Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic Steroids

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Anabolic steroids are the quickest known way for male athletes to improve their bodies and excel in sports, but not necessarily the safest. The Encyclopedia of Drugs and Alcohol defines anabolic steroids as "the synthetic versions of the naturally occurring male sex hormone testosterone; they are properly called anabolic-androgen steroids because they have both body building (anabolic) and masculinizing (androgenic) effects." Anabolic steroids have been around for many years, dating back to the 1930's, where they were primarily used to treat hypogonadism, a condition in which the testicles do not produce enough testosterone for normal growth, development, and sexual functioning. Shortly after their discovery, people began abusing them. In World War II for example, German troops were given anabolic steroids to improve muscle strength as well as increasing aggressiveness to fight at war (Wadler and Hainline). The first abuse of steroids in sports did not occur until the 1950's, when Russian athletes began taking steroids to increase weight and strength. The Russians use of anabolic steroids led to the development of anabolic steroids in the United States. Steroids have come a long way since then. They now serve an important role in assisting patients with many medical conditions. They are often given to patients with abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence, as well as treating people with AIDS and other diseases that waste away their bodies (NIDA). In the United States anabolic steroids are available legally, but they require a prescription.
Too frequently teenage male athletes use anabolic steroids to improve their bodies for certain sports, however they completely disregard the obvious short term and long term effects that are associated with the steroids. From past high school experiences I have seen the effects of steroids first hand. All of the male athletes that used steroids only had one reason to take them, which was to get an advantage over their opponents, whether they were playing on the football team, track team, or baseball team, the students that abused steroids were simple to pick out of a crowd. Very often they would have needle marks on their bodies from injections, as well as gaining a huge amount of muscle mass in a short period of time. Along with the increased body size whey would get severe cases of acne and their personality would change extensively. The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that 500,000 young Americans are taking steroids every year.

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The number of sophomore boys taking steroids increased from 2% to 2.7% last year and since 1991 the number of sophomores that use steroids has increased 50%. (Healtheon/WebMD).
The side effects that are associated with steroids clearly outweigh the benefits. For example, In the late 1970's and mid 80's, Lyle Alzado was one of the top players in the National Football League. He had a huge, muscular body that struck fear into every opponent, and upon his retirement in 1986 he was noted as one of the best linebackers ever. In 1991, he reappeared in the news, not for his great accomplishments in the NFL, but rather to admit to using anabolic steroids throughout his entire career. Not only did he ignore his doctor's warnings urging him to stop using steroids early in his career, but he continued using them after his retirement. Alzado exposed that he had beaten his wife due to steroid-induced rages, and he also spoke about how his lifetime use of steroids brought upon fatal brain cancer. He spent the final months of his life speaking out about the dangers of anabolic steroids (Lovitch). There are many other adverse effects of anabolic steroids besides the brain cancer that Alzado suffered from. Alan Leshner,director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, claims,
Those young people think they're building better
bodies, but at the same time, when the boys
are trying to get bigger muscles, they're also
getting shrunken testicles; they're growing
breasts and developing acne (Healtheon/WebMD).
Some of the effects are reversible, however many of them are not. The reversible effects of steroids in males are shrinkage of the testicles also known as testicular atrophy and reduced sperm production. The irreversible conditions consist of male-pattern baldness, gynecomastia (breast development), priapism (persistent and painful erection), and enlarged prostate. (NIDA). A study conducted by the American Medical Association compared 88 athletes that were steroid users to 68 non-users. They concluded that steroid users displayed more frequent gynecomastia, decreased testicular length, and higher cholesterol than non-users and it also found that 23% of the steroid users suffered from major mood syndromes (Katz). Steroids also cause high blood pressure, stress, and more serious neurological problems. Users of steroids tend to become more aggressive over time and periodically go into uncontrollable "roid rages" (Lovitch).
There are two ways in which people take steroids, either orally or by intramuscular injection. Steroids, when taken orally, come in the form of a capsule or tablet. These capsules or tablets are only effective for short periods of time before they are broken down and as an result, must be taken in large doses up to 200mg a day (ROID). There are huge health risks that come along with taking steroids orally. One of the major health risks associated with taking steroids by ingestion is liver damage. One of the most deadly effects of taking steroids orally is liver toxicity, which is caused by the pills being broken down all at once, putting a huge strain on the liver, therefore prolonged use of steroids can cause jaundice, hepatic cholestasis, liver tumors, or fatal liver failure (Yesalis). When steroids are taken by intramuscular injection, they tend to less toxic on the liver because they have an altered chemical composition that allows them to stay intact through the digestive process and liver metabolism (ROID). One of the major concerns regarding intramuscular injection is the risk of getting AIDS from a contaminated needle. The National Institute of Drug Abuse has concluded that 63% of teenage steroid users take steroids orally rather than by intramuscular injection.
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