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Steroid abuse and Side Effects

steroid abuse and dangersIn the past few decades, the popularity of anabolic androgenic steroids (commonly referred to as roids and steroids) has reached unparalleled heights. It is believed that 1 million and 300 million people in the United States alone are misusing these drugs. These drugs, which were once associated only with bodybuilders and weightlifters, are now gaining popularity with people of all ages and genders.

Recent studies have demonstrated that male students tend to use anabolic steroids more frequently than female students and the use of anabolic androgenic steroids occurs among adolescents, especially by those participating in competitive sports. It has also been shown that these extremely potent drugs have been used by men and women in many different kinds of professional sports like bodybuilding, weightlifting, shot put, other track and field, cycling, baseball, wrestling, mixed martial arts, boxing, football, and cricket despite such use being prohibited by the rules of the governing bodies of most sports.

According to a study by Andrew, Parkinson; Nick A. Evans (2006) "Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids: A Survey of 500 Users" appearing in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (American College of Sports Medicine), 78.4 percent of steroid users were non-competitive bodybuilders and non-athletes, while about 13 percent reported getting involved with unsafe injection practices like reusing needles, sharing needles, and sharing multi-dose vials.

In a different study, it was revealed that 99 percent of the surveyed participants felt that the public has an exaggerated view of the side-effects of anabolic steroid use [Cohen, J.; Collins, R.; Darkes, J.; Gwartney, D. (2007). "A league of their own: demographics, motivations and patterns of use of 1,955 male adult non-medical anabolic steroid users in the United States".] The study also found that individuals using anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes had a higher employment rate and a higher household income than the general population.

Why Are Steroids Used

Anabolic steroids for medical purposes: Steroids are often recommended by medical practitioners for treating mild or severe health complications, including hypoplastic anemias due to leukemia or kidney failure, especially aplastic anemia, growth failure, chronic wasting conditions such as cancer and AIDS, and delayed puberty. They may also be advised for the stimulation of lean body mass and prevention of bone loss in elderly men and improving libido for elderly males, and treating gender identity disorder. Anabolic androgenic steroids are also prescribed to treat acute and chronic wounds, short stature, protein-calorie malnutrition with associated weight loss, primary or secondary hypogonadism, severe burns, prolonged catabolic state secondary to long-term use of corticosteroids, and Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) wasting syndrome

Steroids Positively Impact Blood Volumes: The use of steroids is linked with elevated Phosphocreatine (CP) synthesis and an increase in blood volume. It is worth noting here that testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, has the potential of improving the production and count of red blood cells by stimulating the red bone marrow that in turn up-regulates the production of hemoglobin. An improvement in the level of hemoglobin further improves the oxygen carrying capacity of the body to result in more vascular, harder, and larger appearing muscles.

Steroids Improve Phosphocreatine Synthesis: The use of anabolic androgenic steroids is primarily associated with an increase in Phosphocreatine (CP) synthesis, which is the fuel used by the muscles to actuate contractions. For the contractions to happen, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) must be changed into Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) so that there is a release of energy within the body, which further promotes muscular contractions. ATP phosphocreatine is required by the body to convert ADP back into the energy source and the more phosphocreatine is available, the greater the regeneration of Adenosine Diphosphate to Adenosine Triphosphate and the greater the work limit of the muscles at an improved rate. Increased phosphocreatine is also associated with an increase in the levels of protein stores or amino acids and cellular glycogen in muscle tissue and this is exactly where anabolic androgenic steroids comes into the picture.

Steroids Lead To Fat And Weight Loss: Steroids tend to induce a positive effect on the distribution and storage of fats. This is done through reducing the amount of insulin which is related in response to the intake of nutrients and an improvement in insulin sensitivity. These positive characteristics are because of enhanced phosphocreatine synthesis rate and other metabolic factors that result in the muscle cells of an athlete becoming better positioned to absorb nutrients like carbohydrates in the form of glycogen, glucose, and proteins in the form of amino acids. After this, insulin (an anti-catabolic and anabolic) leads to the conversion of glucose into glycerol and thereafter into triglycerides and increases fat stores and growth of fat cells. This also means that a decline in the release of insulin and increase in insulin sensitivity would result in improved utilization of nutrients for the growth of muscles. Furthermore, testosterone (found in all anabolic androgenic steroids) has the ability to block the activity of lipoprotein lipase, a fat-synthesizing hormone, which in turn reduces the levels of fat stored and distributed.

Anabolic steroids are also used by sportsmen and non-sportsmen to reap the innumerable benefits of these extremely potent drugs, including increased muscle mass and decreased fat, people suffering from body dysmorphia (a condition in which an individual thinks his or her body doesn't match the way it looks), or reverse anorexia' (a condition in which an individual doesn't see himself or herself as being physically big enough or strong enough. These drugs are also used to benefit from improved protein synthesis, nitrogen retention, endurance, sense of well being and invincibility, aggression, and ability to handle intense workouts and exercise sessions. Anabolic steroid use may also be due to peer pressure or a belief that others are also using these drugs or absence of complete information about steroids and the possible effects of steroid abuse. They may also be used for stimulating heightened confidence, energy, self-esteem, motivation, and enthusiasm or changes in mood and euphoria.

What Is Steroid Abuse

The use of anabolic androgenic steroids in the absence or contravention to medical advice for purposes other than legal or the purchase and use of counterfeited or sub-standard goods, indiscriminate and long-term use of steroids may constitute steroid abuse and cause temporary, reversible, or irreversible side effects.

One of the biggest differences between steroid use and steroid abuse is that while the use of steroids is all about use of the drugs for medicinal purposes and as per medical recommendations, the abuse of steroids is generally denoted by usage of mega-doses of hundreds of milligrams per day under the false assumption that taking more steroids will yield faster and better results. Moreover, there may be instances when a steroid user combines these drugs with stimulants, depressants, pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other hormones that could further increase the chances of adverse reactions. Steroids that are illegally manufactured or traded on the black market may be contaminated, mislabeled, or bogus and are best to be avoided.

It is important to note that while oral steroids can be detected up to several weeks after use, injected steroids can be detected for several months after use.

Some common trade names of anabolic androgenic steroids include Anavar, Anadrol, Deca durabolin, Dehydropiandrosterone (DHEA), Delatestryl, Dianabol, Dihydrolone, Durabolin, Dymethazine, Enoltestovis, Equipoise, Gamma Hydroxybutilate, Masteron, Maxibolin, Methatriol, Methyltestosterone, Parabolan, Primobolan, Quinolone, Therabolin, Trophobolene, and Winstrol and some of the slang terms include Gym Candy, Pumpers, Stackers, A’s, Anabolics, Arnolds, Bolins, Anabols, Balls, Bulls, Delatestryl, Maxibolin, Weight Trainers, Arnies, Dep-testosterone, Methyltestosterone, Rhoids, and Juice.

Signs Of Steroid Use

These factors can be the possible signs of anabolic steroid use:

  1. Phone conversations becoming more private

  2. Decline in grades

  3. Forgets plans and activities

  4. Unexplained and sudden urge to work out at the gym

  5. Covering back with towel to hide acne

  6. Changes in personal relationships

  7. More packages being received in the mail

  8. Loss of focus or concentration

  9. Stealing or losing belongings

Side Effects Of Anabolic Steroids In Men

The side effects of anabolic steroids in men include:

  1. Infertility

  2. Reduced sperm count and flow

  3. Shrinking of testicles

  4. Baldness

  5. Overgrowth of the forehead

  6. Increased risk of developing prostate cancer

  7. Skin eruptions and infections like abscesses and cysts

  8. Breakouts on the shoulders and back

  9. Unusually greasy hair or oily skin

  10. Stretch marks on the inner joints

  11. Gynecomastia or breast development

  12. Splayed teeth

  13. Greater chance of injuring muscles and tendons

  14. Discoloration or blood in urine

  15. Drastic appetite shifts

  16. Jaundice or yellowing of the skin

  17. Erectile dysfunction and impotence

  18. Decline in the normal testosterone production in the body

  19. Blood-borne infections such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS

  20. Increased risk for tendon rupture

Side Effects Of Anabolic Steroids In Women

The side effects of anabolic steroids in women include:

  1. Changes in menstrual cycle

  2. Increased sex drive

  3. Severe acne

  4. Shrinking of the breasts

  5. Permanent deeper voice

  6. Growth of facial hair

  7. Enlargement of the clitoris

  8. Damage to the fetus, if the woman is pregnant

  9. Rough skin

  10. Disrupted sleep patterns

  11. Bloating (face & body) and night sweating

  12. Hair loss in bed, shower, comb, or brush

  13. Trouble urinating

  14. Hyperactivity or lethargy

  15. Dizziness

Other physical effects for both male and female users may include:

  1. Fluid retention

  2. Liver damage

  3. Oily hair

  4. Decreases in HDL (good cholesterol), and increases in LDL (bad cholesterol)

  5. Blood clots

  6. Alterations in the structure of the heart that may cause sudden cardiac death, heart attacks, and cardiac arrhythmias

  7. Cardiovascular and coronary artery diseases

  8. Problem with sleeping

  9. Trembling, nausea, and vomiting

  10. Persistent bad breath

  11. Severe acne

  12. Swelling on the feet

  13. Liver disease and even liver cancer

  14. Rage, Irritability, uncontrolled high energy (mania), or false beliefs (delusions)

  15. Depression and apathy

  16. Difficulty in concentrating

  17. Anorexia, insomnia, and Headaches

  18. Feelings of anxiety and suicidal tendencies; addiction and withdrawal symptoms

  19. Muscle and joint pain

  20. Hepatic failure, myocardial infarction, and arrhythmias

How Can Steroid Abuse Be Avoided

The incidences of anabolic steroid abuse can be reduced greatly by following these tips and precautions:

  • Healthcare providers should recognize the risk factors and acute and chronic signs and symptoms of current and past abuse of anabolic androgenic steroids to identify and treat these individuals. In other words, physicians, nurses, physician assistants, and mental health professionals in the primary care setting and other medical professionals who are involved in the care of individuals who may use or already using anabolic steroids should identify and treat such patients and spread awareness.

  • The use of steroids should always and only be made after a qualified medical practitioner has recommended such use after a careful and complete analysis of the medical reports and history.

  • Individuals suffering from health complications such as kidney/liver damage, prostate cancer, breast cancer, testicular cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, HIV/AIDS, and depression should avoid using these drugs.

  • The use of steroids is also not recommended to children or girls and women, who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or may get pregnant while using anabolic androgenic steroids.

  • It is highly recommended that multiple doses of any steroid should never be taken in case the first dose has been missed, knowingly or unknowingly.

  • The purchase of premium-quality steroids should always be made from a reputed, legal steroid pharmacy with a valid prescription and the use should always be in strict accordance with medical advice.

  • At no point of time, steroids belonging to others should be used as they are extremely potent drugs and may lead to life-endangering complications.

  • In case any side effect or abnormality is experienced after using anabolic steroids, the use should be stopped immediately and medical advice should be sought at the earliest, without any wait, hesitation, or fear.

  • Unsafe administration techniques such as sharing of needles and syringes should always be avoided to stay away from sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

  • Like every decision to use a drug, the decision to use anabolics should be made after a careful and thorough understanding of the related pros and cons.

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Written by
Albert Wolfgang is a professional medical writer with over 20 years of experience. He hold multiple personal training certifications, including the coveted NASM and AFAA certificates. He graduated with honors with a B.S. and M.S. in biochemistry with a minor in physical studies. Albert and his team have trained over 100 IFBB professional bodybuilders, including Hollywood stars and many up and coming fitness stars.

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