What are anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids are officially known as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). They are drugs which mimic the effects of the male sex hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the build-up of cellular tissue (anabolism), especially in muscles.
Anabolic steroids also have androgenic and virilizing properties.
Most commonly available anabolic steroids?
Most commonly available anabolic steroids are – methyltestosterone, fluoxymesterone, oxymetholone, oxandrolone and nandrolone decanoate.
How are they administered?
There are three common forms in which anabolic steroids are administered: oral pills, injectable steroids, and skin patches.
Oral administration only about 1/6 is available in active form. Oral forms cause the maximum amount of liver damage.
Injectable steroids are typically administered into the muscle, not into the vein, to avoid sudden changes in the amount of the drug in the bloodstream. Injection is the most common method used by individuals administering anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes
What are their effects?
Their effects can be divided into Anabolic and Androgenic Effects.
A. Anabolic effects of these hormones are:
1. increased protein synthesis from amino acids,
2. increased appetite,
3. increased bone remodeling and growth,
4. stimulation of bone marrow, which increases the production of red blood cells.
5. increase in the size of skeletal muscles leading to increased strength.
B. The androgenic effects are-
1. They affect pubertal growth, sebaceous gland oil production, and sexuality.
2. Retard the growth of the clitoris in females and the penis in male.
3. Increased growth of androgen-sensitive hair (pubic, beard, chest, and limb hair), and decreased growth of scalp hair.
4. increased vocal cord size that leads to deepening of the voice.
5. increased libido or sexual desire.
6. suppression of natural sex hormones, and impaired production of sperm.
How they affect the muscle mass growth?
The effect on muscle mass is caused by the following ways:
1. They increase the production of proteins
2. They reduce recovery time by blocking the effects of stress hormone cortisol and glucocorticoids on muscle tissue. These promote breakdown of muscles.
3. Anabolic steroids also affect the number of cells that develop into fat-storage cells, by favouring cellular differentiation into muscle cells instead.
4. Anabolic steroids can also decrease fat by increasing basal metabolic rate (BMR), since an increase in muscle mass increases BMR.
Effect on Body muscle size:
1. The upper region of the body (thorax, neck, shoulders and upper arm) seems to be more susceptible to anabolic steroids because of predominance of androgen receptors in the upper body.
2. The largest difference in muscle fibre size between anabolic steroid users and non-users was observed in type I muscle fibres of the vastus lateralis (thigh region) and the trapezius muscle (shoulder region)
3. The exercise where the most significant improvements were observed was the bench press.
The Medical uses of Anabolic Steroids?
Various anabolic steroids and related compounds
• Bone marrow stimulation: for hypoplastic anemias due to leukemia or kidney failure, especially aplastic anemia.
• Growth stimulation: Anabolic steroids can be used by pediatric endocrinologists to treat children with growth failure.
• Stimulation of appetite and preservation and increase of muscle mass: Anabolic steroids have been given to people with chronic wasting conditions such as cancer and AIDS.
• Induction of male puberty: Androgens are given to many boys distressed about extreme delay of puberty. Testosterone is now nearly the only androgen used for this purpose and has been shown to increase height, weight, and fat-free mass in boys with delayed puberty.
• Used in hormone replacement therapy for men with low levels of testosterone and is also effective in improving libido for elderly males.
• Used to treat Gender Identity Disorder by producing secondary male characteristics, such as a deeper voice, increased bone and muscle mass, facial hair, increased levels of red blood cells and clitoral enlargement in female-to-male patients.
Adverse effects of Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids can cause many adverse effects. the most common:
1. elevate blood pressure,
2. harmful changes in blood cholesterol levels: some steroids cause an increase in LDL cholesterol and a decrease in HDL cholesterol.
3. Alter fasting blood sugar and glucose tolerance tests. Increasing risk of diabetes.
4. Increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease.
5. Acne is fairly common due to stimulation of the sebaceous glands by increased testosterone levels.
6. Premature baldness
7. High doses of oral anabolic steroid compounds can cause liver damage,
8. There are also sex-specific side effects of anabolic steroids.:
a) Development of breast tissue in males, a condition called gynecomastia
b) Reduced sexual function in males
c) Temporary infertility due to testicular atrophy ( decrease in size and productivity of testicles.) This inhibits production of sperm. This is a temporary side effect. The size of the testicles usually returns to normal within a few weeks of discontinuing anabolic steroid use as normal production of sperm resumes.
d) Female-specific side effects include increases in body hair, deepening of the voice, enlarged clitoris, and temporary decreases in menstrual cycles.
Severe side effects of anabolic steroids-
a. In adolescents the steroids may prematurely stop the lengthening of bones resulting in stunted growth.
b. Accelerated bone maturation,
c. increased frequency and duration of erections. Also premature sexual development.
d. Alterations in the structure of the heart, such as enlargement and thickening of the left ventricle, hypertension, heart failure, arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.
Upon administration, a small quantity of anabolic steroids goes to the brain through blood circulation. Over a long-run, these small quantities not only stimulate the brain , but also make it dependant on them. From the 1st dose onwards they start bringing small neuro-chemical and neuronal changes within the brain structure. These changes are manifested as severe psychiatric side effects.These include:
1. Aggression and hypomania- this is called "roid rage". Anabolic Steroids stimulate the brain upon consumption. This leads to increased irritability, hostility and anger. Once the anger is triggered, it can lead to disastrous consequences, even murder.
2. Clinical Depression and suicide - Both the consumption and withdrawal effects of anabolic steroids can trigger clinical depression and suicidal behaviour. Low self-esteem and lower levels of confidence, along with memory problems, concentration problems, sleep irregularities and negative thinking are prominently observed.
3. Addiction potential- They have very high addiction potential. Once such an addiction is triggered, the individual will spend majority of time, money and thought thinking over procuring the substance. The effect of the substance. He/she will require larger quantities of the substance. Over-indulgence in exercise, extreme episodes of violence, excessively thinking about the substance, extremes like involvement in anti-social activities to procure the substance can also occur.
4. Body dysmorphic disorder- A common mind-body interaction seen among anabolic steroid uses is the body dysmorphic disorder. An individual is always remains dissatisfied with his/her own body image. He intensifies the struggle to achieve a Adonis-like perfect body. This makes him overindulge in exercise, increased thinking about body building, increased learning and implementation about body building. This deviates him from his socio0cultural responsibilities and introduces personality changes, changes in sleep and appetite pattern , socio-cultural interaction which can lead to harmful effects including death.
5. Schizophrenia or Psychosis – Psychosis or developing an altered reality fully coloured with visions and voices is one of the severe most side effects of anabolic steroids. It’s mostly happens in cases of individuals with family history of schizophrenia, individuals in clinical depression or hypomanic state.
Use anabolic steroids under the supervision of a qualified doctor. Don’t play with your life.