What Are Anabolic Steroids

What Are Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are any synthetic drugs or substances with chemical compositions similar to (and may be affecting the body as) testosterone. Testosterone is a steroid hormone that occurs naturally and predominantly in men, and in even lesser quantities in women. Classified under sex steroids, testosterone in men handles sexual development and reproductive functioning. In the male body, testosterone causes deepening of the voice, the growth of facial hair, development of male sex organs, and sex drive. By mimicking testosterone, anabolic steroids cause an increase in muscle growth, bulk, and strength.

Why do People Choose to Use Anabolic Steroids?

The most common reason for people to use anabolic steroids is to boost their performance in competitive sports and to enhance their physical appearance. In sports, the use of these substances can be either fair or unfair, depending on the nature and rules of the sport. For instance, professional bodybuilding and weightlifting generally allow athletes to use anabolic steroids to boost their appearance and performance respectively for competition. However, in other sports such as biking, swimming, track racing, horse racing, among others, the use of steroids to gain a competitive edge over others is strictly prohibited and punishable.

Far from sports, non-athletes using anabolic steroids are often led to do so by social pressures and realities. Usually, the decision to use is often advised by the need to appear bulky and strong, which in most cases is due to insecurities about how one looks and what other people think about their appearance. In other cases, people are driven to use these substances by peer pressure.

Are these Substances Legal?

The initial use for anabolic steroids when first developed was to help men with little testosterone levels to achieve normal sexual growth and reproductive functioning. However, the ability to these synthetic forms of testosterone to increase strength and performance has since then created demand for their misuse in and outside sports.

Anabolic steroids are among the five class of drugs (the other four are narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, and depressants) regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. Unlike the other four, anabolic drugs are not psychoactive, that is, they do not affect a person’s thoughts, moods, memory, cognition, feelings, behavior, and perception. However, like the other four, they are apt to cause physical and psychological dependence and are likely to be abused.

In the US, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies anabolic steroids under Schedule III of controlled substances. Therefore, these drugs are legal for personal use, but can only be sold by pharmacists when prescribed. Possession, importation, or exportation of this substance with the intention of supplying or selling is, however, illegal and can attract incarceration.

How are Anabolic Steroids Administered?

Anabolic steroids come in three forms, namely, tablets, cream/gel, and vials. Tablets and creams are generally easy to administer. Vials, on the other hand, may be a problem to administer in the absence of proper instruction. Taking anabolic steroids through injection requires you to have a sterile syringe and needle for each injection. Also, a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or methylated spirit is required to clean the site of injections.

Some sources will advise both intravenous (injected into the bloodstream) and intramuscular (injected into muscles) administration of anabolic steroids. Normally, they are administered intramuscularly. You are strongly dissuaded from injecting these substances into a vein. The primary consequence of injecting anabolic steroids into the bloodstream is a pulmonary embolism. This condition results from the blockage in pulmonary arteries in the lungs. As a result, people injecting anabolic steroids into their bloodstream will often report coughing (sometimes streaked with blood), shortness of breath, and chest pain.

How will using Anabolic Steroids affect my Physical Health?

Using the substances exposes you to unwanted side effects – a fact common to all drugs. Side effects will vary from one user to another, just like the effect of using these substances will be different for different people. Common physical side effects in men include:

  • Shrunken testicles
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Breast development
  • Hair loss
  • Infertility
  • Severe acne on face, chest, back, and shoulders
  • Erectile dysfunction

In women, the physical side effects of use include:

  • Increased sex drive
  • Enlargement of clitoris
  • Reduction in breast
  • Deepening of voice
  • Hair loss
  • Development of facial and body hair
  • Severe acne
  • Problems with menstruation

Prolonged use of anabolic steroids can lead to the development of these medical conditions for both men and women:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Blood clotting
  • High cholesterol
  • Liver or kidney failure/problems
  • Fluid retention

Misusing anabolic steroids will cause stunted growth in adolescents and young people who have not matured fully. This is because these substances accelerate bone growth thus causing premature aging and restricted growth.

How Do Anabolic Steroids affect my Psychological Health?

Though anabolic steroids are not psychoactive drugs, misusing them will cause changes to your psychological and emotional health. Some psychological side effects include:

  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia

Other Risks Associated with using Anabolic Steroids

The administration of anabolic steroids through injections presents the risk of hurting oneself when using syringes and needles. Without proper sanitary precautions when administering the injection, bacteria can enter the broken skin and cause an abscess. This can occur when the skin is not disinfected before injection or when injection equipment is reused

Users electing intramuscular administration also suffer the risk of pain or muscle spasm caused by injecting the wrong place or injecting site over and over. Not knowing where to inject can result in damage to tendons or ligaments. This can lead to excruciating pain and affect the normal functioning of your muscles. To avoid such pain, always follow instructions offered by your healthcare provider and rotate the injection sites each time you administer a jab.

Using syringe and needle also exposes you to the risk of damaging your nerves, which can be a painful experience. If you are not lucky, hitting a nerve can cause permanent nerve damage and, in some cases, cause paralysis.

Anabolic steroids are largely unpredictable, thus risky to use. Your body will not respond to these drugs in similar ways to other people to respond to them. Essentially, the use of steroids for one person may cause liver cancer within the first few months of use while another person can use them for years without any serious side effects.

Development of breast cancer is another risk suffered by men using these drugs. When you use anabolic steroids, your testosterone levels become higher than necessary. Prolonged use then leads the body to limit or discontinue production of its natural testosterone. Therefore, quitting these drugs after prolonged use can cause impaired regulation of estrogen leading to increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Can I become Dependent on these Substances once I start Using them?

Classification of anabolic steroids under Schedule III means they are likely to cause mild or low physical dependence accompanied by high psychological dependence. So, yes. Just like other drugs, anabolic steroids can cause you to crave for them, require more to achieve the same effect, and experience withdrawal symptoms when you discontinue use abruptly.

What Happens When I become Addicted?

While anabolic steroids in controlled doses can be good for your health, especially where the body produces a lesser amount than it requires, its misuse can lead to addiction, just like in any other drug.

Mike Bolkovic, a bodybuilder and steroid user, from experience, advises against using anabolic steroids to build muscles and strength. Even so, after 8 years of using anabolic steroids, Bolkovic does not plan to stop, and this is mostly because of this addiction to the substance.

Addiction to anabolic steroids presents as the need to increase one’s performance or appearance further than what they already have. It also features using these substances to wear off side effects of use such as depression and paranoia. These signs of addiction mean you will feel like quitting will cause you to shrink in size, or simply because you need to get bigger than you are already.

In other instances, developing tolerance to the substance leads users to misuse the drug. Tolerance means needing doses higher than usual to achieve the same effect. When you become addicted to anabolic steroids, you develop a habit of wanting to use these drugs even when your body is experiencing unwanted side effects. Many people who become addicted to a substance of any kind will most likely seek out addiction treatment of some kind. Many people prefer upscale rehab centers so they can focus on their health.

What Happens when I stop Using these drugs?

When you have developed tolerance and dependence on anabolic steroids, discontinuing use abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anorexia
  • Decreased libido
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Pain in muscles and joints, and
  • Extreme fatigue

Where Can I get Help for my Addiction to Anabolic Steroids?

Fortunately, addiction to anabolic steroids is treatable. Treatment options for addiction to these substances are quite similar to those of other drugs. Enrolling to a drug rehabilitation center will enable you to discuss available treatment options and let you choose the most comfortable one for you. This will help you overcome the risky habit of using anabolic steroids safely.

About the author: Sharon Torres is a freelance writer who is chronicling her experiences through this thing called life. She believes that if you always move forward in life then there is no need to look back. Her favorite writer is Phillip K. Dick. You can find her blog here: http://sharontorreswriter.blogspot.com/