Steroids are the same or similar to certain body hormones. The body naturally produces steroids to facilitate some functions such as combating stress and promoting growth and development.
Anabolic steroids are artificially produced hormones and are equal to or similar to androgens, the body’s male hormones. There are more than 100 variants of anabolic steroids. The most potent androgen is testosterone. While testosterone is primarily a mature male hormone, girls’ bodies produce lower amounts. Testosterone helps generate muscle tissue and promotes the male traits that boys develop during puberty, such as voice change and facial hair growth. Testosterone levels can also affect a person’s level of aggressiveness.
Sometimes athletes take anabolic steroids because they have testosterone-like effects.
Other steroids, sometimes referred to as steroid supplements, contain dehydroepiandrosterone and/or androstenedione (or androstenedione). Mostly steroid supplements, which used to be offered in health food stores or gyms, are now illegal and should be obtained with a prescription.
Dehydroepiandrosterone is one of the few exceptions and can still be obtained without a prescription. Steroid supplements are weaker forms of androgen. Its effects are not well known, but it is believed that, if taken in large doses, they cause effects similar to those of other androgens such as testosterone. But research studies suggest that they do nothing or do very little to improve athletic performance.
How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?
Anabolic steroids stimulate muscle tissue to grow and increase volume in response to training by mimicking the effect of natural testosterone on the body. Anabolic steroids can remain in the body from a few days to about a year. Steroids became popular because they can improve endurance, strength and muscle mass. However, studies have not shown that steroids improve skill, agility or athletic performance. Dangers of steroids Anabolic steroids cause many different types of problems. Some of the common side effects are:
- Hair loss or premature baldness
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- High blood pressure
- More likely to injure muscles and tendons
- Jaundice (yellow skin)
- Liver damage
- Growth problems
- Increased risk of developing heart disease, blood clots, stroke and some cancers
The risks of girls-specific anabolic steroids are as follows:
- Increased hair growth on the face and body
- Development of male traits, such as more severe voice, loss of female body characteristics, such as reduced breast size
- Enlargement of the clitoris
Changes in the menstrual cycle Specific risks for boys include:
- Shrinking testicles
- Pain when urinating
- Breast development
- Impotence (impossibility of having an erection)
- Reduction in sperm count and infertility
Steroids can also have serious psychological side effects. Some consumers become aggressive or combative, believe things that are not true (delusions) or have deep feelings of mistrust or fear (paranoia). And people who use steroids also seem to have an increased risk of using other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine, often to counteract some of the negative effects of steroids.
If people who use steroids and inject drugs with a needle share needles with others, they are at risk of becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is the virus that causes AIDS. Those who use dirty needles are also at risk of hepatitis, liver disease, or bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart.
Steroids: Combination and Addiction
Some people cycle with their steroid doses. This means that they take several doses of steroids over a period of time, stop taking them for a while and then start over. “Combine” means taking two or more different anabolic steroids. Other consumers use a “pyramidal” dosage: they start with a low dose and gradually increase the dosage, frequency or amount of anabolic steroids they take. They are then gradually reduced to complete a cycle. Consumers believe that the combination enhances the effects of each individual drug, the pyramid allows the body to get used to high doses of steroids and that steroid-free periods help the body recover from the drugs. There is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims.
Many people tell themselves that they will only use steroids for a season or a school year. Unfortunately, steroids can be addictive and it is difficult to stop taking them.
And once a consumer stops taking steroids, they may develop withdrawal symptoms, such as loss of appetite, tiredness, restlessness, insomnia, mood swings and depression.
Alternatives to steroids
The use of anabolic steroids is illegal and is prohibited by professional sports organizations and medical associations. Despite this, some athletes continue to take steroids because they believe they give them a competitive edge. As seen in high-profile cases, if an athlete is found to be using steroids, his career may be shattered. And there are serious health consequences. If you think about it, damaging your body and being disqualified are not very smart ways to try to improve your athletic performance. To be a leading athlete you need to work hard and train in a healthy way: eat proper foods, practice and do strength training without the use of drugs.