- Anabolic Steroids
- Why do people abuse steroids?
- Where do you get steroids?
- How are steroids taken?
- Physical & psychological dangers
- Laws and penalties for anabolic steroid abuse
- Steroid alternatives
- Are anabolic steroids addictive?
- How can we curtail their use?
- How Are Anabolic Steroids Abused?
- How Do Anabolic Steroids Affect the Brain?
- Are Steroids Addictive?
- What Are the Other Health Effects of Anabolic Steroids?
- What Are Steroids?
- Anabolic Steroids
- Why Do People Use Steroids?
- How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?
- What Are Dangers of Anabolic Steroids?
- What Else Can Happen?
- Talking to Kids About Steroids
Anabolic steroids are synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone. Both males and females have testosterone produced in their bodies: males in the testes, and females in the ovaries and other tissues.
The full name for this class of drugs is androgenic (promoting masculine characteristics) anabolic (tissue building) steroids (the class of drugs). Some of the most abused steroids include Deca-Durabolinâ, Durabolinâ, Equipoiseâ, and Winstrolâ.
The common street (slang) names for anabolic steroids include arnolds, gym candy, pumpers, roids, stackers, weight trainers, and juice.
Why do people abuse steroids?
Anabolic steroids are primarily used by bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness «buffs» who claim steroids give them a competitive advantage and/or improve their physical performance. Steroids are purported to increase lean body mass, strength and aggressiveness.
Steroids are also believed to reduce recovery time between workouts, which makes it possible to train harder and thereby further improve strength and endurance.
Some people who are not athletes also take steroids to increase their endurance, muscle size and strength, and reduce body fat which they believe improves personal appearance.
Where do you get steroids?
Doctors may prescribe steroids to patients for legitimate medical purposes such as loss of function of testicles, breast cancer, low red blood cell count, delayed puberty and debilitated states resulting from surgery or sickness. Veterinarians administer steroids to animals (e.g.
cats, cattle, dogs, and horses) for legitimate purposes such as to promote feed efficiency, and to improve weight gain, vigor, and hair coat. They are also used in veterinary practice to treat anemia and counteract tissue breakdown during illness and trauma.
For purposes of illegal use there are several sources; the most common illegal source is from smuggling steroids into the United States from other countries such as Mexico and European countries. Smuggling from these areas is easier because a prescription is not required for the purchase of steroids.
Less often steroids found in the illicit market are diverted from legitimate sources (e.g. thefts or inappropriate prescribing) or produced in clandestine laboratories.
How are steroids taken?
Anabolic steroids dispensed for legitimate medical purposes are administered several ways including intramuscular or subcutaneous injection, by mouth, pellet implantation under the skin and by application to the skin (e.g. gels or patches). These same routes are used for purposes of abusing steroids, with injection and oral administration being the most common.
People abusing steroids may take anywhere from 1 to upwards of a 100 times normal therapeutic doses of anabolic steroids. This often includes taking two or more steroids concurrently, a practice called «stacking.» Abusers will often alternate periods (6 to 16 weeks in length) of high dose use of steroids with periods of low dose use or no drug at all.
This practice is called «cycling.»
Doses of anabolic steroids used will depend on the particular objectives of the steroid user. Athletes (middle or high school, college, professional, and Olympic) usually take steroids for a limited period of time to achieve a particular goal.
Others such as bodybuilders, law enforcement officers, fitness buffs, and body guards usually take steroids for extended periods of time. The length of time that steroids stay in the body varies from a couple of days to more than 12 months.
Physical & psychological dangers
There is increasing concern regarding possible serious health problems that are associated with the abuse of steroids, including both short-term and long-term side effects.
The short-term adverse physical effects of anabolic steroid abuse are fairly well known. Short-term side effects may include sexual and reproductive disorders, fluid retention, and severe acne.
The short-term side effects in men are reversible with discontinuation of steroid use.
Masculinizing effects seen in women, such as deepening of the voice, body and facial hair growth, enlarged clitoris, and baldness are not reversible.
The long-term adverse physical effects of anabolic steroid abuse in men and in women, other than masculinizing effects, have not been studied, and as such, are not known.
However, it is speculated that possible long-term effects may include adverse cardiovascular effects such as heart damage and stroke.
Possible physical side effects include the following:
- High blood cholesterol levels — high blood cholesterol levels may lead to cardiovascular problems
- Severe acne
- Thinning of hair and baldness
- Fluid retention
- 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
- Sexual & reproductive disorders:
Possible psychological disturbances include the following:
- Mood swings (including manic- symptoms leading to violence)
- Impaired judgment (stemming from feelings of invincibility)
- Extreme irritability
- Hostility and aggression
Laws and penalties for anabolic steroid abuse
The Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 placed anabolic steroids into Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as of February 27, 1991. Under this legislation, anabolic steroids are defined as any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth.
The possession or sale of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is illegal. Simple possession of illicitly obtained anabolic steroids carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine if this is an individual's first drug offense.
The maximum penalty for trafficking is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if this is the individual's first felony drug offense. If this is the second felony drug offense, the maximum period of imprisonment and the maximum fine both double.
While the above listed penalties are for federal offenses, individual states have also implemented fines and penalties for illegal use of anabolic steroids.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and many professional sports leagues (e.g.
Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League (NFL), and National Hockey League) have banned the use of steroids by athletes, both because of their potential dangerous side effects and because they give the user an unfair advantage.
The IOC, NCAA, and NFL have also banned the use of steroid precursors (e.g. androstenedione) by athletes for the same reason steroids were banned. The IOC and professional sports leagues use urine testing to detect steroid use both in and competition.
A variety of non-steroid drugs are commonly found within the illicit anabolic steroid market. These substances are primarily used for one or more of the following reasons: 1) to serve as an alternative to anabolic steroids; 2) to alleviate short-term adverse effects associated with anabolic steroid use; or 3) to mask anabolic steroid use.
Examples of drugs serving as alternatives to anabolic steroids include clenbuterol, human growth hormone, insulin, insulin- growth factor, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB). Examples of drugs used to treat the short-term adverse effects of anabolic steroid abuse are erythropoietin, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), and tamoxifen.
Also, diuretics and uricosuric agents may be used to mask steroid use.
Over the last few years, a number of metabolic precursors to either testosterone or nandrolone have been marketed as dietary supplements in the U.S. These dietary supplements can be purchased in health food stores without a prescription.
Some of these substances include androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenedione, norandrostenediol, and dehydroepiandtrosterone (DHEA), which can be converted into testosterone or a similar compound in the body.
Whether they promote muscle growth is not known.
Are anabolic steroids addictive?
An undetermined percentage of steroid abusers may become addicted to the drug, as evidenced by their continuing to take steroids in spite of physical problems, negative effects on social relations, or nervousness and irritability.
Steroid users can experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, and depression.
Untreated, some depressive symptoms associated with anabolic steroid withdrawal have been known to persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the drugs.
How can we curtail their use?
The most important aspect to curtailing abuse is education concerning dangerous and harmful side effects, and symptoms of abuse. Athletes and others must understand that they can excel in sports and have a great body without steroids.
They should focus on getting proper diet, rest, and good overall mental and physical health. These things are all factors in how the body is shaped and conditioned. Millions of people have excelled in sports and look great without steroids.
For additional information on steroids please see our website at: www.DEAdiversion.usdoj.gov
Presented as a public service by: Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control
Washington, D.C. 20537
How Are Anabolic Steroids Abused?
Anabolic steroids are usually either taken orally or injected into the muscles, although some are applied to the skin as a cream or gel. Doses taken by abusers may be 10 to 100 times higher than doses prescribed to treat medical conditions.
Steroids are typically taken intermittently rather than continuously, both to avert unwanted side effects and to give the body’s hormonal system a periodic chance to recuperate.
Continuous use of steroids can decrease the body’s responsiveness to the drugs (tolerance) as well as cause the body to stop producing its own testosterone; breaks in steroid use are believed to redress these issues.
“Cycling” thus refers to a pattern of use in which steroids are taken for periods of weeks or months, after which use is stopped for a period of time and then restarted.
In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids and/or incorporate other steroidal or non-steroidal supplements in an attempt to maximize their effectiveness, a practice referred to as “stacking.”
How Do Anabolic Steroids Affect the Brain?
Anabolic steroids work very differently from other drugs of abuse, and they do not have the same acute effects on the brain. The most important difference is that steroids do not trigger rapid increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the rewarding “high” that drives the abuse of other substances.
However, long-term steroid use can affect some of the same brain pathways and chemicals—including dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems—that are affected by other drugs, and thereby may have a significant impact on mood and behavior.
Abuse of anabolic steroids may lead to aggression and other psychiatric problems, for example.
Although many users report feeling good about themselves while on steroids, extreme mood swings can also occur, including manic- symptoms and anger (“roid rage”) that may lead to violence.
Researchers have also observed that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.
Are Steroids Addictive?
Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, steroids are reinforcing and can lead to addiction. Studies have shown that animals will self-administer steroids when given the opportunity, just as they do with other addictive drugs.
People may persist in abusing steroids despite physical problems and nega-tive effects on social relationships, re-flecting these drugs’ addictive poten-tial.
Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug—another indication of addiction.
Individuals who abuse steroids can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them—including mood swings, fatigue, rest-lessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid crav-ings, all of which may contribute to continued abuse. One of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms is depression—when persistent, it can sometimes lead to suicide attempts. Research has found that some steroid abusers turn to other drugs such as opioids to counteract the negative ef-fects of steroids.
What Are the Other Health Effects of Anabolic Steroids?
Steroid abuse may lead to serious, even irreversible, health problems.
Some of the most dangerous consequences that have been linked to steroid abuse include kidney impairment or failure; damage to the liver; and cardiovascular problems including enlargement of the heart, high blood pressure, and changes in blood cholesterol leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack (even in young people).
Steroid use commonly causes severe acne and fluid retention, as well as several effects that are gender- and age-specific:
- For men—shrinkage of the testicles (testicular atrophy), reduced sperm count or infertility, baldness, development of breasts (gynecomastia), increased risk for prostate cancer
- For women—growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice
- For adolescents—stunted growth due to premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes, and risk of not reaching expected height if steroid use precedes the typical adolescent growth spurt
In addition, people who inject steroids run the added risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.
It's important to understand the facts about steroids, their side effects, and what can drive kids and teens to try them. Being aware of the kinds of pressures kids deal with in sports can help you make sure that your child isn't at risk.
What Are Steroids?
Drugs commonly referred to as «steroids» are classified as corticosteroids or anabolic (or anabolic-androgenic) steroids.
Corticosteroids, such as cortisone, are drugs that doctors prescribe to help control inflammation. They're used to help control conditions asthma and lupus. They're not the same as the anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones that can boost the body's ability to produce muscle and prevent muscle breakdown.
Some athletes take steroids in the hopes that they will improve their ability to run faster, hit farther, lift heavier weights, jump higher, or have more endurance. In the United States, it is against the law to use anabolic steroids without a prescription.
Androstenedione, or «andro,» is a kind of anabolic steroid taken by athletes who want to build muscle. It is now a controlled substance because of suspected health risks and available only by prescription. There is little or no evidence that it has any significant anabolic effects.
Why Do People Use Steroids?
Some professional baseball players, cyclists, and track stars have been accused of — and in some cases have admitted to — using steroids to give them an edge competitively.
Steroid use has trickled down to younger athletes too, who face pressure to be stronger and faster, and to make it to college and professional leagues.
Steroids promise bold results, but there is little proof that they deliver any such benefits. But they can harm developing kids — with some of these ill effects not ly to turn up until years later.
How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?
Anabolic steroids are drugs that resemble the chemical structure of the sex hormone testosterone, which is made naturally by the body. Testosterone directs the body to make or enhance male characteristics, such as increased muscle mass, facial hair growth, and deepening of the voice, and is an important part of male development during puberty.
When anabolic steroids increase the levels of testosterone in the blood, they stimulate muscle tissue in the body to grow larger and stronger. However, the effects of too much testosterone circulating in the body can be harmful over time.
What Are Dangers of Anabolic Steroids?
Steroids are dangerous for two reasons: they are illegal, and they can damage a person's health, especially if used in large doses over time. Also, the health problems caused by steroids may not appear until years after the steroids are taken.
Although they might help build muscle, steroids can have very serious side effects. Using steroids for a long time can harm the reproductive system. In males, steroids can lead to impotence, a reduction in the amount of sperm produced in the testicles, and even reduced testicle size.
Females who use steroids may have problems with their menstrual cycles because steroids can disrupt the maturation and release of eggs from the ovaries. This can cause long-term problems with fertility.
Steroids taken for a long period of time also can cause:
- stunted growth in teens (by causing bones to mature too fast and stop growing at an early age)
- liver tumors
- abnormal enlargement of the heart muscles
- violent, aggressive behavior and mood swings
- blood lipid abnormalities that contribute to heart disease
- acne (or a worsening of acne)
- increased breast growth in males, especially teens
- irreversible stretch marks
- a heightened tendency for hair loss and male-pattern baldness
- muscle aches
Teen girls and women risk these additional side effects:
- male-type facial and body hair growth and male-pattern baldness
- deepening of the voice
- enlargement of the clitoris
What Else Can Happen?
Besides the health risks, kids who use steroids without a prescription are breaking the law. Drug testing for all athletes has become common, and those who fail a drug test for steroids can face legal consequences, including jail time, monetary fines, being banned from an event or team, or forfeiture of trophies or medals.
Andro use has been banned by many sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Association of Tennis Professionals, and most high school athletic associations.
Talking to Kids About Steroids
Many pressures might drive young athletes to try steroids. Although most athletes exercise hard, eat properly, and take care of their bodies to reach fitness and performance goals, the pressure to excel and the desire to look physically toned and fit can be intense.
Help your kids handle these pressures by:
- discussing healthy competition with them
- talking about the coaches' and team members' attitudes toward steroids
- knowing what kind of sports environments they compete in
- encouraging them to prepare mentally and physically for competition by eating well and getting enough rest
Watch for these warning signs of steroid abuse:
- exaggerated mood swings
- worsening acne
- unusually greasy skin with stretch marks
- a sudden increase in muscle size
If you see any of these signs in your child, talk with your doctor. Steroids may give young athletes the sense that they're stronger and more athletic, but the risks are too dangerous.
When steroid use among pro athletes is in the news, use it as a way to discuss the issue, making sure your child understands the health risks, the possibility of legal trouble, and the concept that steroid use is a form of cheating.