Michael Bloor, Russell P Dobash and Rebecca E Dobash
(2000) 'Drug-Taking, 'Risk Boundaries' and Social Identity:
Bodybuilders' Talk about Ephedrine and Nubain'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 5, no. 2, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/5/2/monaghan.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 12/5/2000 Accepted: 25/8/2000 Published: 6/9/2000
Colin informed me that certain drugs used for training purposes, notably Ephedrine, might also be taken on a Friday/Saturday night with or without alcohol when socialising. He told me that while he has done this, rendering him a 'drug user of sorts', he wasn't a 'junkie' because he believed 'junkies' were pathetic individuals who sit in public lavatories, with a sleeve rolled up, and a cord tied around one arm. However, some bodybuilders he knew who turned to Nubain to assist their training, and who developed an addiction, were junkies from his point of view. He mentioned a former gym owner as an example: 'He had to sell his gym to pay for his addiction and had to have an intravenous injection every fifteen minutes. He'd be in the middle of a conversation, and all of a sudden he'd run to the toilet so he could have a jab [injection].' (Field Diary, 22 August 1997: Night Club)
'For some heroin users we interviewed, the act of injecting operated as a "risk boundary". The "onwards transition" from non-injecting drug use to injecting had symbolic meaning for some who saw such action as risky because it signified "deterioration", "serious addiction" and "junkie behaviour"' (Rhodes 1997: 220).
LM: Ephedrine É reasons for use?
Soccer: Um, to suppress my appetite to cut up [shed body fat] and secondly to increase the intensity of my workout. But primarily to cut up [É]
LM: How do you take it in relation to your steroid cycle?
Soccer: There is no relation to my steroid cycle. I just take it when I want to cut up.
Sonny: I've used Ephedrine only when, when I've been really tired before a workout just to sort of wake me up a bit.
LM: You just use it now and then? You don't use it for several weeks at a time?
Sonny: Oh no. I think I used it about three or four times in my life. That's all. 'Cause it kills your appetite. You don't feel like eating. You might end up losing weight so I don't like doing it.
'I was down at Al's gym and Jack [co-gym owner] said: "give some of this Orange a try." It's the American version of it [Next nutrition], the strong one. You're only supposed to take something stupid like a thimble full. I just whacked a couple of scoops into a glass and mixed it with water. I downed [drank] it. Fucking horrible. A little later I went to train and I couldn't believe it. Normally after a warm up I can bench press [chest exercise] three plates [total weight of one-hundred-and-forty kilograms] for four reps [repetitions] and then I need a touch [some assistance]. Well, after four reps I was still going, repping out, eight, nine, ten. Fucking hell man! That night I was working the doors [security night-club work] and I pulled this piece [met a woman]. I took her back for a shagging [sex] and I couldn't get a hard-on [erection]. My head was gone [couldn't concentrate] with the Orange and I couldn't even sleep for two days either.' (Field Diary, 22 May 1995: Night Club)
'The first time I had it [Orange] I was buzzin' [high] for sixteen hours [É] I've taken Ecstasy once and the effect was similar to that. After training I go home on the bus and my head's just gone.' (Field Diary, 10 April 1995: Pumping Iron Gym)
[Orange] that's got Ephedrine in it [É] at the end of the day it's speed innit Ephedrine? Speed's pumped full of Ephedrine I think. I mean you don't wanna depend on shit like that, you're gonna start banging the door in [losing self-control] aren't you? (Interview 34.)
I think things like Ephedrine, well, you know, you start with Nubain as well, you start again at the same sort of category as becoming like what I would call a proper drug abuser. And then it's not long before you want to turn onto speed, and a lot of people then take cocaine and all sorts then [É] To be honest I couldn't really become addicted, I don't think, to steroids but I noticed last year that I started to become addicted to 'Ultimate Orange'. (Interview 18.)
'Another fuck up is Ultimate Orange or it's fancy named competitive counterparts. This shit is packed with Ephedrine Hydrochloride - basically a very mild form of SPEED! This is bad enough and totally useless in the bodybuilding world in my opinion. Why? Well OK, you can boost a workout but what you cannot do is: sleep, make love, think straight, drive or basically anything else. You just sit there - shit faced. That's bodybuilding?'
'There is a potential risk of crossover between the misuse of drugs of performance and the misuse of psychoactive drugs by injection' (McBride et al. 1996: 69).
'[we] had a few reservations about including Nubain in this text since some people who are ignorant of its existence might end up getting hold of some and start using it. But after much deliberation [we] reasoned that it is best to have it included so as to ensure that any unsuspecting and unknowing trainees who have it offered will be knowledgeable and sensible enough to turn it down given the information [we offer].'
'Some smart fellow reckoned that if Nubain acted as an anaesthetic and pain killer it might have a use in training to numb the muscles being trained, making it possible to subject oneself to extreme intensity past the normal amount tolerable. In use this drug works extremely well making gut busting sessions a regular pastime, and as we all know the higher the training intensity sustained, the greater the growth stimulation and resultant muscular growth (all things being equal)' (Wormley and Clark 1995: 36).
'This product was introduced into the sport a few years ago with forward claims that it would give perfect gains in muscularity, a leaner physique and a boost to the training session like never seen before - it did! People reported fantastic training sessions and were very soon coming out of the gyms looking harder and sharper than ever before.'
No [it didn't help with my training]. Psychologically it can because er, a lot of people think: 'oh, you can't feel the pain.' You know? But you can feel the pain. It just takes the edge off it. You know? (Interview S03.)
I was told to use it because of its anti-catabolic effect. Because, your body is either in two states. It's either anabolic or catabolic. If it's catabolic, then it's in a state of disrepair. If it's not catabolic, it's anabolic which is in a state of growth. So, obviously, we all want to be in a state of growth. So I was offered the chance of using it and I used it primarily, as I said, as an anti-catabolic drug. (Interview 21.)
'There's Nubain [É] It's also used as an anti-catabolic during contest preparation. It's not an anti-catabolic as such but it has an anti-catabolic effect by relaxing you. You know, with stress the body releases cortisone which inhibits the effect of testosterone so you don't build as much muscle. Before competitions you're under a lot of stress so you need to minimise that. Nubain helps to mellow you out. I suppose you could smoke marihuana instead but that holds water in the body [thus blurring muscle definition].' (Field Diary, 9 November 1995: The street)
I took one mil per day based on two injections, half a mil per time [É] half a mil directly after training when your body is in a catabolic state, and then I tried it, the other half a mil then I had sometime through the night when it's the other time your body becomes catabolic. It [your body] is catabolic after training due to the fact that you've depleted your body of all its glycogen stores and when you keep yourself down to a low body-fat then obviously the only form of energy is going to come from protein so it counteracts that effect. And then the only other time through the twenty-four hour clock when it [your body] becomes catabolic is whilst you're asleep because it's not fed for eight, nine, ten hours so it's likely to become catabolic through the night. (Interview 21.)
The difference [between types of injection] is the length of time or how quick it [Nubain] gets into your system. If you do it intravenous, before you've taken the needle out of your arm, it's hitting you. It's instantaneous. If you do it subcutaneous [as I was] the effect is say, between thirty seconds and a minute and it [the anti-catabolic effect] lasts for possibly four to five hours. If you do it intravenous it's instantaneous and possibly lasts four to five minutes. If you do it intramuscular, the [anti-catabolic] effect hits you in about forty-five minutes and it lasts for about seven to eight hours but you don't feel the opiate effect of it. (Interview 21.)
People are taking it as a social drug because of the opiate effect of it and this is where it's become a bad drug for them. And this is where it's become addictive in the fact that it gives them a very relaxed, spaced out feeling. So obviously, if you're having yours intramuscular, you'd have to take a much higher dosage to get that effect than if you're doing it intravenous. (Interview 21.)
LM: Bodybuilders who use drugs don't see themselves as drug users.
R21: Yeah. That's contradictory to a point. It's hypocritical if you like, the fact that we use drugs - I feel a little bit like a hypocrite when - it's like I could call Nubain - I'd say it's like a street drug, if you like, because it is opiate-based, so I would say it's like a street drug [É] like heroin, cocaine, Crack, whatever. But then [even though I developed a mild addiction to Nubain] I don't class myself as a junkie because I'm not doing it intravenous. To me that's dirty - that's street drugs. Even though I'm taking the same drug. So it sounds a little hypocritical if you like. I can say: 'well, you're taking the same drug but you're doing it in a dirty way because you're putting it in a vein.' Yet I'm taking the same drug. So really I'm no better than him - or worse than him really. It's just that I feel when you're messing with veins, it becomes a dirty habit. (Interview 21.)
It's crucified a lot of bodybuilders - there's a guy who won the overall British Championship a couple of years back [É] He's never competed since. Had an addiction to Nubain. He won the British Championship possibly weighing about 14 _ stone in Class Three [height class] - he was about 5'6'' in height - about 14 _ stone, ripped to shreds [defined musculature]. He is now maximum 10 stone, can't train, can't do nothing. (Interview 21.)
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