Steroids… Get the Facts!
Testosterone is primarily a male sex hormone, but both men and women produce a certain amount of it naturally. It is responsible for growth and development of the male sex organs and for the maintenance of secondary sex characteristics in both genders, such as facial hair and breasts. In women, it also helps maintain bone density and muscle mass.
Anabolic steroids are a synthetic version of testosterone that were developed to treat medical conditions like muscle-wasting diseases and hormone imbalances, but healthy individuals figured out that they could use them to increase their muscle mass, strength, and aggression, and decrease body fat.
The effects of using anabolic steroids go way beyond bigger, faster muscles. Read on to learn about the toxic effects that anabolic steroid use can have on the human body….
Side effects like back acne and bloating have become synonymous with steroid use. Users can show other signs such as:
- Skin eruptions like pimples and yellowing of the skin
- Hair loss or thinning on the head, but increased length and thickness of hair elsewhere on the body
- Greasy hair and oily skin
- Stretch marks
- Joint pain
- Night sweats
Beyond the visible side effects, steroid users can suffer from long-term, possibly life-threatening side effects. Can you guess how many other body systems are negatively impacted by steroid use?
- Tendons can lose elasticity which increases the chance of injury to tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
- Bones may stop growing in those who are still maturing.
- Cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and blood-clotting disorders may develop.
- Risk of liver cysts, liver cancer, and jaundice increases.
Steroid use can have an intense impact on a user’s psyche. The most famous is “roid rage” - aggressive, angry, hostile, and even violent behaviour.
Users may feel invincible which can feed reckless behavior and poor decision making. Others may feel restless and inadequate, suffer from extreme mood swings and irritability, and have a decreased sex drive.
Steroid users may become psychologically addicted to how they look and feel, and may develop psychosis; a serious psychiatric condition which can include hallucinations and paranoia. Some say that users may become depressed when steroid use is discontinued, and could become suicidal.
Male steroid users might look like supermen on the outside but regular use will have a terrible impact on their <ahem> manhood. Users can experience :
- Breast growth
- Testicular atrophy
- Low sperm count
- Impotence or sterility
- Prostate growth
- Premature balding
Some side effects are reversible if steroid use is stopped but there are no guarantees that all systems will return to normal, and may require a lifetime of hormone replacement therapy.
Women’s bodies require a very small amount of testosterone compared to men. When a woman starts using anabolic steroids she can have up to 30 times the standard level of testosterone for women in her body, and up to twice as much as a typical man. The increase in testosterone has the desired effects of increased muscle strength, decreased body fat, and more aggressive athletic performance, but it comes with several very undesirable side effects. A high level of testosterone can bring about masculine characteristics such as:
- Male body hair, like a beard
- Male pattern baldness
- A deepened voice
Female physical characteristics and functions may be affected, such as:
- Irregular periods
- Breast shrinkage
- Clitoral enlargement
- Potential for birth defects if a user is pregnant
Users who want to disguise their activities might turn to using drugs that conceal the presence of steroids in a urine test. These are called masking agents.
Most masking agents are medications that were originally developed to treat life-threatening diseases like cancer and diabetes. When they are used by healthy individuals they can have shocking effects like a decrease in libido, erectile dysfunction, ejaculation disorders, kidney stones, acute gouty arthritis, and severe anemia.
Other athletes use diuretics which can cause heart arrhythmias, blood volume depletion, significant drops in blood pressure, and severe electrolyte imbalances.
Masking agents can cover up steroid use in a doping control test, but they are also on the WADA Prohibited List. They can be detected in a doping control test and can lead to an anti-doping violation.
Risks and Consequences
Athletes must remember that anabolic agents are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those who are caught using steroids are typically given a minimum 2-year sanction to reflect the blatant attempt at cheating that steroid use represents. A sanction means no training, practicing, or competing with your teammates in any and all sports.
A sanction is also likely to mark your permanent record. Sanctions are made public and will probably affect your attempts to advance in life.
In addition, anabolic steroids that are procured outside of a pharmacy were likely made in unsanitary, uncontrolled environments with low-grade ingredients which are frequently bulked up with fillers like motor oil or baby oil.
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