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Steroids have a reputation for increasing lean muscle mass, strength, and the ability to train longer and harder. What are the risks of steroids use?

What are anabolic steroids?

The minor side effects of steroid use include acne, oily skin, excess hair growth, and deepening of the voice. Side effects specific to men can include testicular atrophy the shrinking of the testicles , reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, and the development of breasts.

For women, side effects can include enlargement of the clitoris, changes in the body contour, growth of facial hair, disruption of the menstrual cycle, deepened voice. An increase in androgenic male hormones may also lead to aggressive behavior. Research also indicates that people who use steroids often suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.

Teens who misuse steroids are at a significant risk of suffering irreversible side effects, including stunted growth, accelerated puberty changes and abnormal sexual development. Points to Remember Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. Health care providers can prescribe steroids to treat various medical conditions.

But some athletes and bodybuilders misuse these drugs to boost performance or improve their physical appearance. People who abuse anabolic steroids usually take them orally, inject them into the muscles, or apply them to the skin with a cream or gel. People misuse steroids in a variety of doses and schedules. Misuse of anabolic steroids might lead to short-term effects, including paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability and aggression, delusions, impaired judgement, and mania.


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Continued steroid misuse can act on some of the same brain pathways and chemicals that are affected by other drugs, including dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems. Anabolic steroid misuse might lead to serious long-term, even permanent, health problems. Several other effects are gender- and age-specific.

Who uses anabolic steroids and why?

Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, they can lead to addiction. Some people seeking treatment for anabolic steroid addiction have found behavioral therapy and medications to be helpful. Medicines can help treat symptoms of withdrawal in some cases. This publication is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Steroids - Journal - Elsevier

Prescription CNS Depressants. Prescription Opioids. Prescription Stimulants. Synthetic Cathinones "Bath Salts". Drugged Driving. They can increase lean muscle mass, strength and endurance, but only if used in conjunction with certain exercise and diet regimes. Anabolic steroids are classed as performance and image enhancing drugs PIEDs. These substances are taken by people with the intention of improving their physical appearance or enhancing their sporting performance.

Corticosteroids are a class of drug used to treat inflammatory arthritis and other inflammatory conditions such as asthma. They are commonly referred to as 'steroids', and people often believe them to be the same thing as anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids work by imitating the properties of naturally occurring hormones. They have a similar chemical composition to testosterone and are therefore able to activate testosterone receptors.

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Once the receptors are stimulated, a domino effect of metabolic reactions takes place as the drug instructs the body to increase muscle tissue production. Anabolic steroids are typically taken over a six to 12 week period.


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  • This is followed by a break of the same length to prevent muscle cells shutting down in the long term. This is known as cycling. Different anabolic steroids are often combined in a process known as stacking.


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    This is done to achieve effects such as increasing muscle mass, making it leaner and getting greater muscle definition known as cutting. Use of any drug always carries some risk. Generally speaking, people who use anabolic steroids experience an increase in muscle strength very quickly. This means that people are able to train more often and for longer periods of time, with improved recovery. This can lead to a rapid increases in lean muscle tissue but fluid retention is common and can lead to muscles looking soft or bloated.

    People may use anabolic steroids in what they believe to be a healthy lifestyle context. They may not see themselves as injecting drug users. However, there are risks associated with using steroids without a prescription or medical supervision, even as part of a fitness training program. In the worst case, long-term heavy steroid use can lead to heart attack, stroke and death 4 , especially among men aged in their early 30s who combine steroids with stimulant drugs, such as speed and ecstasy.

    Anabolic steroids can also take a toll on personal relationships as they can cause mood swings, a higher sex drive and, in extreme cases, violent behaviour, 7 especially when combined with alcohol. They can ruin sporting careers, with positive tests potentially resulting in fines, suspensions and bans from competitive sports.

    Pregnant women who use steroids risk passing on male traits to unborn daughters due to the increased male hormones in their bloodstream. The only way to avoid the risk of fetal damage is to stop using steroids at least 4 months before falling pregnant, as well as during pregnancy. Injecting steroids can cause permanent nerve damage, which can lead to sciatica. Anabolic steroids do not cause physical dependence but people can find themselves relying on them to build confidence and self-esteem.

    Are Steroids Bad for You? Uses, Side Effects, and Dangers

    Fear of losing muscle size or definition can lead to depression and the pressure to continue use. Steroids should only be injected with a prescription for a specific medical reason or under medical supervision. Injecting more than the recommended dose does not create larger muscles — the muscle simply becomes saturated. Higher doses only raise the risks of more adverse side effects without providing any additional benefits. It is not necessary to inject directly into specific muscles as the steroids are transported to all muscle groups via the bloodstream.

    There are many steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of harm caused by long-term steroid use.

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    These include:. It is illegal to manufacture, import, possess, use or supply anabolic steroids without a prescription or medical practitioner licence. The penalties for illegally administering steroids varies for every Australian state and territory. It is also against the law to inject another person with steroids, or for them to be self-administered without a prescription.

    Steroid use is banned in competitive sport. Testing positive for steroids can result in fines, suspensions or permanent bans.