When news or scandals about Olympics break out, most of them revolve around the use of steroids by the athletes. As a response to these stories, people usually voice their shock at knowing that a number of athletes are taking supplementary drugs to improve their performance in their respective sports. In the US, the use of steroids was once a common practice for a great number of the population. These supplements were first used in the late 1930s, and they were administered to treat various diseases.
However, it was in the 1950s that steroids became popular among athletes. The first known popular users of anabolic steroids were bodybuilders and weightlifters. Afterward, other individuals who were professionally involved in sports also began using steroids. In the field of sports, steroids were almost considered miracle drugs given the benefits that they provided athletes of various sports. At present, some people from different sectors also sue steroids regularly.
There is a lot of money in the steroid production industry. Though these compounds may be abused, laws regulating their possession and use are lacking. In fact, most authorities are not aware that steroids pose a great threat in humans. Moreover, police are really not sure what to do if there is indeed a steroid problem plaguing the country. Meanwhile, some think that they should catch a person with a large stash of such products before they entertain the idea of steroid abuse.
It is safe to say that most authorities in the country have no idea how far the use of steroid has gone. If they just look at popular muscle magazines, they will find a lot of people whom they can arrest for steroid abuse. Moreover, steroid use is not limited to bodybuilders or athletes. Even other members of the population may be tempted to use these compounds.
INTRODUCING ANABOLIC-ANDROGENIC STEROIDS
Anabolic-androgenic steroids are artificial derivatives of testosterone, the male sex hormone. Based on their given name, anabolic-androgenic steroids have something to do with building muscles and conferring male characteristics. Steroids comprise a group of drugs that require doctor’s prescription. However, at present, only a few doctors prescribe these compounds to their patients.
Steroids are normally used to treat health conditions related to deficiency of testosterone. In males, testosterone deficiency may delay puberty and or cause impotence. These compounds may also be used to prevent muscle from wasting or treat other muscle-related conditions. In some cases, steroids are used in treating specific types of anemia, severe burns, and breast cancer. On the other hand, when anabolic steroids are abused, people may be afflicted with certain health conditions, and some of them may be irreversible.
Over the years, around 100 types of anabolic steroids have been developed for human use.
The common methods for administering anabolic steroids is through oral means or by injection. In normal cases, steroids are used for only a short while. “Cycling” of steroids occurs when these compounds are used for weeks or a couple of months. In cycling, people usually provide their bodies with multiple doses of steroids before stopping then starting the administration again. Multiple doses may include different steroid types in order to maximize their effects and at the same time, to minimize any side effects that they may cause. In this cases, the process of steroid administration is called stacking.
On the other hand, pyramiding is the usage of steroids that is in accordance with a certain cycle. The cycle starts with the administration of small doses of the compounds. Then after six to 12 weeks, the amounts administered are gradually increased. At the start of the second half of the first cycle, the dosage of steroids is slowly reduced until the amount reaches zero.
During the second cycle, the user continues his physical training but he foregoes the use of steroids. A number of people think that pyramiding helps the body in adjusting to high-dosage steroid treatments. The second cycle is meant for the recovery of the body’s hormonal system from the effects of steroids.
However, based on the opinions of scientific experts, evidence on the effectiveness of stacking and pyramiding are lacking. Meanwhile, some notable bodybuilders have successfully accomplished these programs and made claims about their usefulness. Even some athletes resorted to these practices to improve their physiques and performance.
As mentioned, steroids may come in the form of oral products, such as Winstrol (stanozolol), Anadrol (oxymetholone), Dianabol (methandrostenolone), and Oxandrin (oxandrolone). Injectable steroids include the likes of Depo-Testosterone (testosterone cypionate), Deca-Durabolin (nandrolone decanoate), Durabolin (nandrolone phenpropionate), and Equipoise (boldenone undecylenate).
The use of ointment preparations is a new method for introducing steroids to the body. The ointment is rubbed to the skin or released through a medicated patch. The dosage taken with this method is comparatively higher (about 100 times more) than the medically accepted amounts.
Among the various methods for administering steroids, injectables are considered the safest. Injectable steroids come in various types: the long lasting one and those that only stay the body system for short periods of time. At present, most injectable steroid users prefer the short-lasting but water soluble ones. Injectables are now popular because the effects observed with steroid use are more prevalent with the usage of oral forms. However, injectables also have side effects that people should know about.
Everyday, healthy males may produce up to 10 mg of testosterone. Females also produce the hormone but at a much lower amount. Meanwhile, steroid users commonly administer to themselves much higher amounts of the compound. Moreover, these amounts are considerably higher than those that are medically prescribed.
Anabolic steroids are commonly used to enhance muscular strength, aid in weight loss, keep the body toned, and boost the self-esteem of people. However, these drugs have no proven effect on agility, skills, and cardiovascular capacity.
Though steroids may be acquired in the US, acquisition is usually through illegal means. Such compounds are smuggled from other nations or they may be illegally obtained or manufactured.
EFFECTS OF STEROID USE
Anabolic steroids may lead to the following health conditions:
Reduced sperm production
Shrinkage of testicles
Irreversible breast enlargement
Pain during urination
Reduction in breasts
Development of male characteristics
Deepening of the voice
Excessive growth of body hair
Early completion of adolescent growth spurt, causing the users to be shorter than their peers of the same age
IN ALL INDIVIDUALS IN GENERAL
Hypertension, which can lead to heart attack or stroke
Instability in blood cholesterol levels
In some cases, experts claim that steroid use may cause the manifestation of aggressive behavior in some individuals, especially when the drugs are taken in high amounts. This aggressiveness may be in the form of fighting, armed robbery, property crimes, and physical and sexual abuse. On the other hand, when users cease taking steroids, they may experience some psychological conditions, such as depression, fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, or other symptoms, including loss of appetite, muscle and joint pain, reduced sex drive, and urge to take more steroid products.
In the case of injectables, sharing of needles or use of nonsterile syringe may lead to various infections, such as hepatitis B and C, HIV-AIDS, or infective endocarditis. Bacteria may also infect the injections sites.
STEROID USE AND ADDICTION
There are scientific evidence indicating that steroid use is potentially addictive. In fact, some addiction symptoms, such as cravings, difficulty in stopping steroid use, or withdrawal symptoms, have also been observed in steroid users. Addiction to these drugs can affect an individual physically or psychologically. Ceasing administration of steroids may leave an individual suffering from withdrawal symptoms. However, once they start taking steroids again, the symptoms fade away. Meanwhile, other people just cannot stop using steroids even though they know that their health may be compromised along the way.
REASONS FOR STEROID USE
In the field of sports, steroid users rely on the compounds for the improvement of their performance. Meanwhile, bodybuilders want to gain more muscles and improve the appearance of their bodies.
Steroids are also popular among people who want to get rid of some extra weight. In other instances, these people may be suffering from a condition known as “muscle dysmorphia,” in which a person has a distorted perception regarding his or her body image. For men afflicted with this condition, they think that they appear small and weak despite having healthy and well-toned bodies. Women, on the other hand, may think that they look fat despite their lack of excess fatty tissues.
Currently, steroid use is prohibited in sports events. However, to escape detection, athletes normally cease taking steroids before drug testing. In this case, these people are careful not to take injectable steroids because they stay for longer periods inside the body compared with oral supplements. Oral steroids remain in the body system for about two week, that is why most sports people prefer this steroid type. There are also cases when athletes try to pass drug tests by diluting their urine to prevent steroid detection.
Meanwhile, steroid use is now also common among teens, as these compounds can be easily acquired even in school settings.