The 25 Murkiest Meds
Some deal stealth damage, others simply fail to justify a spot in your stash. We prescribe swotting up on the science
Staving off your legs-day DOMS by dosing up on anti-inflammatories comes with unexpected side effects. Swedish scientists found that gym-goers who took a standard 24-hour dose for eight weeks experienced half as much muscle growth as a control group, plus gained less strength. That’s gotta hurt.
Though commonly sold as a testosterone-booster, this plant has been shown to have no real effect in tests, according to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Not to mention there have been two reports of liver and kidney toxicity in young men taking overzealous doses. Disregard the bro scientists.
The anti-anxiety drug is widely prescribed in the US and ever more popular on the British black market, often counterfeit or laced with painkillers. The charity Addaction has seen many cases of people overdosing, particularly when mixing it with alcohol – which will do anything but chill you out.
Government agencies have seized millions of pounds worth of illegal fat-loss pills in the past five years, the majority of which contain this ingredient. Sibutramine reduces appetite, sure, but it has also been linked to heart attacks, strokes and constipation. That’s not a healthy compromise.
We’ll spare you any lectures on the evils of social smoking – nicotine patches and gums are increasingly being used as mental sharpeners, due to their stimulant properties. But, while there’s some evidence to support this, the drug has also been shown to interfere with hormone balance.
Has the supplements industry been oiling a few palms? A recent meta-review of 79 trials found that omega-3 oils offer little benefit to cardiovascular health when taken in capsule form. It’s also not especially eco-friendly compared to eating, say, an oily fish. We’d advise keeping it real.
Any chemical once used in military explosives isn’t fit for consumption in our books – and 2,4-dinitrophenol is no exception. Later sold as a fatloss drug, and subsequently made illegal, its side effects include dizziness, overheating and even death. Boom.
These compounds are created when your body starts burning its fat for fuel, and ketone pills have reportedly been used by le Tour cyclists looking to steal an edge. However, Frontiers in Physiology found they can hamper performance. Not ideal for climbing Alpe d’huez.
Before you file this one under “no shit”, allow us to explain. Heart concerns aside, studies suggest that even those who use a non-dependent 1-5g a month are more antisocial and self-centred than people who don’t partake. You’ll be more awake but far less woke.
You may have seen it pushed as a liver detoxifier; sometimes in pill form, often infused into hipster soft drinks. But, while it may exorcise the evils of the night before, it has a dark side, inhibiting the absorption of nutrients, antioxidants and even some prescription meds.
A catch-all term for zaleplon, zolpidem and zopiclone – all of which, appropriately, help you catch more Zs. According to a University of East Anglia study, they significantly increase the likelihood of bone fractures, while reviews have linked them to car crashes.
This tree bark extract is often sold as a fat-loss aid or a drug to “strengthen masculinity” and “ignite passion” (not our choice of phrasing). However, side effects include high blood pressure, anxiety and – in one odd study – alcohol cravings. You’d have to be barking.
An opioid up to 50 times more powerful than heroin – which is a terrifying thought in itself – fentanyl is near impossible to self-inject in safely judged doses. The National Crime Agency reported that the drug caused more than 60 deaths within an eight-month period.
Contrary to popular belief, dosing up on Ca pills won’t bulletproof your skeleton. A Cambridge University study found no link between calcium intake and bone loss in men. You’d be better off achieving this with plyometric moves in the gym. Jump to it.
With cannabis oil edging closer to legalisation, we might soon be able chill out about weed. But beware of mistaking it for man-made alternatives. Sold under various names, synthetic cannabinoids can cause memory loss. Medicinal it ain’t.
Earlier this year, a British man was the first to be diagnosed with super-gonorrhoea – not exactly great trivia for his Tinder bio. New strains seem resistant to the antibiotic treatment azithromycin, casting doubt on the drug’s effectiveness. Play safe.
This post-party pill is touted as a natural liver detoxifier. The problem is instability – the nutrient’s, that is, not your own. When extracted as a supp, sulforaphane becomes inactive and ineffective. Get your dose from kale, cauli and kohlrabi instead.
This steroid-alike was initially developed to treat asthma… in horses. Since adopted as a performance enhancer, it has led to the ban of multiple New Zealand rugby players. It’s also been linked to an enlargening of the heart. Not the kind of hypertrophy you want.
These drugs – developed to treat muscle wastage – take off the body’s brakes when it comes to adding bulk. In mice studies, side effects included brittle tendons and a higher injury risk. Needless to say, it’s on the naughty list of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA).
While popping an energising B vit after an all-nighter might function as a psychological prop, don’t make it too much of a habit. The Journal of Clinical Oncology linked long-term use to a 30% higher lung cancer risk among male smokers. We’ll stick to Berocca.
Use of this ridiculously monikered Class B drug, also known as MDPV, is on the climb among young people. A stimulant that can be swallowed or snorted, it has also been linked to violent, paranoid and – according to police – “highly unpredictable” behaviour. Don’t go bananas.
A growing body of evidence supports the fact that the placebo effect is very, very real. Which somewhat explains why we’re all still merrily popping 70 paracetamol tablets a year, despite a Cochrane review revealing the drugs don’t work. At all.
How’s this for cold comfort? The nasal decongestant found in many over-the-counter medicines is no better than a placebo, according to a Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice study – even when used at four times the usual dosage. It’s a finding not to be sniffed at.
According to WADA, HIFS are essentially the new EPOS. “Hypoxia-inducible factor” drugs, sometimes referred to as “oxygen in a pill form”, have a similar function, raising your levels of red blood cells to help boost your stamina. They’re unregulated and the risks are unknown – so steer well clear.
Applying sun cream, even in the cooler months, is proven to slow skin ageing. But just because it’s tedious, it doesn’t mean you should seek out short cuts. Sunprotection pills were recently denounced by the FDA for “putting people at risk” with unproven claims. That’s throwing some shade.