Steroid Effects: Abuse of Anabolic Steroids
Some may come across this article and automatically be turned off by it simply because of its contents. After all, anabolic steroids are a sort of taboo topic that no one wants to openly talk about, but so many in the fitness industry are using. This article’s purpose is neither to persuade or dissuade anyone from the use of anabolic steroids, it is simply to inform on the basics.
Anabolic steroids are a testosterone derivate, man-made drug utilized to enhance certain performance measures in both sexes. Testosterone is a natural hormone found both in men and women (very small amounts in women) with various functions including the regulation of sex drive, red blood cell production, bone mass, fat distribution, and the one we all truly care about… muscular size and strength. The presence of a large amount of testosterone will provide those “manly” characteristics that often accompany the vision of what a man looks like (i.e. large muscles, deep voice, heightened sex drive, etc.). But while testosterone is, indeed, a natural hormone found in all humans (both men and women alike), an unnatural form may be introduced into the human body to enhance those testosterone-related characteristics, in addition to some adverse physiologic effects.
The ergogenic benefits that attract various athletes to anabolic steroid use include increased muscle size, increased muscular strength, and increased athletic performance. While all of these characteristics most definitely will happen as a result of steroid use, the degree to which they occur is variable depending on preexisting physiological characteristics, training frequency and status, and a number of other variables. Increases in arousal and self-esteem have also been reported in anabolic steroid users. Self-esteem improvements are probably seen as a result of enhanced athletic performance and heightened perceptions of one’s own physical appearance, rather than a cognitive alteration. Increases in aggression may be beneficial in athletic performance, especially for those athletes engaged in contact sports; however, aggression may not be limited to athletic performance, rather day-to-day aggressive behavior, which may attribute to irritability, mood swings, and psychotic episodes. Anabolic steroids are attractive to many athletes because they have the ability to enhance muscle size and strength and increase body mass. In addition to these muscular benefits, steroids will typically enhance other male secondary sex characteristics, such as increased body hair, deepened voice, increased libido and aggression. While all of these characteristics may seem attractive, they come with a price. Synthetic testosterone has degradation capacity: meaning, that once the drugs cease, the musculature that accompanied them will likely decline back to near preexisting levels.
Increases in muscular size and strength occur as a direct result of increased protein synthesis, which attributes to decreased body fat and increased body mass leanness. These effects last months after cessation of steroid use, which is probably why athletes are able to use anabolic steroids during an off-season and appear during in-season with negative drug testing results. The athletic enhancements evident in steroid use, while eventually degrading have lasting effects for months following their cessation.
Drug potency may be enhanced through the utilization of stacking, which is a technique that employs more than one type of steroid at a time to enhance the potency of one anabolic agent through the utilization of another. Steroids may be taken in one of two forms: injectable and oral, the method often depending on the type of steroid desired. Typically, athletes will use steroids in a cycling manner, so that they use the drugs for several weeks (or months), followed by periods of discontinued use. During periods of steroid use, athletes will often prescribe their doses in a pyramid fashion, where they begin with small doses, gradually work their way to larger ones, and slowly back down to the original dose again. This technique is used in order to reduce the risk of negative side-effects.
At this point, anabolic steroids use may seem attractive on all accounts, right? It helps to increase muscular size and strength, enhances athletic performance, increases libido and secondary male characteristics, but steroid use is not without its consequences. It is important to note that the majority of the adverse effects related to anabolic steroid use are generally seen among athletes who self-dose, rather than seeing a physician. In addition to that finding, many of these side-effects are also reversible upon cessation of the drug, and they are typically seen in athletes who use a variety of other synthetic drugs (i.e. thyroid hormone, insulin, diuretics, etc.), characteristic of competitive bodybuilders.
Adverse Effects (just to name a few)
- Elevated blood pressure
- Decreased heart function
- Decreased sperm count
- Menstrual irregularities (women)
- Clitoral enlargement (women)
- Infertility (men)
- Testicular atrophy (men)
- Increased risk of liver damage
- Mood swings
Whether you choose to engage in anabolic steroid use or not, it is important to know your risks as well as the potential benefits. Different steroids have variations in beneficial effects which also means that they have coexisting consequential side-effects. Information on steroid dosing and cycles can be found on various internet websites, in books, and from the minds of professionals. If you do choose to partake in steroid use, be sure to do your research first. Often times, the risks may outweigh the benefits if the synthetic testosterone is abused.