Rio Salado College
The Perfect Body: What Steroids Can Do to You
Today the pressure to have the best body and be the best athlete can be overwhelming and almost unrealistic. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Household Survey on Drug Abuse estimates roughly one-million Americans today use a form of anabolic steroids making it the most widely abused enhancement drug. These athletes easily begin abusing anabolic steroids because the drug is so easily available. This is alarming due to the health issues that come with abusing the steroids. Bodybuilding athletes who use anabolic steroids can avoid short-term and long-term health risks by knowing how abuse begins, what the effects are, and how to avoid abuse whether they are a man, woman, and especially a young adult.
Anabolic Steroid abuse among amateur and professional athletes is a
growing problem, that many begin doing to put themselves above competition, but really are hurting themselves for the long-run. Anabolic Androgenic Steroids are synthetic formulations related to testosterone that if used will increase muscle size and strength, with little side effects in the beginning of use. Not long after the first anabolic steroids were synthesized, they led to the abuse of these drugs by bodybuilders and athletes. (Wells 133) Anabolic steroids can be taken orally while others are injected intramuscularly or provided in gels or creams that are applied to the skin. Doses taken by abusers can be 10 to 100 times higher than the doses used for medical conditions. Unlike most other abused drugs, anabolic steroids do not cause immediate euphoria or other pleasurable feelings. They are used to promote rapid muscle growth and weight gain (also called bulking up) and to increase strength and sports prowess over time. A common adverse effect of high, prolonged dosing is "roid rage," in which one experiences mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and aggressiveness. ( Kohlmetz 585) The United States Department of Justice Drug and Alcohol Administration has shown studies that the common physical side effects of anabolic steroid abuse are:
· High blood cholesterol levels - high blood cholesterol levels may lead to cardiovascular problems
·Thinning of hair and baldness
·High blood pressure
·Liver disorders (liver damage and jaundice)
·Steroids can affect fetal development during pregnancy
·Risk of contracting HIV and other blood-borne diseases from sharing infected needles
Overall, the process by which steroids work on the body can be very complex, with many adverse effects on the body. Essentially, steroid hormones work by stimulating certain parts of a muscle cell. This stimulation then causes an increase in production of proteins, one of the many chemicals that are associated with increases in muscle mass.
These symptoms of steroid abuse are predominant in males which explains why most abusers are found to be male. Studies show that more men are pressured to begin using steroids because of the competition to be the most muscular and strongest male in athletics. Steroid abuse disrupts the normal production of hormones in the male body, causing sperm production shortage, shrinkage of testicles, and testicular atrophy. In one study of male bodybuilders, more than half had testicular atrophy and/or gynecomastia. ( NIDA) Cardiovascular side effects are the most common among men. They include increased heart rate, heart attack, high blood pressure (hypertension), liver damage, and liver tumors. (Wells 134) Many men who begin using steroids end up abusing them because after a certain period the steroids will slow up the growth process and they believe taking more will increase the rapid growth of muscle and strength.
Although steroid abuse is still most dominant in males, it is most rapidly growing in females. Majority of side effects for women are long-term and effect their lives dramatically. The female body produces hormones (estrogen) and has certain hormone levels that need to remain elevated to remain feminine. Steroids cause masculinization in the female body at a high rate leaving women with side effects short and long term and some are irreversible. Side effects for women may include breast reductions, coarse skin, enlarged clitoris, deepened voice, loss of scalp hair, and excess body hair. (Gruber 20) The physical changes that women may experience from anabolic steroids are just a fragment of the harmful effects they have on the female body. Many women will stop menstruating while using the anabolic steroids, leading to problems when they want to conceive. Women also put themselves at a high risk of developing cancer and have an increase of birth defects in their children.
Anabolic Steroid use for children is one of many medical researchers and physicians growing problems because of the effects it has on children's not fully developed bodies and minds. Personal appearance and perception begin early on. Unrealistic expectations can drive adolescent boys and girls to try to achieve the often unrealistic image of models in fashion magazines and athletes in the gym. New drugs not screened by existing tests yet are constantly being developed, and are popular among teenage boys participating in sports. Acute aortic dissection can occur at the time of intense physical exertion in strength-trained athletes like weight lifters, bodybuilders, throwers, and wrestlers. Rapid rise in blood pressure and history of hypertension are the most common causes of aortic dissection in athletes. It is a very tragic event because of its high mortality rate of about 32% in young patients. Abusers take doses of anabolic steroids in quantities ten to one-hundred times greater than those doses used in medicine. (NADA) Since 1991, steroid use has increased by 50% for 8th through 10th graders and 38% for 12th graders. (National Institute on Drug Abuse) These young adults are killing their bodies with disease development due to their bodies not yet being fully developed and yet still using steroids. Acute aortic dissection is one of the most common occurrences for strength-trained athletes such as weight lifters, throwers, and wrestlers. (Barman 2014) The rapid rise in blood pressure and hypertension has raised the mortality rate to 32% in young patients using steroids. (Barman 2014)
With numbers rising for people abusing steroids and more and more children starting to use at a younger age, something had to be done for prevention of anabolic steroid abuse. Most prevention efforts in the United States focus on professional athletes and Olympic sports competitors. There are only a few school districts that test for abuse of illicit drugs. Research that has been done on steroid educational programs has shown that simply teaching adolescents about steroids does not fully convince students that they can be adversely affected. Instead, presenting both the risks and benefits of anabolic steroid use proves more effective and credible. (NADA) Doctors will prescribe medications for steroid withdrawal to restore the hormonal system. Other medications target specific withdrawal symptoms-for example, antidepressants to treat depression and analgesics for headaches and muscle and joint pains. Each individual user will experience their own unique feelings when using steroids and coming off anabolic steroids. When someone chooses to stop using they can experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms linked to addiction. Symptoms can include fatigue, restlessness, mood swings, loss of appetite, reduced sex drive, insomnia, the desire to take more steroids, and depression. Evidence for steroid addiction is not as strong as it is for other drugs such as heroine or cocaine, though people develop a tolerance and dependence on them and willingly experience negative consequences when using steroids - both of which are signs for drug dependence.
Anabolic steroid abuse is a problem that researchers do not foresee going away soon. The abuse of this drug can negatively impact lives and even lead to death. The short-term and long-term effects that steroids have on the body are increasing daily. Although some symptoms for male, female, and adolescent users differ the main point is still the same that this drug is harmful to the body. With prevention exercises being exercised more and more hopefully this problem can come to an end. If male, female, and especially young athletes would start informing themselves on this, it would lead many more people to healthier lives and ultimately begin saving lives in the long-run.
Barman M., Djamel B., Mathews J., Acute aortic dissection in a young healthy athlete
with androgenic anabolic steroid use: A case report. "International Journal of Medical Research and Health Sciences"
Franci Crepeau-Hobson, M. "Steroid Abuse." Encyclopedia of Special Education:
A Reference for the Education of Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Disabilities and Other Exceptional Individuals, edited by Cecil R. Reynolds, et al., Wiley, 4th edition
Gruber AJ, Pope HG Jr. Psychiatric and medical effects of anabolic-androgenic steroid use
in women. Psychother Psychosom
Kohlmetz, Ernest. Addictions & Substance Abuse. Salem Health. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
NIDA. "Anabolic Steroid Abuse." National Institute on Drug Abuse
Wells, Ken R., and Tish Davidson. "Anabolic Steroid Use."
The Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence, edited by Jacqueline L. Longe