Steroid Abuse

Steroid Abuse

Look at the physique of a magnificent athlete and you may wonder: does he (or she) use anabolic steroids? With abuse of steroids by popular athletes frequently in the news, it’s a topic that’s worth discussing. Athletes and young people often seek to increase their body’s performance and enhance their appearance with steroids. What they often don’t realize, however, is that the consequences for doing so can be life-threatening.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded a report, the 2007 Monitoring the Future Study, which showed that 0.8 percent of 8th graders, 1.1 percent of 10th graders, and 1.4 percent of 12th graders reported abusing anabolic steroids at least once during the year prior to the survey.

What steroids are

Steroids are synthetic substances that are similar to testosterone, the male sex hormone. Anabolic steroids are sometimes prescribed by doctors to help patients with certain types of anemia, as well as men whose own bodies are unable to produce enough testosterone. Doctors also prescribe corticosteroids to reduce swelling in some patients, but these are not anabolic steroids and do not have the same harmful effects.

Although there are quite a few different kinds of steroids, the most common include: anadrol, deca-durabolin, dianabol, equipoise, oxandrin and winstrol.

Common street names

They’re usually just called steroids, although you may hear “juice” and “roids” on the street. Scientifically, these drugs are called anabolic-androgenic steroids: anabolic – meaning muscle building and androgenic – pertaining to increased male characteristics.

How to identify steroids

Anabolic steroids come in many different sizes, forms, shapes and colors. Generally, they are available in pill form, in ampules, in bottles and in vials. Ampules are sealed glass containers with the steroid inside. When the top is cut off, the steroid is withdrawn using a needle. Vials have a rubber top, through which the needle is inserted to withdraw the steroid. Both ampules and vials are approximately two inches in height. Bottles are like vials, but are in larger sizes. Since anabolic steroids require a prescription, much of what is sold is counterfeit or fake and obtained on the black market.

How steroids are used

Some users pop steroids in pills. Others inject steroids directly into their muscles. Often a process known as stacking occurs, where two or more kinds of steroids are taken at once in an attempt to build muscles faster. Abusers pyramid their doses in 6 to 12-week cycles, starting off with lower doses and building up to higher doses in the cycle’s first half, then reversing the process in the second half of the cycle. Neither stacking nor pyramiding has been shown to work.

Effects of steroids

Used primarily to build muscles, steroids do increase muscle mass. But they also carry negative side-effects. Users of anabolic steroids can lose their hair or find their face loaded with pimples. Guys can develop breasts and girls suddenly sport beards, have deeper voices and start looking more masculine. This is not the only downside of using anabolic steroids, however.

Why steroids are bad for you

Besides the cosmetic side effects (girls decreasing breast size and growing more hair on their body and boys with noticeable breasts), there are other negative and potentially fatal consequences to using anabolic steroids:

• Liver tumors, cysts and cancer

• Heart attacks and strokes, potentially fatal

• Compromised immune system

• Risk of AIDS/HIV and Hepatitis B and C from injecting steroids with dirty needles

• Shrunken testicles and reduced sperm count in males

• Stunted growth when steroid use begins before adolescent growth spurt

• Baldness in both males and females

• Extreme mood changes: euphoria, depression, mania, delusions, violent aggression (known as “roid rage”)


According to the NIDA, use of steroids carries the potential for addiction. Large amounts of money are spent obtaining the drugs, and use is repeated over time. This is a pattern of addiction. Users also continue to abuse steroids despite physical and social problems – another pattern of addiction.

Withdrawal symptoms include mood swings, fatigue, and loss of appetite, insomnia, restlessness, reduced sex drive, and cravings for steroids. Depression is the most dangerous withdrawal symptom, as it may lead some users to attempt (or commit) suicide.

The NIDA fact sheet on steroids points out that some users, in an attempt to counter some of steroids’ side effects, such as irritability and insomnia, start taking (and abusing) opioids – which may lead to addiction to those drugs on top of the steroid use.

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