The use of steroids is touted to be a shortcut to ripped muscles and a shredded physique. But you must know that these are banned substances, prohibited for use or sale. It is due to the damage they cause to your body, both physically and mentally. Despite their numerous side effects and legal implications, people use them to achieve their fitness goals at the cost of their health.
Several measures have been taken by regulatory bodies to prevent their misuse, but it remains one of the major problems faced by society. It’s time we shed light on this issue and understand the actual dangers of steroid injection abuse.
Anabolic steroid misuse
Teenagers, adults, and athletes misuse steroids. If you misuse anabolic steroids, you can experience severe side effects and develop an addiction. Anabolic steroids are prescription-only medicines that mirror the effects of testosterone, a male hormone. They are often taken without medical advice to enhance muscle mass and athletic performance. However, this misuse can have detrimental consequences.
The prime reason that people misuse steroids is their performance-enhancing effects. They believe these substances will help them achieve greater muscle growth and reduce body fat. People of all ages, including those with body dysmorphic disorder, may turn to anabolic steroids in their quest for an improved physical appearance. There is a false belief that these drugs can make one fit and healthy.
Are anabolic steroids illegal?
Anabolic steroids, when misused, can lead to severe legal consequences, including an unlimited fine and up to 14 years in prison, as they are illegal to possess, import, or export for the purpose of supplying or selling. It is important to understand that the use of anabolic steroids without a prescription is against the law.
Here are three reasons why anabolic steroids are considered illegal:
- Legal Restrictions: Anabolic steroids fall under the category of Class C drugs. They can only be obtained with a prescription from a pharmacist. Possessing, importing, or exporting them without proper authorization is a criminal offense. It also means that sending or receiving these substances through postal services or couriers is strictly prohibited. You can instead use legal steroids as alternatives.
- Potential Harm: From physical changes such as accelerated bone growth to psychological effects, these substances can lead to dangerous medical conditions. Misuse during adolescence can even result in premature bone aging and restricted growth. These changes might be irreversible in some cases.
- Sporting Bans: In professional sports, most organizations, including the WADA and NCAA, ban the use of anabolic steroids due to their performance-enhancing effects. When athletes test positive for banned substances, they may face penalties such as being banned from competing professionally. This strict stance reflects the recognition that using these substances gives athletes an unfair advantage over others.
Why people misuse anabolic steroids
Many individuals, including those with body dysmorphic disorder, misuse anabolic steroids in the hopes of improving their physical appearance. Body dysmorphic disorder can be described as a mental condition where the person obsesses over perceived flaws in one’s appearance that others may not even notice. These individuals may believe that anabolic steroids will help them become physically bigger and stronger, thus alleviating their concerns about their bodies.
Misusing anabolic steroids is a dangerous drug habit that can have severe consequences on both physical and psychological well-being.
How are anabolic steroids taken?
Here are the different ways in which anabolic steroids can be taken:
- Injection into muscles: This is a standard method where the steroid is directly injected into a muscle. It allows for quick absorption and immediate effects.
- Oral intake as tablets: Some people prefer taking anabolic steroids in tablet form. They simply swallow the pills, and the steroids are absorbed through the digestive system.
- Creams or gels applied to the skin: Another option is using creams or gels that contain anabolic steroids. These are applied onto the skin, allowing absorption through the skin barrier.
- Cycling, stacking, and pyramiding: Many users follow specific patterns when taking anabolic steroids. Cycling involves using them for a period of time and then stopping for a rest period before starting again. Stacking refers to taking multiple types of steroids simultaneously to enhance their effects. Pyramiding combines both cycling and stacking by gradually increasing doses over time.
Please note that no evidence suggests that these methods reduce side effects or harm from anabolic steroid use.
Side effects of anabolic steroids
Using anabolic steroids can have significant consequences. It can lead to several physical and psychological problems in the long run. There is also the potential for dangerous medical conditions to develop as a result of steroid abuse.
For men, using anabolic steroids can lead to a range of physical changes. These include reduced sperm count, infertility, shrunken testicles, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, breast development (gynecomastia), increased risk of prostate cancer, severe acne, and stomach pain.
Women who misuse anabolic steroids may experience facial hair growth, loss of breasts, swelling of the clitoris (clitoromegaly), a deepened voice (masculinization), increased sex drive, problems with periods (irregular or absent), hair loss, and severe acne.
People are also at risk for developing serious medical conditions as a result of anabolic steroid abuse. These conditions can include heart attack or stroke due to increased blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. Liver or kidney problems or failure may occur as well. There is an elevated risk of fluid retention and blood clots that come with the use of these substances.
To make it easier to understand the physical effects discussed above, here’s a table summarizing them:
Effects in Men Effects in Women Reduced sperm count Facial hair growth and body hair Infertility Loss of breasts Shrunken testicles Swelling of the clitoris Erectile dysfunction Deepened voice Hair loss Increased sex drive Breast development Problems with periods Increased risk of prostate cancer Hair loss Severe acne Severe acne Stomach pain Irritability
The psychological effects of misusing anabolic steroids can have a life-changing impact on individuals, leading to aggressive behavior, mood swings, paranoia, manic episodes, and even hallucinations and delusions. These substances have a profound impact on the brain, altering neurotransmitter levels and disrupting normal functioning. As a result, steroid users may experience heightened aggression and hostility, which can strain relationships and lead to conflicts with others. Mood swings are also common, with individuals experiencing intense shifts in emotions from extreme highs to deep lows.
Paranoia is another psychological effect that can occur as a result of steroid abuse. Users may become overly suspicious of others or believe that they are being watched or targeted. It can cause significant distress and impair their ability to trust those around them. In some cases, steroid misuse can trigger manic episodes characterized by elevated energy levels, racing thoughts, and impulsive behavior. These episodes may be followed by periods of depression as the body adjusts to the fluctuating hormone levels.
Perhaps the most alarming psychological effects of steroid misuse are hallucinations and delusions. Some users may experience sensory distortions or false beliefs about themselves or their surroundings. These symptoms can be extremely disorienting and dangerous, potentially leading individuals to engage in risky behaviors or harm themselves or others.
Stunted growth in adolescents
Adolescents are more prone to taking steroids as body image can be a major concern for many of them. It makes them particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of steroids. During adolescence, our bodies undergo significant changes as we transition into adulthood. One key aspect of this development is bone growth. However, when anabolic steroids are misused by adolescents who haven’t yet experienced the growth spurt associated with puberty, it can harm their bone health.
Anabolic steroids work by accelerating bone growth, but when used improperly or at a young age, they disrupt the natural process and can lead to premature aging of the bones and restricted growth. It means that adolescents who misuse these drugs may not reach their full height potential and may experience long-term consequences.
To illustrate the impact of steroid misuse on adolescent growth, let’s take a closer look at a comparison table:
Adolescents Misusing Steroids Healthy Adolescents Bone Growth Premature aging and restricted growth Normal Height Stunted Normal Potential Wasted Realised
Needle sharing increases the chances of contracting hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV.
Sharing needles is a common behavior among individuals who use anabolic steroids. Unfortunately, this puts them at risk of several serious health complications. Injecting steroids using shared needles can damage veins, which may result in ulcers or gangrene. It can cause immense pain and discomfort, and in severe cases, it may require amputation.
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are viral diseases and can be transmitted through contaminated needles. These infections can damage the liver and lead to long-term health issues if left untreated. There is a risk of acquiring HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which weakens the immune system and can progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
The act itself reflects a disregard for personal safety and an increased vulnerability to other drug-related problems. Sharing needles is often associated with addiction and substance abuse behaviors that can further harm an individual’s well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the long-term effects of anabolic steroid misuse?
Long-term misuse of anabolic steroids includes liver damage, heart attack, kidney failure, and psychiatric problems. It’s essential to seek help from a GP or drug counselor for support with addiction and safe cessation.
- Are there any legal alternatives to anabolic steroids for muscle growth?Yes, there are legal alternatives to anabolic steroids for muscle growth. One alternative is using organic dietary supplements designed to support muscle growth and recovery.
- Can anabolic steroids be detected in drug tests?Yes, anabolic steroids can be detected in drug tests. When taken orally or via injection, steroids do show up in urine tests. Traces of anabolic steroids could be detected in excreta and tissues, which are obtained on a regular inspection.
- What are the potential risks of using anabolic steroids for body dysmorphic disorder?Shrinkage of the testes, breast development in boys, irregular periods, and facial hair growth in girls are the few potential risks of using steroids. Body dysmorphic order-induced usage of these drugs can cause liver, kidney, and heart problems. In adolescents, it leads to stunted growth and bone aging.
- How can healthcare professionals help individuals overcome anabolic steroid addiction?Healthcare professionals can encourage safe detox in individuals by providing medical guidance. Abstaining from using the drug and managing the withdrawal symptoms through therapy and rehabilitating activities are practical ways to help addicts. Your doctor may prescribe some medications if required.
In conclusion, the abuse of steroid injections is dangerous and can lead to serious physical and psychological consequences. It’s important to remember that there are no shortcuts to achieving your goals. One must maintain a balanced diet rich in protein and explore natural alternatives to steroids under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional. If you or someone you know is struggling with anabolic steroid misuse or addiction, seeking help from a medical professional is essential.
Rachel has been a freelance medical writer for more than 18 years. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2005 and is currently practicing as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at a Level I trauma center.