bigger, faster, stronger? Anabolic steroids aren't all they are cracked up to be....
Anabolic steroids (AS) have specific medical uses for certain conditions, but as we all know they can be used as a sports enhancing drug as well. AS use is on the rise across the world, which is scary for numerous reasons, but the people who are using them are not always power lifters, as most people think, but regular people who are going to the gym, but want to get faster results from their workouts. The average age of the common user in the US is 25 years old, male and not a professional athlete, and there are approximately 3 million people that currently admit to using steroids for off label uses. There are numerous health effects that are just plain bad for you, but people who take them say that they have no side effects...I am calling BS on that!! Also, it is a crap shoot what you are taking when you take these drugs and you re not prescribed them because they are usually smuggled in from other countries and they are bought and sold on the black market; they may be tainted or not the dose as labeled, you really don't know what you are taking.
What are they?
They are drugs that mimic testosterone (the male sex hormones) which increases protein synthesis within cells and increases the build up of cell tissue, and it does this mostly in muscles, and it also reduces recovery time as they block the effects of cortisol (stress hormone) on the muscles. So, it is easier to make muscle, and you can work harder. Also the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is increased, so you tend to lose fat as an increase in muscle mass increases the BMR. Because of the various processes also bone marrow is stimulated, thus increasing your red blood cell production. So, you tend to be able to work harder and for longer, and you feel better because of the increased red blood cells (allows for higher oxygen carrying capabilities.)
They were originally used starting in the 1930's to increase appetite, increase bone growth, start male puberty, and they were given to patients with chronic conditions with muscle wasting (i.e. AIDS/HIV and certain cancers.) These drugs help to increase lean muscle mass as long as there is an adequate diet with protein in it. AS can be ingested in pill form, as a transdermal patch, and most commonly it is injected into the muscles (not injected into a vein).
In what conditions are they used medically?
Bone marrow stimulation: anemias due to leukemia or renal failure
Growth Stimulation: can be given to children after seeing an endocrinologist, that have failure to grow due to hormonal imbalances (usually genetic)
Increased appetite/muscle mass: for people with chronic wasting in HIV/AIDS and cancer, and post traumas/long surgeries/and prolonged immobilization.
Induction of male puberty: for male adolescents with delayed puberty that causes concerns.
Gender Identity: used in female to male sex change process.
AS Side effects?
Increased sebaceous gland oil production
Clitoral growth (in women)
Increased hair growth (pubic, beard, chest, arm, legs)...on women and men
Increased size of vocal cords (deepens voice)
Decreased natural sex hormones
Impaired production of sperm
Atrophy (decrease in size) of the penis and testicles
Elevated blood pressure (especially if you already have hypertension)
Increase in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decrease in HDL (good)
Increase glucose levels
Premature baldness (for men and women)
thickening of the left ventricle wall (increased risk of a heart attack, arrythmias, congestive heart failure, and sudden cardiac death)
Psychiatric effects (violence, mania, increased aggression, and suicide)
High addiction rates
Males specific: gynecomastia (male breasts), decreased sexual function, and temporary infertility.
Females specific: increased body hair, decrease in menstrual cycles, and if taken when pregnant they can interfere with fetal development.
I can understand the draw that some people might have to take steroids to get an amazing body from their average workouts. I also understand that people say it is a drug used medically, so why can't they use it? Well, when people are prescribed these drugs they are under direct medical supervision, having blood drawn to check levels of cholesterols, circulating hormones, etc and most likely having cardiac labs checked, along with EKG's (electrocardiograms), and psychiatric assessments. Please use other methods to workout and get the results you want (like increase protein and weights as appropriate), don't do it with steroids!
If you know anyone using this method, please urge them to stop and beware of the psych side effects, and if you notice any of them, please talk to your friend and an HCP about ways to intervene and get them to stop!
Yours in Good Health