have medical therapeutic utility.
Due to the impact on health - both mental and physical, including addiction, the use and distribution of many psychotropics are controlled/prohibited by governments, whereas there are drugs, which are used by millions of people on a regular basis. Did you drink coffee before plying Dota 2? Great! You've used a stimulant to enhance your reaction!
Psychoactive agents differ by their impact on health and the effect they have on the body and mind. There are the euphoriants, which cause euphoria, hallucinogens , which bring the user into a magic world of hallucinations, anxiotropics, which modify anxiety, depressants ("downers"), including sedatives, hypnotics, and narcotics, which slow don reactions and induce sleep, and finally the stimulants ("uppers"). Only stimulants can be used as doping in sport, and supposedly in eSports.
There are tests, which prove that the stimulants remove fatigue, prevent from sleeping, increase concentration and improve physical and mind activities, strengthen self-confidence and cause an excitement effect on human's body. Furthermore, stimulants are also divided into groups, though classifying stimulants is difficult, because of the large number of classes the drugs occupy, and the fact that they may belong to multiple classes. There are "hard" and "weak" stimulants. Hard stimulants are cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine and derivatives. The weak are caffeine (tee, coffee and chocolate) and nicotine. This article covers the issues of the use of strong stimulants in eSports.
Stimulants produce a variety of different kinds of effects by enhancing the activity of the central and peripheral nervous systems. They exert their effects through a number of different pharmacological mechanisms, the most prominent of which include facilitation of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and/or dopamine activity, adenosine receptor antagonism, and nicotine acetylcholine receptor agonism. Use of stimulants may cause the body to reduce significantly its production of natural body chemicals that fulfill similar functions. Until the body reestablishes its normal state, once the effect of the ingested stimulant has worn off the user may feel depressed, lethargic, confused, and miserable. This is referred to as a "crash", and may provoke reuse of the stimulant. Abuse of central nervous system (CNS) stimulants is common. Addiction to some CNS stimulants can quickly lead to medical, psychiatric, and psychosocial deterioration. Drug tolerance, dependence, and sensitization as well as a withdrawal syndrome can occur.
Stimulants can be use in every human's activity, requiring the endurance of heavy and long physical or mental loads. Moreover, people began using stimulants long before the invention of synthetic substances. For example the peoples of South America chewed coca leaves in order to reduce sleepiness and fatigue, and get rid of headache caused by low pressure in the mountains. Having discovered the effect of coca, Spanish conquistadors used its leaves at silver mines to increase the productivity of the slaves.
Stimulants were also reported to be used for military purposes. During World War II, amphetamine and methamphetamine were used extensively by both the Allied and Axis forces for their stimulant and performance-enhancing effects.
As concerns traditional sport, the use of stimulants wasn't condemned for a very long time. Many sportsmen even made public statements, claiming they use drugs. For example a prominent French road racing cyclist Jacques Anquetil, who won Tour de France five times, said only a fool would imagine it was possible to ride BordeauxParis on just water. He also said "Leave me in peace; everybody takes dope." Angelo Fausto Coppi, a prominent cyclist once spoke about it in a television interview. Answering the question: "Do cyclists take la bomba (amphetamine)?", he replied: "Yes, and those who claim otherwise, it's not worth talking to them about cycling."
Creative people often use stimulants too. American writer Jack Kerouac wrote the final draft of his most prominent novel "On the Road" in 20 days, with Joan, his wife, supplying him with benzedrine, cigarettes, bowls of pea soup and mugs of coffee to keep him going. Most of his books speak about drug use (as well as Buddhism, promiscuity, jazz and travels).
Stimulants are also used by some students during their preparation to the exams. Adderall has become extremely popular lately.
" Friesen of
Cloud9 stated that his team used the drug during one of the tournament. Though it is a prescription drug, people find their way to get it, e.g. by complaining a sleepiness to a doctor. Though many claim, it has no effect, medication is a mixture of various salts of the two amphetamine stereoisomers and inactive ingredients. By the way, if you don't want to use synthetic drugs, but wish enhance your mind, eat chocolate with coffee or tea. All of them contain caffeine, which is also a stimulant.
The use of stimulants in eSports have been rumored for quite a while. Though rumors is no reliable source of information, we can't claim that eSportsmen have never used doping. As we mentioned before, stimulants are used by people, when they endure loads and undergo risks. Professional eSports with its severe competition, hard trainings, sponsors and fans pressure and much money at stake is a very stressful activity, that requires much endurance.
As soon as we have no proof, let's discuss rumors. The main squads manager of Natus Vincere
" Erofeev commented the possible use of stimulants in eSports: "This was a quite uncovered practice at a time. However, I never supported it. Taking into account the current pace of eSports development, doping control will soon be introduced". The player of
" Bondarenko said in an informal conversation: "I no nothing about the use of drugs now (who uses, what and how much). However, it was a common practice in the past. 45-50% of players, who came to LAN in Kyiv, used drugs. They smoked, used amphetamine. In general many typed of drugs were used then."
" Averbukh said in an interview: "There were many rumors about players using doping. The community always reacted eagerly, as such topic is always interesting to discuss. However, until a player undergoes a doping test, we can only discuss it as a rumor. In general, it is easier for a loser team to think that they lost because their rivals used drugs." An old movie "Frag" also mentions the problem with
" Blicharz listing the drugs, popular among the professional eSportsmen. He mentioned crystal meth, amphetamine and Ritalin. These drugs provide strength, improve perception and attention focus.
The abovementioned situation with Cloud9
is worth describing in a separate paragraph. Team's former player
" Friesen in an interview said, that the whole team had used Adderall during One Katowice 2015. Not everyone believed him, since
Cloud9 didn't perform well at the tournament. They didn't even manage to get to the play off. Moreover, an article was published, claiming that the effect of Adderall is minor, and it is useless for eSportsmen. Placebo effect is claimed in the article to be much more significant. Notwithstanding the scepsis of community, ESL organizers stated that they will take necessary actions to prevent such cases in future, making doping control obligatory for all the participants.
Back to the use of stimulants in esports, the life of professional eSportsmen is full of alike loads, regular training and many other game aspects, requiring much dedication. Thus we can suggest that eSports provides the grounds to the use of various stimulants. However, the effectiveness of such use is yet at question.
Are stimulants effective for eSportsmen?
One of the most arguable questions is effectiveness of doping in eSports. On the one hand, the impact of stimulants on human's central nervous system is proved by numerous tests and experiments and thus is not subject to doubts. On the other hand, it is yet unclear if doping can really provide the desired advantage to a professional player.
First, doping use isn't always about using it during the tournament. Stimulants are often used during the long-term trainings in order to spent more time training and less time sleeping. "Light" legal uppers, e.g. coffee, will serve this purpose very well. However, due to the extreme competition, requiring extremely long trainings, caffeine might be not enough. If we suppose that trainings are really effective, the players, who use stimulants and sleep less, gain advantage over those players, who don't use stimulants.
However, many stimulants, e.g. amphetamine, cannot be used on the permanent basis, since they drain human powers. After using drug, the body requires recreation, i.e., the sleep. Otherwise, the user's strengths won't be restored and one moment it will fail to perform normally. In this case, the use of stimulants at the long-term bootcamps seems to be useless.
Second, though enhancing reaction and improving focus, stimulants don't impact on your analytical skills. That is to say, if an idea comes to your mind, when you are under doping, you implement it before analyzing, whether it's good and effective or not. In eSports, this means, that you won't be able to effectively apply a new tactics, when the game requires it.
Furthermore, stimulants can bring much harm, if the body reacts unusually to their use, or if a doze is chosen incorrectly. The effect can be completely different to what was expected. If it happens at LAN-tournament, it will be a total failure for an eSportsman and the whole team.
On the top of the pie the stimulant can be too weak (e.g. Adderall) and thus cause no significant effect. In this case placebo effect can take place, when a drug use impacts the mind and emotions rather than the brain and neurons. A player believes in the effect, and the effect comes, cause the mind plays a trick with itself. However, placebo effect depends on the psychology of a particular player. Some people are less suggestible, than others.
Summing up the abovementioned, we'd like to note that the effectiveness of doping remains at question. There are way too many individual factors, which impact the result of doping. One thing we can say for sure, if a person is a noob, he won't become a pro with doping. There's no cure for that. As well as no drug will make you pass the test, if you hadn't read a single line on a subject. Stimulants will never replace the learning process. So keep on training and reading guides by pro players!
Doping topic in esports is hardly exhausted, but we tried to outline the main aspects of the question. The article provided basic information about recreational drugs and their registered use. Unfortunately we cannot provide any particular data about eSports, since due to a number of reasons, there's no proof, any eSportsman has ever used stimulants, and no testing has been made so far. Nevertheless, we are pretty sure we're coming into an era of doping control in eSports.