Anabolic Steroids

Essential Information About Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are a type of drug used for both legitimate and illegal purposes. Although many types of steroids are FDA approved, they must be scheduled into one of three categories created by the Controlled Substances Act. Such steroids are often used by athletes and bodybuilders to increase endurance and muscle mass. They may also be prescribed by doctors for legitimate purposes. According to the Association Against Steroid Abuse–AASA–having such drugs in one’s possession without an authentic prescription by a licensed health care practitioner is against the law, and carries maximum penalties of a $1000 fine or one year in jail.

Identification

Anabolic steroids accelerate the growth of bones, red blood cells and muscles. They were initially developed for legitimate medical disorders for which they are quite beneficial. Nevertheless, the appeal of such drugs to certain individuals is their ability to promote muscle building without actual strength training or enhance the size of muscles and exacerbate their growth in those who are training: when used in combination with exercise, they allow athletes to grow muscle at a pace that substantially exceeds normal ability.

Function

The use of anabolic steroids lowers the body’s natural testosterone production. Because they are a synthetic form of testosterone, when the body detects their presence, it responds by instantly decreasing natural testosterone production. In certain cases, the production of natural testosterone may completely cease, depending on the amount of anabolic steroids one consumes. As soon as a person stops using the drug, his or her body will once again regularly produce testosterone. Unfortunately, however, there is often a significant delay between these two occurrences, thus forcing the person’s system into temporary hormonal imbalance.

Expert Insight

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention–CDC–reports that the use of steroids among students is a significant cause for concern. As of 2007, there were an estimated 700,000 students between 13 and 18 years of age who admitted to using steroids for the purpose of enhancing their athletic performance. In addition, according to the CDC, many of these students exhibited total ignorance of the health hazards associated with this class of drug. Unfortunately, this is also the case concerning many athletes, as the use of anabolic steroids is a quick way to “bulk up” and outshine their competition in various ways.

Warning

In 2009, the United States Food and Drug Administration–FDA–released a warning to the general public stating that any bodybuilding supplements that contain anabolic steroids or similar ingredients, pose a serious health threat and should not be used by any individual unless he or she first consults a doctor or other qualified medical professional.

Physician-Prescribed Steroids

As with many drugs that are illegal without a prescription, there are certain cases where a physician may recommend the use of anabolic steroids. If this is the case, one should take the medication exactly as prescribed.

A doctor may prescribe anabolic steroids as one component of an overall care plan for a person suffering from a specific disorder or disease. For example, this class of medication has been proven advantageous as part of a treatment plan for certain types of muscle wasting, particularly the type seen with AIDS patients and victims of certain types of cancers. In rare cases, a pediatric specialist may even prescribe synthetic steroids for boys from 13 to 17 who are experiencing idiopathic–for no known cause–arrested puberty.

Additionally, anabolic steroids may be recommended for adult men experiencing testicular dysfunction. However, it is essential to keep in mind that these are genuine medical conditions and the drug is being used under a doctor’s supervision. The law prohibits health care practitioners from recommending or prescribing that a patient used steroids for the purpose of enhancing athletic performance.

Effects of Steroids

Synthetic steroids are powerful hormones that influence a person’s entire system. A particular group of side effects are seen in virtually every person who uses steroids, regardless of his or her age, gender or reason for use. Certain of the side effects can be especially severe, up to and including those that are fatal in nature. Below are some commonly experienced side effects in men:

  • Increased sex drive
  • Development of female breasts
  • Decreased sperm count
  • Total infertility
  • Impotence
  • Painful erections
  • Decrease in testicle size
  • Enlarged prostate gland

Below are the side effects most commonly seen in women:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Growth of male-pattern facial hair
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Reduced breast size
  • Multiple pregnancies

In addition, both men and women may suffer from:

  • Delusions
  • Violent mood swings
  • Enlarged heart
  • Liver disease
  • Cardiac arrest or irregular heartbeat
  • Torn or unstable tendons
  • Jaundice
  • Acne

Those using steroids under the age of 18 place themselves at an increased risk of slow bone development and teenage girls may develop long-term masculine characteristics.

Drug Interaction

In addition to the serious health risks associated with the use of anabolic steroids, persons taking certain prescription medications are at an even higher risk for serious medical disorders due to an undesired interaction. This is because those taking steroids of this kind are typically not doing so under a doctor’s advice, and therefore may be unaware of potential conflicts with other drugs prescribed by their physician.

Preventing of Steroid Abuse

As of 2015, the majority of steroid abuse prevention programs in the U.S. were geared toward athletes and professional performers, such as dancers or gymnasts. However, not many educational institutions test students for steroid use, even though medical researchers estimate that this issue is more widespread than initially believed. More studies are currently being conducted to determine whether or not a reduction in steroid abuse has occurred in the few school districts that participate in drug testing of this kind.

As with all medications, it is never wise to self-prescribe and obtain steroids, as such drugs are not safe to use unless one is under the care of a physician. Anyone with questions or concerns about steroid use or who is experiencing side effects from prescribed steroids should seek the advice of his or her health care practitioner without delay.