Health01 Feb 2011 08:40 pm
Anabolic steroids are man-made substances related to male sex hormones. They were initially developed in the late 1930s primarily to treat hypogonadism, a condition in which the testes do not produce sufficient testosterone for normal growth, development, and sexual functioning. However, scientists soon discovered that anabolic steroids could facilitate the growth of skeletal muscle in laboratory animals.
This discovery led to abuse of these compounds by bodybuilders and weightlifters and then by athletes in other sports, known colloquially as “juicing.” However, using anabolic steroids to enhance athletic prowess is truly a Faustian bargain. Abuse of anabolic steroids has been linked with many health problems. They range from unattractive to life threatening and include:
• Acne and cysts;
• Breast growth and shrinking of testicles in men;
• Voice deepening and growth of body hair in women;
• Heart problems, including heart attack;
• Liver disease, including cancer; and
• Aggressive behavior.
Anabolic steroids can be taken orally, injected intramuscularly, or rubbed on the skin when in the form of gels or creams. These drugs are often used in patterns called cycling, which involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. Users also frequently combine several different types of steroids in a process known as stacking. By doing this, users believe that the different steroids will interact to produce an effect on muscle size that is greater than the effects of using each drug individually.
Another mode of steroid use is “pyramiding.” This is a process in which users slowly escalate steroid use (increasing the number of drugs used at one time and/or the dose and frequency of one or more steroids) reaching a peak amount at mid-cycle and gradually tapering the dose toward the end of the cycle.
Ergogenic uses for anabolic steroids in sports and bodybuilding are controversial because of their adverse effects and the potential to gain an advantage conventionally considered “cheating.” Their use is referred to as doping and banned by all major sporting bodies. For many years AAS have been by far the most detected doping substances in IOC-accredited laboratories. In countries where AAS are controlled substances, there is often a black market in which smuggled or even counterfeit drugs are sold to users.
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