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Anabolic Steroids – a brief overview

Anabolic steroids are steroidal androgens that are artificially synthesized which contain testosterone and other synthetic chemicals which perform activities as that of a testosterone. These steroids are also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids or AAS. The term anabolic means to build up, so AAS can increase protein within cells, especially in skeletal muscles. AAS also have androgenic effects, like the development and maintenance of masculine secondary sexual characteristics.

Uses of Steroids:

  • Growth stimulation by synthesis of protein.
  • Stimulation of appetite and preservation and increase of muscle mass
  • Induction of male puberty
  • Stimulation of bone marrow which increases production of RBCs
  • Male contraception
  • Stimulation of lean body mass and prevention of bone loss
  • Hormone replacement for men with low levels of testosterone

Anabolic steroids find much use in treating many hormonal imbalances produced in our body. However, such steroids are also found to be used by people illegally, i.e. they take these steroids beyond the permissible dose as prescribed by a doctor in order increase their physical stamina. Hence, it is often abused by sports professional and this process of abusing steroids is known as doping. In spite of having many useful advantages, steroids also potentially cause damage to both our mental and physical self. Such effects include:

  1. Physiological effects include-
    1. The androgenic effects of steroids are gynecomastia (development of breast tissue), testicular atrophy, reduced sexual function and infertility in males.
    2. Increase of body hair, deepening of voice, disrupted menstrual cycles and infertility is observed in women.
    3. It leads to liver damage and causes peliosis hepatitis.
    4. Kidney problems and heart problems also are observed in case of over usage of steroids.
    5. Steroids are also potential carcinogens when used more than required.
  2. Psychological effects include:
    1. Aggression and hypomania are commonly exhibited by steroid abusers.
    2. Steroids also cause unspecified mood disturbances like irritation, recklessness and racing thoughts.
    3. Steroid using individuals can be moreantisocial, paranoid, schizotypal, passive-aggressive and narcissistic than non-users.

Anabolic-androgenic Steroids are banned by all major sports bodies since professionals abusing such steroids get advantage of performing better than others. Steroids are available both in the form of capsules and patches or injections. Sport committees of Major League Baseball, Association of Tennis Professionals, Fédération Internationale de Football Association, National Basketball Association, Olympics, National Hockey League, National Football League and World Wrestling Entertainment have banned the use of steroids.

Effects of Anabolic vs. Androgenic Steroids:

AAS have two different types of effects: anabolic, meaning that they promote growth and androgenic, meaning that they affect the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

Effects of this steroid enhance protein synthesis due to amino acid content, increases appetite, growth of bone and stimulation of bone marrow, which finally increases the production of red blood cells.

The androgenic effect of steroids include enlargement of breast tissue, testicular atrophy, and reduced sperm count in men and facial hair growth, reduced breasts in women. High production of oil from sebaceous gland is also observed. The side effects of these steroids can be irreversible if they are used for a prolonged period of time. So steroids should be used in a controlled manner and under the supervision of a doctor.