Steroids (sometimes referred to as "roids" or "juice") are the same as, or similar
to, certain hormones in the body. The body makes steroids naturally to support such
functions as fighting stress and promoting growth and development.
But some people use steroid pills, gels, creams, or injections because they think
steroids can improve their sports performance or the way they look.
Anabolic steroids are artificially produced hormones that are
the same as, or similar to, androgens, the male-type sex hormones
in the body. There are more than 100 variations of anabolic steroids. The most powerful
androgen is testosterone (pronounced: tess-TOSS-tuh-rone). Although
testosterone is mainly a mature male hormone, girls' bodies produce smaller amounts.
Testosterone helps build muscle and promotes the masculine traits that guys develop
during puberty, such as deepening of the voice and growth of body hair. Testosterone
levels can also affect how aggressive a person is.
Athletes sometimes take anabolic steroids because of their testosterone-like effects.
Other steroids, sometimes called steroidal supplements, contain
dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and/or androstenedione (also known as andro). For the
most part, steroidal supplements, which used to be found at health food stores or
gyms, are now illegal and require a prescription. DHEA is one of the few exceptions
and can still be bought over the counter.
Steroid supplements are weaker forms of androgen. Their effects aren't well known,
but it's thought that, when taken in large doses, they cause effects similar to other
androgens like testosterone. But research studies suggest that they do very little
or nothing to improve athletic performance.
Here's what is known about steroidal supplements: Companies that make
them often use false claims, and very little is known about the long-term effects
some of these substances have on the body. That's one reason why the government took
action to protect citizens by passing laws controlling steroid distribution.
How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?
Anabolic steroids stimulate muscle tissue to grow
and "bulk up" in response to training by mimicking the effect of naturally produced
testosterone on the body. Anabolic steroids can remain in the body anywhere from a
couple of days to about a year. Steroids have become popular because they may improve
endurance, strength, and muscle mass. However, research has not shown that steroids
improve skill, agility, or athletic performance.
Dangers of Steroids
Anabolic steroids cause many different types of problems. Some of the common side
premature balding or hair loss
high blood pressure
greater chance of injuring muscles and tendons
jaundice (yellowing of the skin); liver damage
increased risk of developing heart disease, blood clots, stroke, and some types
Risks for Girls
Specific risks for girls associated with anabolic steroids include:
increased facial and body hair growth
development of masculine traits, such as deepening of the voice, and loss of feminine
body characteristics, such as shrinking of the breasts
enlargement of the clitoris
menstrual cycle changes
Risks for Guys
Specific risks for guys include:
pain when urinating
impotence (inability to get an erection)
reduced sperm count and infertility
Steroids can also have serious psychological side effects. Some users may become
aggressive or combative, believe things that aren't true (delusions), or have extreme
feelings of mistrust or fear (paranoia). And people who use steroids also appear to
be at higher risk for using other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine, often to counteract
some of the negative effects of steroids.
Steroid users who inject the drugs with a needle are at risk for infection with
HIV (human immunodeficiency
virus), the virus that causes AIDS, if they share needles with other users. People
who use dirty needles are also at risk for contracting hepatitis,
a liver disease, or bacterial endocarditis, an
infection of the inner lining of the heart.
Steroids: Stacking and Addiction
Some people "cycle" their steroid doses. This means they take multiple doses of
steroids over a period of time, stop for a period, then start up again. "Stacking"
means taking two or more different anabolic steroids. Other steroid users may "pyramid"
their steroids, starting with a low dose and gradually increasing the dose, frequency,
or number of anabolic steroids taken, then tapering off to complete a cycle. Users
believe that stacking enhances the effects of each individual drug, pyramiding allows
the body to get used to high doses of steroids, and steroid-free periods help the
body recuperate from the drugs. There is no scientific evidence to support any of
A lot of people tell themselves they'll only use steroids for a season or a school
year. Unfortunately, steroids can be addictive, making it hard to stop taking them.
And once users stop taking steroids, they can have withdrawal symptoms such as
loss of appetite, tiredness, restlessness, insomnia, mood swings, and depression.
StrongAlternatives to Steroids
Anabolic steroid use is illegal and banned by professional sports organizations
and medical associations. In spite of this, some athletes continue to take steroids
because they think it gives them a competitive advantage. As seen in high-profile
cases, if an athlete is caught using steroids, his or her career can be destroyed.
And there are serious health consequences.
When it comes right down to it, harming your body or getting disqualified aren't
smart ways to try to improve your athletic performance. Being a star athlete means
working hard and training the healthy way: eating
the right foods, practicing, and strength
training without the use of drugs.