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From Mr Average to Superman: Craig Davidson's account of using steroids (2008) (theguardian.com)
130 points by jackschultz on Sept 4, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

Over on reddit[1] a number of steroid users have pointed out that:

1. He actually took unusually high doses for a first-time user.

2. He took none of the additional drugs recommended to prevent or ameliorate the side-effects.

3. That he got every side-effect, even some rare ones, with unusually high severity, seems suspiciously like dramatic license.

Remember: this is a guy who has a novel to sell. He is not acting as a journalist. He is not a scientist. He is under no legal or ethical requirement to be honest. He is a salesman for his own work.

[1] http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1lodxn/til_ca...

There's more dramatic license than just that - if you inject yourself into your behind, there's no way a "pressurised stream of blood spurted halfway across the room". Not going to happen.

I have the "fortune" of having to do injections in that place every week for several years running now, and I'm far from handy with a needle. The worst that ever happened was a thin rivulet. And that was dramatic - usual is nothing, or maybe a drop or two of blood.

Based on that part alone, he's dramatically exaggerating. Combine that with having every side effect in the book, and my money is on this being made up in large parts.

I have been a Type I diabetic for the past 15 years, and have had the "pressurized stream of blood" that shot across the room a handful of times when injecting my stomach. Granted, being an insulin dependent diabetic, I have given myself an estimated 32,000 injections, which I seriously doubt a steroid user would ever get anywhere close to.

You've got larger arteries/veins to deal with in the stomach area. The buttocks are fairly light on them, and unless you move close to the center, there's nothing with high enough pressure to spurt.

Or at least that's what my doc told me :)

I guess this is possible if you hit an artery. That's why you do a suction movement before injecting, because if you inject steroids there, you're dead.

Yeah, probably dramatic license

> And that was dramatic - usual is nothing, or maybe a drop or two of blood.

It usually means that you've hit a capillary. It's nothing major.

I've never used steroids (I don't even lift and haven't for years), but I had the same thought as well. Incredibly dishonest article.

Yes, you don't take Cypionate the first time.

These testosterone salts have different half-lives http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypionate

Oh yeah, and you don't get from the first picture to the last picture in 16 weeks, not gonna happen.

> Oh yeah, and you don't get from the first picture to the last picture in 16 weeks, not gonna happen.

Not so sure about that, assuming he was actually in better shape than he lets on before he started. I love this one - "before and after" shots done in the reverse order, on the same day, while using every trick in the book to accentuate the difference:


The pictures in the linked article seems to reflect every method used in that video:

- Different lighting - Flexing vs. not flexing - Likely pumped in the second - Oil or moisture - Quite possibly a few kg of difference in fluid bloat from the first to the latter. - The right posture to accentuate shadows of muscle in the second vs. hunched over accentuating fat in the second.

Couple that with fat loss and some muscle gain, and it seems quite possible - he's not all that big in the second either.

But frankly, he does not look like 222lbs in that pic to me anyway, so every reason to be extra skeptical. This is Schwarzeneegger at 235lbs: http://stronglifts.com/arnold-schwarzenegger-steroids-build-.... - It's a bit unclear exactly how much Arnie weighed at various times (and even how tall he actually is), but his competition weights are typically reported (including by himself) to have been between 225lbs and 240lbs or so in various competitions including when winning Mr Olympia. As for his height he's 6'-ish - some claim 6'2, some say he's shorted than 6', but he's certainly not a giant. Unless the guy in this article is exceptionally tall, his weight and build does not at all add up...

And trouble making a second rep with 2x90lbs dumbbell bench presses at 222lbs with body fat like in the second pic doesn't add up to me either - I warm up with more weight than that at my bench at 225lbs body weight with far more body fat (I incidentally also look a lot bigger than him, though less toned).

And if he did indeed have such bad results from steroids, that's probably a lot more of the reason than anything else: He was starting from a very poor foundation and was not working particularly hard.

"Oh yeah, and you don't get from the first picture to the last picture in 16 weeks, not gonna happen."

Someone who looked like the second picture when dehydrated, oiled, posing, and flatteringly lit could perfectly well make themself look like the first picture when bloated, unflatteringly lit, and letting it all hang out.

You can see where I am going with this. For some amounts of making himself look awful in the first picture, great in the second one, and 16 weeks of steroids and working out, those "before and after" pics are not implausible.

But I do realise that wasn't what you were saying. Your point was that if we take both pictures in good faith then it's "not gonna happen" and you would be right. I bother to point out what I did because it is reminiscent of those "get ripped" banner ads where - to me at least - it often looks like the same person on the same day 2 hours apart, first posing and tensing on the back of a fasting session and after, slouching, having stuffed themselves. And of course the advert reverses the "before and after", and pops 6 weeks with whatever they are selling into the timeline.

I just posted a link to a video of one someone deconstructing those before and after shoots by example:


Indeed. I hadn't seen that video (cheers!) but we both seem to be thinking the same thing!

Not really sure where you got the idea that the some esters of testosterone are ok for first time users and others aren't, except maybe no ester. Many (most?) Doctors prescribe cypionate for trt in the US, and these aren't just the anti aging clinics.

Doesn't sound like the dude took any SERMs to soak up the estrogen or to let his body's own testosterone up-regulate. Thats why he came out of his cycle with 3 pounds of nothing but bloat.

He straight up says that he took tamoxifen A week's worth of double Nolvadex doses got the gyno under control.

Paragraph 19 Although i'll note you're not the only one who missed it

Novladex is shit. It isn't really a SERM. It doesn't get rid of the estrogen. Furthermore a week of it is terrible. Your PCT should last at least as long as your cycle.


I never seen the point of growing additional muscle tissue. First you have to grow it which is tiring, then you have to feed it and lug it around. It's like getting fat on purpose.

What's more, if your lifestyle and diet doesn't match your newly grown muscle tissue the body will adjust and all your effort to grow it will be gone in few weeks/months.

Instead of downvoting, please enlighten me about the benefits of growing few pounds of muscle tissue in places you don't really use in your daily life.

Lifting weights is part of my daily life. I feel silly that I'm even bothering to justify myself to an internet stranger. It's like when I had to justify playing roleplaying games or using the internet back in the mid-1990s.


> It's like getting fat on purpose.

The downstream health effects of developing muscle tissue (and increased bone density) are largely positive; of fat, largely negative.

Weight training improves insulin sensitivity, improves various cardiovascular markers, strengthens the heart and improves bone density. People who train with weights live longer, with fewer health problems, with shorter senescence, than people who don't.

These health effects are distinct from the health effects of non-resistance training such as running, cycling or swimming.

These health effects are distinct from the health effects of non-resistance training such as running, cycling or swimming.

I'd go beyond that: they're complimentary to non-resistance training, and can even help address some of the negative effects of them.

Running's actually pretty good all-around, though it does little for your upper body. Strength training can help there.

For swimming and cycling, a problem is actually the non-weight-bearing nature of the activities. For cyclists, combined with the electrolyte imbalances from sweating and insufficient food intake, bones can actually weaken. Again, whole-body strength training will make up for this.


> The downstream health effects of developing muscle tissue (and increased bone density) are largely positive;

But surely up to a point? I find it hard to believe that guys growing so much meat on themselves that they can't clap their hands over their head get only largely positive health effects.

How's having hand, that when shaken by somebody feels like kaiser roll for them, improves health?

> I feel silly that I'm even bothering to justify myself to an internet stranger.

Sorry. No offence meant. I can respect bodybuilding as a hobby (part of life that has self contained meaning and brings pleasure by itself). I just see people doing it as if it was a mean to something and that's what eludes me (apart from, growing muscles to attract some girls, I get that).

> I find it hard to believe that guys growing so much meat on themselves that they can't clap their hands over their head get only largely positive health effects.

Muscles don't make you inflexible. Inflexibility is what makes you inflexible. Olympic weightlifters and gymnasts are both heavily muscled with high mobility. Try overhead squatting some time. It's harder than it looks.

A common cause of difficulties is in benching heavily without working the shoulder through external rotation. You see it a lot in powerlifters and in the general "bench bro" population.

> I just see people doing it as if it was a mean to something and that's what eludes me

I lift weights for a number of reasons. Primarily to get better my sport, which is ... lifting weights.

I find it hard to believe that guys growing so much meat on themselves that they can't clap their hands over their head

First off: even some really big guys can be amazingly flexible: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mO3twKxKpqc/UfaQxvShokI/AAAAAAAAV0...

It's really got more to do with tendon and ligament mobility than anything else.

The other: you're simply not going to get that big without drugs. A really good natural bodybuilder will look more like this:


That's defined, but not huge. And he's doing better than most.

You can get the positive results of strength training at or below these levels.

To add to your point about flexibility: I am vastly more flexible now than before I started lifting, for the simple reason that there's just no way I'd be able to execute even "simple" lift like the standard powerlifting lifts (that's bench, squats and deadlifts for the non-lifters) without hurting myself without being reasonably flexible.

To extent you get improved flexibility from lifting with proper form, but if you don't get flexible enough, you've got no choice than to work on it in other ways: Staying inflexible while lifting is a surefire way of getting hurt badly.

Body builders can "get away" with less flexibility, but as your pic shows they certainly don't have to be less flexible.

Of course it's up to a point.

Building muscle is not equivalent to body building. Body building is a distinct sub-culture within the strength sports. Not everyone who lifts is interested in getting as big as possible.

Up to a point yes. A point of 200-220 lbs of muscle on a 6' frame.

When people take steroids to gain muscle beyond that it's not healthy. Also a beginner in a plateau who can only bench 160 has no business taking steroids, he's not the target audience.

Also weird hypertrophy routines dependent on machines, ignoring the core free-weight lifts aren't healthy. Many bodybuilders have muscle in unnatural places, which screws up their flexibility, mobility, and make them look disproportionate. Freakishly big bodybuilders spend hours stretching to avoid becoming muscle bound.

These practices give weightlifting a bad reputation but are easily avoided by not practicing them.

> I just see people doing it as if it was a mean to something and that's what eludes me (apart from, growing muscles to attract some girls, I get that).

If it helps put things into perspective - it's a rare person who wakes up and wishes that they were weaker than they were the day before. However, that's precisely what happens to you if you don't engage in resistance training; this is especially true the older one gets.

Surely you're feigning ignorance. People find muscle sexually attractive and associate it with power in social situations. I'm not very muscular myself, but it would be pure sour grapes not to see the benefits.

> People find muscle sexually attractive

I can believe that it's true on average and that it can be useful for lots of people. I wonder if nowadays that's still something biological, or rather cultural indicator like pale skin in middle ages, or tanning more recently, that a person has much free time on his hands so is socially above average.

> associate it with power in social situations

I never seen anyone doing that. I never seen person with above average muscles in position of power. Is there some research about this?

There's this guy called Arnold Schwarzenegger who had a bit of muscle and a bit of power.

Also an actor. Not the first one in power. Not the most powerful of them. The previous one wasn't a bodybuilder as far as I remember.

Bit of laugh for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlLpCh-lE54&feature=player_de...

Yeah, I heard he was an actor. I watched some of the movies he was in, but I didn't see any acting. :rimshot:

Anyway, getting back to your original point, correlation between height and income is well established (e.g. http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug04/standing.aspx) It doesn't seem unreasonable to suppose that other aspects of an imposing presence, like muscularity, would also effect income. (Up to a point. I think there is social pressure against excesses of muscularity.)

Height correlates with income; an appearance of health and vitality is likely important; but I highly doubt muscularity beyond what you'd get from a normal healthy lifestyle and good genes will have a positive influence on how others judge you in the world at large (at the gym or similar context is different, of course).

I don't know what research has been done, but my own snap judgements of unusually muscular people tend to be negative; couple the muscles with an exaggerated strut and they go strongly negative.

I joke that I wear my coke-bottle glasses to avoid been mistaken for a professional rugby league player. It's half true. The stereotype of a meathead is neatly offset by the stereotype of an arch-nerd.

I have really bad genes, this is why I have to lift to look like someone with good genes.

I use weight lifting as a way to release any frustrations or anything. Its a great way to get my mind off of things for a while. Im 6'2". At 18 I weighed 165. Now at 24 I weigh around 240 with not a little fat. I'm not cut or anything, but you can tell my bulk isn't just fat.

I understand not getting why people want muscle. I don't understand why people want excessive amounts of muscle (read pro bodybuilders). I do however enjoy the feeling of having greater than normal muscle mass, in and out of the gym. In the gym it feels great to be able to lift decent amounts of weight. Outside of the gym I find a certain amount of respect received for having more muscle. Like the article pointed out about the people on the sidewalk, people give you more space. On the functional side of things I enjoy playing physical sports when I can such as football and more-physical-than-it-should-be Ultimate Frisbee. Even in sports like disc golf though having extra muscle means I can throw farther etc. I also am able to help friends move, do any heavy lifting family members need done, etc.

I could probably go on but I think the main thing is that it depends on your lifestyle. I will say this though: I didn't know how handy having muscle could be until I started building.

I would not work out if not for the health benefits.

That said, after I got a bit of muscle some chores became much easier. Carrying luggage or groceries, or squatting to pick up or manipulate something down low. I just had a baby, I suppose it will be much longer before he grows heavier than my capacity for carrying him.

The aesthetic and self-esteem boost are also something to consider, though my muscles are barely noticeable by now.

One reason would be to build up muscle reserve as well as bone density (the resistance/pressure from training seems to improve osteocyte function), so that you're at less risk of injury later in life. This is with normal weight training, though, not hardcore bodybuilding and certainly not with adding fancy stuff or anything.

During the year-to-date(starting in January) I put on about 25 pounds of muscle. The motivations were a mix of vanity, desire for general well-being, and the increasing recognition of my own mortality as year 30 draws closer. (w/r to this last: knowing that I'll get old and lose capability, I want to try to experience life in many dimensions before I lose the option entirely.)

And I guess I got all of that. In fact, it only improved my self-awareness, since even though you can build yourself up to look tough, no amount of training is going to stop a bus from hitting you. And you get reminded of that every time you go in and train to failure. That is really the essential conflict: "why even bother" vs. "try to be the best you can be."

"no amount of training is going to stop a bus from hitting you"

If the circunstances are just right, your training might enable you to leap a bit further, edging out the incoming bus and averting the accident.

Or maybe the bus almost stops before hitting you, and your coat of muscle makes the difference between almost dying and actually dying.

More likely, when you get really old, you'll be far less vulnerable to tripping and falling.

As a counterexample, one of my PE teachers ripped his achilles tendon, when he was startled by motorcycle passing close. I doubt he'd be able to hurt himself like that if his calf were average.

> I never seen the point of growing additional muscle tissue

There are multiple answers to this:

- look at the two pictures he puts in the article and ask yourself which one would your partner prefer?

- working out with weights(steriods asid) has been shown to have numerous health benefits, increased mental competence, longer life span, ability to eat more( if you like eating ), better sleep, etc.

> What's more, if your lifestyle and diet doesn't match your newly grown muscle tissue the body will adjust and all your effort to grow it will be gone in few weeks/months.

This is true, unfortunately its true for every single facet of life.

- I was an engineer in school, I've since forgot most of my thermodynamics course because I no longer use that information. However, I don't regret learning that information

- I used to be able to run a marathon but since having kids I no longer run for hours at a time, and hence, I"m not longer able to run a marathon. However, I don't regret running one.

In short, I don't really see the statement, if you don't use it you loose it as being a valid criticism of weigh lifting as it applies to many other facets of life.

Being strong is fun.

Being really strong is really fun.


Basically, you should plan you old age ahead of the time.

You will lose your muscle tissue with the age and it will happen pretty fast.

As the heart is also a muscle tissue, your heart will degrade.

The muscle tissue can be considered a separate organ of the human body. It's purpose to make sure every other organ is working properly, basically. Not on the "control" level which is what brain does, but on "demand is on this" signal that goes to brain. Your body is evolutionary constructed to support muscles and brain. If you do something we did through our evolutionary process, your muscles adapt (and other functions follows) and your brain grow stronger.

Training muscle makes body to produce excess BDNF hormone (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). The level of BDNF hormone after resistance exercise is about 40% higher than in rest, and it then promptly goes lower to also about to 40% of the rest condition (indicating quick utilization).

This is just an example of evolutionary protection of the brain.

Training muscle makes your character better. No, really, it is better than toning exercise: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20101012

The aerobic exercise has shown to provide cognitive benefits for older age (and even young age, there's correlation between university grades and physical activity). But, if you want to be very enduring, you have to do heavy resistance training: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23914932

And last, but not least.

Man and women have about the same mechanisms regarding erotic arousal. The venous blood goes into cave bodies in penis or clitoris and veins at exit are (partially) blocked by special muscles. Cialis, for example, blocks destruction of special agent that reacts to nitric oxide in the venous blood and makes those special muscles to contract, blocking the blood. The side signal of protein synthesis is the higher level of NO in the blood. Higher NO level makes more probable the reaction that produces arousal, thus makes the sexual arousal more probable (or more stable). Protein synthesis occurs after muscle training sessions. So, if you want a healthy sex life, you better do weight training.

To conclude, let me say that higher NO level makes you ligaments stronger by providing you with the best muscle tissue enlarging program: http://www.hypertrophy-specific.com/hst_II.html (see "utilizing lactic acid") And also see this: http://www.nutritionexpress.com/showarticle.aspx?articleid=2... (regarding brain functions and relation between NO and lactic acid)

Muscle is what gives your body its ability to move. It's involved in the endocrine system (as this rather crappy article illustrates), it is heavily involved in your metabolism and energy levels, especially including blood-sugar regulation. Building muscle, engaging in regular physical activity (lifting and cardio), and eating healthily (minimal processed carbs) will greatly reduce your likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome and (type II) diabetes. Many people can control T2 diabetes completely through strength training and exercise.

It also helps in injury avoidance, improves your posture (assuming you're training in a whole-body mode, not just chest+biceps). Load-bearing strength training also strengthens bones, joints, and connective tissue. And you can pick up heavy shit and not get tired.

As you get older, starting in your 30s for most people, your body is losing muscle mass at the rate of about a pound every year or two (this is called "sarcopenia"). Eventually this starts effecting your body's ability to regulate body fat, and though your weight may not change, your body composition does, with fat tissue increasing as your muscle wanes.

Most people look better with more muscle rather than more fat, if you're into vanity.

And you should end up with a much better appreciation with how your body works and responds to training, diet, and recovery.

you have to feed it and lug it around.

Well, yeah, there is that feeding it. But you've got to eat anyhow. You might be boosting your caloric intake by a few hundred calories -- a cup of oats or so.

if your lifestyle and diet doesn't match your newly grown muscle tissue the body will adjust and all your effort to grow it will be gone in few weeks/months.

So long as you continue to train, your body will retain most of its gains. It's easier to retain muscle than it is to grow it, so lifting only once a week or even once every two weeks may be sufficient. But yes, it is a lifestyle committment -- your body is what you do with it.

And you seem not to be grasping the point: your muscle is the part of you that does the lugging. More of it makes things easier not harder.

There are a lot of good basic guides. Liam Rosen's Health & Fitness guide lays out the basics: http://www.liamrosen.com/fitness.html

"Everything You Know About Fitness Is a Lie" is another excellent intro: http://www.mensjournal.com/everything-you-know-about-fitness...

As for my own experience, I'd found that adding strength training to my routine has helped me in many ways. It's more than worth the time and commitment. And though I've never sought artificial enhancement, my results have been more than satisfactory.

In 4 months, he could've easily sculpted a nice body without steroids.

Steroids are used by old people (and it really helps them), impatient idiots or bodybuilders who have reached those relatively quick 80% that normal training gives you and want to push it faster all the way to 100%.

Also, like others said, the side effects are suspiciously bad, there's no way one person can have most of the worst, unless you're significantly overdosing.

Exactly judging by the photos anyone skinny could've reached the same results with 3 to 4 months of regular training. Anyone not skinny would've had to just lose weight in 6-12 months and then put in the 3-4 months of training.

I'm sorry if I come up strong but that's completely false. It would require at least 2 to 3 years of vigorous training and perfect nutrition for someone to go from skinny to looking like the second picture.

Good heavens, that's alarming. I wonder if part of the problem was that he did all this in 4 months, and whether he could have taken lower doses with less intensive training over a year or two...but then I think of the few times I've looked at magazines like Men's Fitness or suchlike, and it was all about maxing things out, downing vast quantities of supplements, and generally overdoing it. I don't know whether this means that most of their readers are juicing or that having a big physique is simply a full-time commitment, but this article makes me happy to stay skinny.

Men's Health and the like have to come up with new content to fill a magazine every month. Fitness isn't complicated; sound fundamental principles have been known for decades. There's a lot of money in making people think it's complicated though, so we have exercise fads and fancy/expensive weight machines. Look up the Starting Strength program to learn the basic building blocks of lifting.

This is very, very true. I started doing the Stronglifts routine about 5 months ago, which is very similar to Starting Strength, and I'm amazed the progress I've made. The routine only contains simple, full-body exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses and pull-ups.

Eating healthy and making sure you get a decent amount of protein along with full-body exercises with heavy weights beats that new fad from Men's Health every time.

Don't believe the hype.

>Eating healthy and making sure you get a decent amount of protein along with full-body exercises with heavy weights

And getting 7+ hrs of sleep 5+ nights a week.

Magazines are not a credible source of information. Their job is to sell eyeballs to advertisers. Whatever it takes to get you to pick up the magazine is what will go on the cover, whether it is true or false.

Bodybuilding with steroids, if we had some drug to make us super smart I imagine the cost would be the same, and I would be tempted by it.

Edit: after thinking, I would be afraid of the worst side effect of quitting, just like a steroid user would fear weakness, I would be afraid of my own stupidity

I have often described Ritalin and Concerta as mental steroids. (Haven't ever tried Modafinil and the others.)

Like steroids, they don't work for everybody and they can have side effects. But when taken in normal, doctor-prescribed doses, these drugs will enhance mental function -- including the ability to learn -- in normal adult subjects.

I still think I am pretty good at what I do, but there is absolutely no doubt that I was more productive as a computer programmer -- I learned faster, invented new solutions more quickly, was less prone to mistakes -- when I had a Ritalin prescription.

And I do feel a serious sense of loss not having that anymore. Sometimes when I'm sick of thinking about a problem and just want to veg out and read HN, I get furious, thinking about how if only I'd had a tab of Concerta that morning, the fucking problem I'm working on would already be solved by now.

I don't quite feel like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon, but it is in fact somewhat like that.

But when taken in normal, doctor-prescribed doses, these drugs will enhance mental function -- including the ability to learn -- in normal adult subjects

Modafinil is not to be toyed with. Far too powerful stuff. Common doses are 100mg or 200mg, far more than you can stomach without hitting the side effects rapidly and developing a dependence. A friend of mine takes it "about 4 days" a week because he's lost the ability to concentrate well for work otherwise; the long term effects remain unclear.

That said, I've tried it and at low doses it can certainly help with concentration and artificially prolonging your wakefulness/restfulness to the detriment of the next day. But there's clearly a detriment.

> Far too powerful stuff. > > Common doses are 100mg or 200mg, far more than you can stomach without hitting the side effects rapidly and developing a dependence.

Most people seem report the effect of modafinil as subtle and mild, to the point where it is unclear whether or not there's an objective effect on mental function at all (as opposed to being able to stay away - it is mainly prescribed for narcolepsy).

I've used it, and for my part 200mg does in no way trigger any of the side effects - it takes quite a bit more for that. Taking 200mg a couple of times a day for several days in a row does start to trigger some side effects. The upside, see also below, for me is that I can use it when I need extra work capacity and then just not take it the next day without feeling any desire to take it, nor any physical withdrawal symptoms whatsoever, unlike with caffeine. 200mg in one go is certainly not optimal for concentration for most people, though; smaller amounts spaces out seems to work better for people.

It's commonly reported by people using modafinil for nootropic effects that you develop a high tolerance very quickly, but this sounds like you're overgeneralising based on the experiences I see people having with it when it comes to dosage.

As for dependence, modafinil is popular with a lot of people exactly because it compared to things like e.g. caffeine is trivially easy to get off for most people. Caffeine at doses that feels like it gives the same level of effects as modafinil can be nasty both in side effects and withdrawal symptoms unless you carefully manage a tapered reduction in intake. Heck, I have more problems staying off chocolate than modafinil.

Yeah, I should have been more clear that I was only making that assertion about methylphenidate (Ritalin/Concerta).

I don't have significant experience with other cognitive enhancers, although I have tried many of the over-the-counter supposedly nootropic substances (none of which provided anything near the same level of cognitive improvement in my experience).

I'm extremely interested in Modafanil and whatever else we come up with in this area, though; unlike the OP's over-the-top and poorly-thought-through quest for big muscles (and a salable story), enhancing human cognition is a tremendously useful, worthwhile thing to do.

(Edit: I do actually think big strong muscles are actually pretty useful and worthwhile too; they're just not worth much risk in pursuing (since almost anybody can get fairly strong without injecting weird shit), and certainly not as much risk as this guy took.)

Do you have any references for the side effects and the dependence?

According to gwern, the detriments are far from clear:



References? Well, if you trust that site as your source of medical information more so than first hand accounts, good luck to you.

Fundamentally, stimulant-resembling drugs of all kinds have side effects, and the detriments are predictably related to the drug's primary function. You can't cheat nature.

gwern quotes medical studies. You don't.

Wicked snark factor.

That site is half opine and pontification, with a discussion of how to acquire the stuff. If you want to trust that, go ahead.

Basics: Modafinil is a commercial product. Originally for army use, where the long term effects are secondary to the immediate utility. Who's doing the studies? Follow the money. Where does extra energy come from? Not nowhere. Some things don't need medical studies, because humans are not machines and activity out of regular patterns will have side effects.

For an authoritative summary of the obvious plus some scarier side effects, see https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a602016.ht...

if you haven't heard it, the Pal Erdős‎ story is interesting.

Not only he was a great mathematician, he was also an amphetamine user for most of his life.

In 1979, he accepted a bet from a friend about quitting drugs for a month (his friends _were_ worried about him being a druguser).

Erdös won the challenge, but felt very stupid for the duration of the thing, declared that mathematics had been set back by a month and happily went back to amphetamine use.

> Edit: after thinking, I would be afraid of the worst side effect of quitting, just like a steroid user would fear weakness, I would be afraid of my own stupidity

This is "sort of" the plot of the classic sci-fi novel (and short story) Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: The main character who starts out below average intelligence, gets a treatment that causes his intelligence to shoot through the roof to well above normal levels, but then he is forced to face that it is only temporary.

You might like this movie:


The people in it fight to the death for their smartness drugs.

Eddie stabs Gennady, and drinks his blood to absorb the intravenous NZT.

OK, I reached my absurdity limit.

Good, because that's the climax of, and the craziest thing that happens in the film. It's certainly the limit and it's well-placed in the context of the story. I like this movie, despite it's short-comings, more than I thought I would. I recommend it, even though it runs right up to my absurdity detector.

That was a good movie.

I think it would actually be harder to quit than steroids. I can't imagine being in some lucid state where you could solve almost any problem and then having to come back to down to some foggy haze where you can barely comprehend anything.

Vernor Vinge wrote about something called "Focus" in A Deepness in the Sky which explores that concept. People voluntarily become "focused" so they can have extreme concentration to solve difficult problems, but at the cost of neglecting everything else.

There was an episode in "Through the wormhole" where it showcased some experiments in how the subconscious mind can be utilized more. I bet this will become normal in coming decades.

You mean Adderall?

Adderall is in the same class as Ritalin and Concerta but it's not the same. It's used (or abused, depending on who you ask) for the same purposes.

If you find this interesting you might like http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/Drug-Test.html, which documents a journalist's use of EPO, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and testosterone while training for the amateur Paris-Brest-Paris bike race.

And if you're still bored on a Wednesday morning, you can read about how this Olympic sprinter took testosterone, HGH, and EPO yet cleared all his drug tests. After reading this, you might realise Olympic drug testing isn't as effective as it's said to be.


Olympic drug testing could be a lot better, mostly because it is too infrequent.

The biological passport (used in pro cycling) is about as good as it gets at the moment. There are plenty of ways around that (eg, bloodbags & microdosing EPO) but it has been moderately successful in cleaning up the worst abuses in cycling.

The real story is the lack of drug testing in Soccer & Tennis.

In Olympic sports the story is that out-of-competition testing is handled by national agencies, not WADA.

And some national agencies are more ... vigorous ... than others.

WADA doesn't handle testing for any sport - it's all done by the national agencies.

But it gets complicated by the fact that any sport's governing body sets the rules for testing for approval by WADA, which are then administered by the national federations. But WADA has no real power, except to protest to CAS (the Court of Arbitration in Sport) if they don't like how a sport operates (eg [1]).

And yes, some national bodies are more vigorous than others. Famously, Lance Armstrong moved from Nice (in France) to Spain, where the testing was much more predictable and easy to avoid. Also, there were no criminal sanction for the use of performance enhancing drugs in Spain, whereas there were in France.

[1] http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/news/747725/fifa-&-wada-agree...

Thanks, I misunderstood WADA's exact behaviour at international contests.

Complicating the issue still further is that some tests will be carried out by sporting bodies directly, some by national sporting bodies and others by international sporting bodies. And then there are multi-sport bodies like the IOC who will also carry out tests.

In any case, the point is that some countries are more aggressive about testing out-of-competition than others. Depending on the sport, that can make an enormous difference in performance.

Soccer has drug testing, though obviously not very effective.

Plenty of careers have been damaged for people who have been found out.

But I'd argue doping is not as big in it as in cycling for example.

Drug testing is Soccer is roughly where it was in Cycling circa 1997.

Yes, there is testing but it only catches people who are stupid.

There is plenty of evidence of systematic doping in professional soccer. For example, 150 out of the 200 samples in the "Operation Puerto" performance-enhancing drugs case in Spain were not associated with Cycling[1], and it is pretty easy to find out what clubs the doctor (Fuentes) was associated with.

No one is publishing the allegations, because the Puerto evidence was destroyed (!!) and publishers are wary of the lawsuits that Lance Armstrong launched in the mid 2000's when allegations of his doping were first published[2]. The closest you'll get is stories like [3], which are careful to be non-specific.

But read a few forums and it's pretty clear that many clubs have well funded, systematic doping programs.

Personally, I think it's likely professional tennis is just as bad - and their testing is even worse than soccer.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doping_in_association_football#...

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jan/22/uk-libel-laws-s...

[3] http://www.goal.com/en-us/news/1786/fifa/2013/01/18/3682007/...

Bodybuilding with steroids is like launching a startup with VC money.

The difference being, when the VC money runs out and your startup fails, you can go get a job.

Well, unless the bodybuilding competition has been branded "natural" (and even then, sometimes) everybody took steroids.

Just finished reading, and that was a seriously terrifying article. I have no idea how anyone could go through all of that work just to have a more muscular body that barely works. Thank you to the author, writing that is a public service.

I personally suspect that he made up some or all of it. I compete in a WADA-regulated sport and I take my promise to not use PEDs seriously. But I train some of the time alongside people in untested sports who use steroids. They are in pretty good nick.

If this article had been about the time the author smoked weed and woke up in bed with dead kittens, would it be considered a credible PSA?

everybody want to be a bodybuilder but nobody want to lift no heavy ass weight!

Okay, so roid users are willing to lift heavy ass weights, what they aren't willing to do is put in the time, research, and diet to get fit naturally. It takes years, not 16 weeks, but the reward is actual health, health that will last into your old age.

There are plenty of steroid users who do put in the time, research, and diet. Many of them grace the IFBB stages. I would argue many of them have much more knowledge about health and fitness then the natural counterparts.

Body shape has changed. Stupidity has remained constant.

Fun fact:

When anabolic steroids were banned by congress in the U.S., the DEA, AMA, NIDA, and FDA were all against the ban saying they were harmless [1], and they mostly are, especially if taken with doctor supervision.

Now they have been pushed underground (unless you have the money to doctor shop) and you get all sorts of bro science around them which can be a real problem.

Thank science the U.S. government is saving us from ourselves.


Can we get a citation on this that looks more like a neutral third party?

"During deliberations, the American Medical Association (AMA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) all opposed listing anabolic steroids as controlled substances, citing the fact that use of these hormones does not lead to the physical or psychological dependence required for such scheduling under the Controlled Substance Act. Nevertheless, anabolic steroids were added to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act in the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990."


Chasing down the references in that paragraph reveals nothing about the FDA, AMA, DEA or NIDA's opinion on the Anabolic Steroid Control Act (1990). The only citation leads to the THOMAS page for the act[0] which only contains the text of the act, and not any of the discussion surrounding it.

Remember that Wikipedia isn't a primary (or even secondary) source and shouldn't be used as one!

[0] http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d101:H.R.4658:

You'd need to look at the Congressional Record, not the Acts. So far as I can make out, the online Record only goes back to the 104th Congress. The Anabolic Steroid Control Act (1990) was passed by the 101st Congress.

Here's wiki page with citations in it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabolic_steroid#United_States

Call me paranoid but I'm scared as well to mess with hormones and other stuff I do not see. The body is a machine perfected over the millions (or billions) of years so no way in hell am I going to add all of the sudden, and on my own, 6 times the amount of testosterone.

I agree with the gist, but for a different reason. I'll repost something I've said elsewhere:

We're a loosely connected series of insane reactions that just about doesn't die. We put load on non-load bearing structures (hi, spine), we have our optic nerve running through the centre of our retina giving us a blind spot, our body can decide that peanuts = a threat so bad we should stop breathing and occasionally some of our cells will rebel and try and kill us. We need ultraviolet light to not get rickets but it can also give us cancer. Our fine-tuned digestive tract contains an organ which occasionally bursts. My wisdom teeth have decided that they'd rather grow forwards than up. We don't even produce vitamin C thanks to a single error, something we need to live and could easily produce.

I'm not worried about adding something to my body because it's a perfect machine.

I'm worried about adding it for the same reason I worry changing spaghetti code.

"The body is a machine perfected"

While I agree with your overall point, calling the human body "perfect" is ridiculous. Human bodies, if they were engineered, would never even be released to the beta testers out of fear of the engineers for being labeled as a bunch of quacks. There is much, much to improved on the human body, and we will over the next decades; but I agree that ordering a bunch of syringes from halfway across the world through an anonymous email account and injecting that into your muscles is probably not the way to go.

There is much, much to improved on the human body, and we will over the next decades; but I agree that ordering a bunch of syringes from halfway across the world through an anonymous email account and injecting that into your muscles is probably not the way to go.

so we agree. Also let's not forget that the body is engineered to survive in much different conditions than today, never know what will happen tomorrow. So if 50 years from now, after all these tech advances, one says "we don't need the fingers, let's 'cut them out'" I wouldn't rush to do it.

GK Chesterton observed that one should find out why a fence is there before taking it down.

One interesting topic not discussed which is very important is muscle / tendon strength balance. If you overgrow your tendons you are in deep trouble.

"no way in hell am I going to add all of the sudden"

This usually rapidly morphs into a discussion about paleo diet and such, which I follow but some irrationally hate (or are hired to hate, or whatever).

The body is a different one every time, and its sourcecode the result of a more or less random process, your version as much as mine.

That being said, what the nature came up with evolution follows, for the most part, the optimal thermodynamic profile for the most favorable gibbs free energy.

Direct intervention by human minds/means don't always follow that optimal path, and so for what you gain, there are probably more trade-offs.

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