Anabolic-Androgenic steroids are artificial variations of testosterone. Because testosterone plays a big role in the developmental changes that occur during puberty, healthcare providers prescribe steroids to treat hormonal issues and delay puberty. Steroids are also used in the treatment of diseases that cause muscle loss, such as AIDS and cancer. However, as testosterone also affects muscle growth, raising its levels in the blood can help bodybuilders increase size and strength. It is not uncommon for people who misuse anabolic steroids to take doses that can be up to 100 times higher than those prescribed for medical purposes.
Health risks and Side-effects
Health Risks Include:
- Aggression (roid rage)
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Enlarged heart
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Blood clots
Gender-Specific Side-Effects Include:
- Shrinking testicles
- Decreased sperm count
- Development of breasts
- Prostate cancer
- Excess body hair
- Decreased breast size
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Enlarged clitoris
- Deepened voice
Why are Steroids so Dangerous?
Steroids work by mimicking our hormonal system.
Our body naturally produces hormones in our glands which are transported around our body via the bloodstream. When a hormone encounters a cell with receptors that fit, it binds to that cell. This binding will cause a chemical change in the cell, thus causing changes in bodily functions. Anabolic steroids mimic these hormones.
So, if I take steroids, they will bind to target cells and increase my muscle mass? Not exactly. The hormonal system is so complex it is impossible to seek out one effect without triggering a range of other outcomes.
Why Would Someone Abuse Steroids?
When we think of PED abuse, professional athletes are usually the first group of people that come to mind. But studies show that people who misuse steroids are usually male non-athletes in their 20s or 30s. Anabolic steroids can seem like a quick way to bulk up and obtain the perfect body. But, in the long term, they feed into negative thought patterns, body dysmorphia and numerous other difficulties. This sets the stage for addiction, mental ill-health and physical health issues.
Common Misuse Techniques Include:
Cycling: involves taking numerous doses for a period of time, stopping for a while and then restarting the process over again.
Stacking: occurs when you combine two or more different steroids, i.e. mixing an oral with an injectable type.
Pyramiding: involves slowly increasing the steroid dose and the frequency with which you take them. Users will then reach a peak and gradually taper off to zero.
Are Anabolic-Steroids Addictive?
Steroids are not addictive in the classical sense, meaning you do not experience a ‘high’ when you consume them. However, the thought patterns that make people want to take steroids can be obsessive and all-consuming. Eventually, people can develop physical dependencies on steroids and experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking them.
One of the more serious withdrawal symptoms is depression, which can lead to suicidal ideation. However, research shows that steroid abuse (and its underlying root causes) can be effectively overcome via a detoxification process, behavioural therapy and medication. For example, healthcare providers can prescribe antidepressants to treat depressive symptoms, while other medications can restore your hormonal system.
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