Last updated: November 27, 2023
Since March of this year, three Navy SEAL and special warfare combat crewman candidates tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). When considering the fact that the total number of crewman candidates is 434, three candidates testing positive for steroid use may not seem too high overall. Not so, according to a statement released by the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) on September 29th. The NSW community holds firm to the belief that the only acceptable number of positive PED test results is zero.
The NSW community believes that crewmen should be operating at natural peak performance. Not performance levels caused by drug use. Initiating random, force-wide testing for PEDs is a step toward ensuring NSW teammates aren’t using drugs to remain in top-notch condition.
The Department of Defense (DOD) approved random testing for these types of drugs back in February 2023. Subsequently, Navy SEALS and others involved with the NSW must take part in random drug testing beginning on November 1st. Moreover, the Army Special Operations Command hasn’t announced a start date yet but has plans to follow suit.
Substances the DOD lists as performance enhancing include:
- Anabolic steroids
- Human growth hormones
- Selective androgen receptor modulators
It’s also important to note that “any drug, selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM), growth hormone, blood-boosting agent, side effect modulator, or masking agent intended to enhance or conceal the use of anabolic steroids” is also banned from use.
The DOD left carve-outs in place within the protocol for service members who have special needs requiring a prescription. Teammates who fall into that category are urged to speak with their medical providers to document legitimate medical conditions.
PEDs have negative health effects
Navy SEALS are put through a grueling process to prove strength, endurance, and perseverance. Successful candidates press on and complete the task set before them no matter the surrounding circumstances. Some crewmen succumb to the temptation to use performance enhancing drugs to ensure they constantly remain in top physical condition. The problem is that while working to their advantage—until they’re found out, of course—in the here and now, these drugs pose serious health risks to the user.
When ingested, anabolic steroids boost strength and add muscle. They work within the body like the natural hormone, testosterone. Testosterone helps build muscle and causes facial hair to grow and the voice to deepen.
Anabolic steroids are created in laboratories. Some people are prescribed these medications for medical reasons. Others choose to use them illegally to stimulate muscle growth. It’s called “doping.” Taking these drugs also decreases the chance of muscle damage when pushed to the extreme during workouts and training exercises. Muscle tone is visibly enhanced as well.
When taken in high doses, though, the risk of suffering serious side effects increases and differs between
- May experience breasts growing
- See testicles shrink
- Become sterile
- Suffer an enlarged prostate gland
- Voice may deepen—permanently
- Clitoris grows larger
- Body hair increases
- Balding on the head—may be permanent
- Change in normal monthly cycle
All people can experience the following side effects when taking anabolic steroids:
- Severe acne
- Higher risk of torn tendons
- Changes to the liver
- Liver tumors
- Higher LDL cholesterol
- Lower HDL cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Problems with heart and blood flow
- Violent tendencies
- Irrepressible anger
- Uncontrollable cravings for more of the drug, known as addiction
- Risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis if sharing needles
This drug is otherwise known as andro. It’s a hormone that the body creates and turns into testosterone and estrogen. It can be created in a lab and sold on the black market. Despite claims that andro boosts testosterone levels, some studies show that’s not true. Some healthcare professionals prescribe andro for their patients. Using it for doping is illegal.
Using andro can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels. The end result could be suffering a heart attack. Taking this drug also raises the risk of suffering a stroke. Because it’s a hormone, side effects differ between men and women.
Men may be affected by the following:
- Shrinking testicles
- Low sperm count
- Breast growth
Women may experience:
- Deeper voice
- Loss of hair on her head
The risk of heart damage that can lead to heart attack increases for all who use these drugs. The risk of having a stroke increases as well.
Human growth hormone
Somatotropin is another name used for human growth hormone. It’s used to build more muscle mass which is said to then improve physical performance. Studies don’t support these claims, however. Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe human growth hormones in certain cases. If so, it’s administered as a shot.
Anyone using this drug as a PED is at risk of suffering the following side effects:
- Pain in joints
- Weak muscles
- Body fluid retention
- Vision problems
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Blood sugar issues
- Enlarged heart
- High blood pressure
This hormone is used to treat people suffering from anemia brought on by severe kidney disease. Erythropoietin raises the level of red blood cells which, in turn, causes increased amounts of oxygen to be carried to the body’s organs. It also improves the way oxygen moves to the muscles.
Doping with this drug raises the risk of serious health problems, such as stroke, heart attack, and blocked arteries in the lungs.
Stimulants can also be considered to be PEDs because of the boost they provide to some brain chemicals. Users are able to show endurance. They exercise longer, feel less tired, don’t get hungry, and feel alert and tuned in to the task at hand. Amphetamines come to mind, of course. However, there are commonly accepted natural stimulants readily available as well. Coffee, for instance. And, energy drinks are commonly accepted by society too. High doses of caffeine—and sometimes other stimulants—added to these drinks boost energy levels.
However, even natural stimulants can be addictive.
Additionally, they can adversely affect the user in the following ways:
- Inability to focus
- Feelings of anger
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased heartbeat, fluttering, or pounding
- Weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
We applaud the decision
Overall, we approve the DODs decision to drug test special forces team members, and candidates thereof, for PEDs. They do nothing but harm the user in the end and that is the last thing they deserve.
Men and women, who answer the call to be the best of the best when standing the gap between our country’s freedom and forces that would war against us intending to take it away, are nothing short of noble. Using drugs to enhance themselves is something they should never do. They proved their worth when answering a call to serve their country. If the physical challenges prove to be too taxing, there is no dishonor in it.
This is specifically a word for any of our military personnel who are searching for their specific niche.
Never think you need drugs to make you better than you are. There is a place for you to serve where you will be invaluable. Discover it while being the person you were meant to be. Drugs pollute your body and mind. Don’t make that a part of who you become. Ultimately, the outcome will not be the same.