Everyone has seen those ripped bodies on body building magazines and you cant help look at them with awe. If you are a bodybuilding enthusiast yourself, you might definitely want to get there someday. As much as you want to believe that all of those bodies are a result of pure hard work, the truth is really far from it.
Though no one wants to admit it, steroids are more common than you can imagine with bodybuilding and other sports. From time to time, some athlete or the other makes it to the headlines for using steroids. So what is all the hype about? Are they really very bad for your health? Why are they illegal? If they are illegal why are they produced in the first place? Read all about steroids and the truth behind them below.
What are steroids?
Steroids are hormones that are naturally produced in the body. But these steroids are also produced synthetically and fall under two main categories.
- Anabolic steroids
Anabolic steroids are the ones that are used by sportspersons and body building enthusiasts to build muscle and improve performance. Though these do give those desirable results, large doses can have adverse and dangerous side effects and also find mention the truth about steroids.
Corticosteroids, on the other hand, are drugs that are prescribed by doctors to treat various ailments like asthma and inflammation.
How are steroids used?
Anabolic steroids are administered in a variety of ways as shown below
- Intramuscular injection
- Subcutaneous injection
- Oral tablets
- Intradermal pellet implants
- Skin gel
- Skin patch
They are also known under different names and some of them are shown in the list below.
Medical uses of steroids
Steroids are also used to treat a number of diseases and medical disorders. Though anabolic steroids are associated with increasing performance in sports, they are also used to treat hormone-related conditions like
- Delayed puberty
- Deficiency in testosterone
- Bone disorders
- Blood disorders
Corticosteroids are widely used to treat a variety of ailments such as
- Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis etc.
- Autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis
- Even some types of cancer
The side effects of using steroids
Steroids, especially the anabolic kind help in the buildup of muscle by preventing the breakdown of muscle cells. It is true that steroids can give you the desirable effects but it also has some side effects. This happens when the dosage level is exceeded and in some cases, it is as much as even up to 100 times the recommended level.
- Hair problems
A common side effect of using steroids is hair fall or thinning of hair. Though the effect may not be visible immediately, it can happen later in life. But you can also lose hair with age, and so some athletes and body builders aren’t worried about this. But if too much hair loss is immediately experienced then it should be taken seriously.
- Liver damage
After all, it is the liver that helps remove toxins from your body. When even too much of fatty food and sugar can affect your liver, it is no wonder that synthetic steroids such as anabolic steroids affect your liver. Since its effect on the liver is well studied and established, over usage is sure to cause liver damage and must be avoided.
- Physical changes
If you thought it was just some bad joke, then think again because steroids do affect the testicles. When there is excessive use of steroids, the excess testosterone in the body is converted into the female hormone, estrogen. The result is shrinkage of testicles.
Women experience too much hair growth and deepening of the voice. In men, it can also lead to the development of breasts while in women it can lead to loss of breasts. There can be an abnormal increase in sex drive in both men and women.
- Some short-term effects
Even when not used excessively, they can still have some short-term side effects as the following
- Acne problems
- Loss of appetite
Overuse not only causes undesirable side effects but can also lead to an addiction problem. This leads to taking more and more of the drug to get the same effect. What’s even worse, de-addiction is a very painful process and involves a number of withdrawal symptoms such as
- Muscle pain
A large number of people use the injectable form of the drug which can transmit diseases if the needles are shared. Infections like HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are commonly transmitted through needle sharing.
Even teens are not spared
The hard truth is that due to pressure and ignorance, the use of steroids has even made its way into schools and colleges. A very small portion of teen girls and boys have been reported to take anabolic steroids for quick results.These can cause bad side effects in teens who haven’t reached their puberty. In such cases steroids cause their bones to grow fast and result in premature aging of bones and even cause stunted growth.
Stacking and Pyramiding
Those who abuse steroids use more than one type at a time to quickly achieve results. This is called ‘Stacking’. Another method is gradually increasing the dose over a period of 6 to 12 weeks and is called Pyramiding. The sad truth is that both these methods do not guarantee results but are sure to affect the health of the abusers.
The dangers of the illicit market
As the use of steroids whether for recreational or for sports is illegal, a number of alternatives are available through illicit trade. These are not only used as an alternative to anabolic steroids but can also be used to hide the use of anabolic steroids.
There are also other drugs which are converted to testosterone in the body. These are sold as dietary supplements and do not require any medical prescription. There is no guarantee that these are risk-free but because steroids are illegal people resort to these. The best way to solve this problem would be to legalize steroids for recreational use. This way at least the health of these individuals will not be at stake.
Steroids, whether they are used for medical reasons, recreational reasons or sports can have deleterious effects on the health if abused. The only way out is to educate everyone and create as much awareness about the harmful effects of steroids. This way those who use it for recreational purposes will make an informed choice and take necessary precautions to avoid unnecessary side effects.