Ever wonder how those bodybuilders at the gym get their insanely rippled chest and abs? Actually, you probably already know how—or at least you’ve made the assumption.
We’re talking about anabolic steroid supplements.
But what exactly are they, and what exactly do they do? You’re probably also wondering about some other physical side effects. To learn more about anabolic steroids and the effects they have, keep reading.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids (anabolic-androgenic steroids) are a synthetic variation of the male sex hormone testosterone. “Anabolic” refers to muscle growth while “androgenic” refers to increased male characteristics—hence the side effects you’ll read about later.
You’ll typically hear anabolic steroids and bodybuilding used in the same sentence since they are popular among athletes. They are known to boost muscle mass and improve recovery time as well as endurance and overall performance. You can read more now on steroid pills for muscle building.
Steroids are usually prescribed by doctors. Conditions that cause inflammation, injury, weight loss, and hormone issues usually require steroids. (They’re not usually prescribed to “young and healthy” patients, especially for muscle building.)
They are also prescribed by Veterinarians to a variety of animals. They help to promote appetite and feed efficiency, weight gain, treat anemia, and to counteract tissue damage during an illness or trauma.
The common slang terms for anabolic steroids are roids, juice, stackers, and gear. They may also be referred to as “performance-enhancing drugs”.
Are Anabolic Steroids Legal?
In the United States, anabolic steroids are considered a schedule III controlled substance. This means that without a prescription from your doctor, steroids are illegal. A person with illicit steroids in their possession can face up to one year in prison, as well as a minimum $1,000 fine.
Illegal anabolic steroid supplements are most commonly smuggled into the United States from Mexico, Europe, and other countries where a prescription is not required. In other cases, they enter the market by means of theft and inappropriate prescribing. They are also produced in illegal laboratories.
How are they Taken?
People who take steroids (or, misuse them) will usually take them orally or by muscle injection. They can also be applied to the skin in the form of a cream or gel, or implanted under the skin in pellet form.
Oral supplements and injections are more popular among those who take them for performance-enhancing purposes. The doses taken are also 10 to 100 times higher than that prescribed by a doctor. There are a few different patterns in which they are taken:
- Cycling: Taking multiple doses for a period of time and then stopping for a period of time. (Then restarting again)
- Stacking: Combining two or more different steroids. They can be mixed orally and/or by injections
- Pyramiding: Increasing the dose or the frequency of use. This is done gradually until a “peak amount” is reached and then the process is reversed.
- Plateauing: To avoid building a tolerance, the steroids are alternated, overlapped, and/or substituted with another type of steroid.
The period of time for these patterns is usually between 6 and 16 weeks. Using anabolic steroid supplements in this way is considered misuse or even abuse. Depending on how long a person is using steroids, they can remain in the body for over 12 months.
What are the Side effects?
It’s safe to say that everyone is familiar with the expression “roid rage”. This expression refers to the user’s angry and often violent outbursts caused by taking anabolic steroid supplements. Unfortunately, there’s a long list of health risks and side effects that come with abusing steroids over time.
Legal anabolic steroids prescribed at the lowest doses can have the following side effects:
- Fluid retention
- difficulty and/or pain when urinating
- Gynecomastia (otherwise known as enlarged male breasts)
- Increased red blood cell count
- Increased levels of bad cholesterol and decreased levels of good cholesterol
- hair loss, or growth
- low sperm count
- Changes in libido
- Changes in mood
- Stunted growth (in adolescents)
When prescribed steroids by a doctor, you will always be monitored for these unwanted side effects—making them much less risky. The misuse/abuse of steroids taken at higher doses pose much greater risks.
Side Effects for Women:
- A noticeable increase in facial and body hair
- Irregular periods
- A deepened voice
- An enlarged clitoris
- Shrunken breasts
Side Effects for Men:
- Breast growth
- Testicle shrinkage
- Baldness or hair loss
- Increased risk of prostate cancer
All-Around Side effects and Health Risks:
- High blood pressure
- Blood clotting
- Cardiovascular issues such as sudden cardiac death and myocardial infarction
- Liver damage and abnormalities, including tumors
- Kidney damage and/or failure
- Degeneration of collagen, which could cause tendon ruptures
- Bone loss and Osteoperosis
- Mood and anxiety disorders
- Hallucinations and/or delusions
- Paranoia and/or mania
- Psychological dependence
- Irritability/aggression (aka, roid rage)
Anabolic steroid supplements may give people desired physical effects such as rippled abs and bulging muscles, but it will cost them their lives.
Are They Addictive?
The long-term unregulated use of steroids can affect the brain pathways and chemicals similar to the way opiates have an effect. According to the American Psychological Associate (APA), the long term abuse of steroids can in dependency and addiction. Making it a classifiable condition.
When an individual has been taking steroids for a long period of time and decides to stop, they will most likely face symptoms of withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal from anabolic steroid supplements are:
- Changes in mood/mood swings
- Decrease in appetite
- Cravings (for steroids)
- Decreased sex drive
In order to treat or combat steroid abuse or addiction, it is highly recommended to stop using steroids and seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor will address any psychiatric or physical symptoms and in some cases, prescribe other medications to help.
Is it Worth the Risk?
Anabolic steroid supplements will always have a negative stigma as well as serious health risks attached to them. Despite this, there are plenty of bodybuilders and gym fanatics who swear by certain supplements for short-term use. Legal or not, it’s always important to get all the facts first.
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