Drugs make you a better artist

Doping in esports: virtual game, real drugs

Much is at stake in the finals of the major Counter-Strike tournaments. The teams have hours of competition ahead of them, they have to think strategically and demonstrate skill. The battles of the last few rounds are still in their bones, not to mention the hours of daily training in preparation. If even one player loses concentration, it can happen that the glory of the victory is gone - and with it prize money and lucrative sponsorship and advertising contracts. No wonder that the temptation is great to give your own brain a helping hand. Ritalin gives your gray cells the decisive kick, you can hear behind the hand. Or: Better take Adderall, that makes you fit.

The games are virtual, but the drugs are real. The sporting competition in computer games such as Counter-Strike or League of Legends on PCs and game consoles has become extremely professional in recent years. The prize money is climbing and in some cases even in the millions. Thousands of viewers attend the tournaments, millions watch the events around the world in front of their screens. And just like traditional sports, the esports scene now has a doping problem.

This article is included in Spectrum - The Week 04/2019

Doping players are less concerned with forcing the body to perform at their best, but rather with brain doping or neuroenhancement: the brain is supposed to get on its toes, concentration promoted, tiredness suppressed. Nobody knows exactly how big the scale is at the moment. Studies and reliable figures are in short supply. And when it comes to doping tests in the context of competitions, e-sports lags behind traditional sports. In many countries, such as Germany, e-sports are not even recognized as a sport. How you deal with drugs depends on the leagues in which the competitions are held. At least one top league, the Electronic Sports League, has strictly banned drugs, alcohol and other performance enhancers. A violation can result in exclusion from the league. The fact that drugs are actually used is more likely to be found out in the open. There are only occasional public statements from individual players. An interview with Counter-Strike player Kory Friesen in 2015, in which he frankly and smilingly admitted that he and his team had been on Adderall during a tournament, caused a lot of press coverage.

E-sports hardly have anything in common with cozy gaming on the home PC. In a fraction of a second, the players have to convert information on the screen into targeted and coordinated reactions of the muscles. Nuances of muscular movement can distinguish the winner from the loser. Spatial orientation skills, an understanding of the game, a tactical approach and forward thinking are also required. The training is not without: in preparation, professionals have to train many hours a day, fight against fatigue and memorize, among other things, dozens of moves by the next opponent.

Drugs of choice are well known

So it's no wonder the list of drugs that players are rumored to be turning to: methylphenidate, better known under the brand name Ritalin, which is used to treat ADHD; Amphetamines or Adderall as a mixture of different amphetamine salts, which also helps people with attention deficit; Modafinil, a stimulant that is actually used for sleep disorders such as narcolepsy; and sometimes also anti-dementia drugs, which players hope to improve their memory in order to memorize strategies and moves of the opponent during preparation. All of these substances were developed to treat sick people. Does the beneficial effect even apply to healthy people? "Psychostimulants such as amphetamines, modafinil or methylphenidate don't make you smarter or more creative," says Isabella Heuser, director of the clinic and university outpatient department for psychiatry and psychotherapy at the Berlin Charité. “In this respect, the term“ smart drugs ”that Americans use is also misleading. But you can increase vigilance, alertness and alertness. "