Asthma medication or bodybuilding drug?

Originally Published: December 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 29, 2012
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Dear Alice,

My question is this, How much do you know about what the asthma medication called Clenbuteral does to a normal healthy male in regards to body building? What are the adverse effects? And I don't need to be preached to about why I should take it or not. I just want the basic gist of what it does. Can you answer this? By the way this drug is not used in the US for any reason.

Signed,

Interested

Dear Interested,

Clenbuterol sparked a good deal of interest after two American athletes tested positive for the drug at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and were banned from competing. Marketed in Europe as an asthma medication under the brand name Spiropent, clenbuterol is a Beta 2 sympathomimetic steroid that is illegal in the United States. Chemically, clenbuterol is a beta(2)-agonist and is classified as a stimulant. When used properly as an asthma medication, clenbuterol opens the bronchial tubes, which eases the breathing process.

Clenbuterol is infamous for being abused as a weight loss drug for bodybuilders. As a repartitioning agent, clenbuterol makes it so that calories ingested go towards muscle rather than fat. The drug also boosts a person’s metabolic rate, which means that a person rapidly burns fat and increases muscle mass.

Bodybuilders tend to take clenbuterol at a dose much higher than recommended to treat asthma. This can lead to multiple dangerous side effects, including a tremendous increase in heart rate, sweating, the shakes, and general neurologic and acute cardiovascular effects. For example, there can be a dangerous increase in blood pressure. In addition, there are long-term effects when clenbuterol is taken up by cells, leading to cellular changes that cause cell death.

Given that it is unregulated, there have been no studies on the long-term effects of clenbuterol on humans. Therefore, it is highly recommended to only use clenbuterol with extreme caution. You may want to consult a health care provider for more information. Columbia students can make an appointment with Medical Services through Open Communicator, or by calling x4-2284. A health care provider may be able to prescribe an FDA-approved medication that would have similar effects for you. In addition, speaking with a personal trainer, exercise physiologist, and/or nutritionist may help you to reach your bodybuilding goals — safely.

Alice