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Anabolic steroids refer to a group of drugs that have the effects similar to those of testosterone hormone in the body. Anabolic steroids act in a similar manner to testosterone and dihydrotestosterone hormones in the body by increasing synthesis of proteins within body cells. Anabolic steroids are sometimes referred to as Anabolic-Androgen Steroids (AAS) or simply steroids. The increased synthesis of proteins in the body cells by anabolic steroids usually results into increased cellular metabolism within body muscles.
History of Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids were first identified and synthesized in early 1930s by Leopold Ruziicka. In 1935, Adolf Butenandt synthesized approximately fifteen milligrams of androstenone from male urine. This came a few years after a group of pharmaceutical scientists discovered that the testes have powerful androgen as compared to androstenone. Clinical trials to determine the impacts of using anabolic steroids in human beings began approximately three years later after the first steroid was synthesized. According to Frank, even Adolf himself was injected with strains of steroids to treat some of his ailments (215).
Currently, these drugs are widely used in medical therapies to stimulate growth of various bones in the body and to increase desire for food. Anabolic steroids have also been used in treating certain chronic muscle or body wasting conditions, especially in cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. Additionally, anabolic steroids have been used to induce male puberty.
According to a study carried out by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), it was discovered that inclusion of anabolic steroids in meals resulted into considerable increase in body weight due to increase in lean mass. It was also found out that use of anabolic steroids resulted into increased muscular strengths when accompanied by regular and high-intensity exercises (Lenehan 73).
Characteristics of Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids have two major properties that have facilitated their use in medicine and sporting activities. These properties include androgenic and virilizing properties. These properties have enabled anabolic steroids to be used in development and maintenance of masculine characteristics such as increase in testicles, increased body weight and energy and growth of body hair.
Development of Anabolic Steroids
Commercial development of anabolic steroids started in early 1940s. The first commercial productions of steroids occurred in the Soviet Union countries, especially in Germany. The steroids manufactured were used by athletes and heavy weight lifters to improve their performance during Olympic Games.
In the United States of America, the manufacture of steroids started after the use of steroids proved successful during the Russian Olympics. Consequently, in 1960, the U.S Food and Drug Administration approved the use of methandrostenolone, a type of steroid which was developed by Dr. John Ziegler. It was soon discovered that those who used methandrostenolone regularly and extensively suffered from enlarged prostate glands. This called for the need for more researches to develop and improve the drug so that its side effects could be reduced. As a result, various modifications of the drug were developed.
Use of Anabolic Steroids in Sporting Activities
Since the discovery of the American College of Sports Medicine that anabolic steroids helps in increasing body weight and muscular energy, the drugs have been intensively used in various sporting activities. For example, a number of participants in racing, athletics, judo and bodybuilding have been found to be regular users of anabolic steroids. However, the use steroid drugs in sporting activities, usually referred to as doping, is illegal and not recommended. This is because steroids may have potentially negative effects on the users as well as the ability of steroids to give the users added advantages over other competitors who are non-users of such drugs. Most sporting organizations have thus totally banned the use of steroids by sportsmen and sports-ladies. For example, in 1977, an Olympics Committee banned the use of anabolic steroids by athletes because it was realized that most of them were using steroids during training rather than during actual sporting competitions (Yesalis 158).
In many countries, the use of steroids is controlled by public health officers or medical practitioners. However, a research study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that there is substantial use of anabolic steroids in most countries despite governmental restrictions (Ries, Shannon & Fiellin 118). Such drugs are often smuggled and sold through the black market, just like cocaine and heroin, behind the government’s knowledge. CDC further warned that banning the use of steroids in most countries has led to sale and usage of counterfeit steroids in such countries. This increased the levels of infections and side effects developed from use of such drugs.
Pharmacology of Anabolic Steroids
Since their discovery, anabolic steroids have undergone various developments to improve their performance as well as reduce their side effects on the users. To date, there are four main types of anabolic steroids in use. These include oral pills, steroid creams or gels, skin patches that are placed under the skin and testosterone for injections. Among all these, orally administered steroids are the most convenient and widely used.
Anabolic steroids have the capability of penetrating through the skin’s membranes and thus have direct and immediate manipulation, control and influence on cellular activities. Scaly suggests that anabolic steroids have two major influences on the cellular activities of the muscles. The first influence is increase in the rate of production of proteins in body cells, and secondly, steroids block the activities of stress hormones, cortisols, thereby reducing the time available for recovery of energy by muscle tissues (41). These two activities combined results into increased energy production in body muscles during strenuous activities. Furthermore, anabolic steroids also increase basal metabolic rates (BMR) in the body by reducing the body’s fat content. This increase in basal metabolic rate results from increased muscle mass in the body.
Anabolic steroids have various health risks associated with its prolonged use. Some of these risks include changes in the cholesterol levels in the body. According to Doweiko, long-term use of steroids results into increase in levels of low-density lipoprotein whereas the levels of high-density lipoproteins in the body are suppressed (279). Anabolic steroids can also lead to development of skin disorders such as acne. In some people, prolonged use of steroids has resulted into increase in blood pressures.
Robinson asserts that some patients who have a long history of using anabolic steroids have suffered from liver damages. He further argues that considerable damages to the liver by anabolic steroids were reported in people who used oral steroids (117).
Persistent use of anabolic steroids also leads to hormonal imbalances in the body. For example, CDC reported that there was observable change in hormonal levels in the bodies of steroids users (Ries, Shannon & Fiellin 118). This research which was conducted between 2004 and 2007 supported claims that steroids cause hormonal imbalances in the body. In this research, surveys were done on samples of groups of 100 people using steroids and another group of 100 people who were not using steroids. Results from laboratory tests revealed that those who were using steroids had significant imbalances of gynecomastia and testicular atrophy hormones in their bodies.
Additionally, it has been reported that use of anabolic steroids leads to increased desire for food or hunger, high chances of developing remodeled bones, increased production of red blood cells in the body as well as increase in skeletal muscles which results from formation of new muscle fibers, hence increase in strengths.
Others effects may include increased stimulation of bone marrow, production of oil from the sebaceous glands and excessive synthesis of body proteins from amino acids. In rare cases, increase in sexuality (sexual urge) has been observed in some individuals.
People using anabolic steroids have developed unbalanced body shapes. This is where the upper parts of the body are relatively bigger and huge than the lower sections. Scaly suggests that remodeled body shapes result from preponderance and large numbers of androgen receptors located in the upper parts of the body (62).
In adolescents, steroids have caused premature development of sexual organs and increased frequency of erection in male teenagers. The erections may also last for unreasonably longer periods.
Whereas there is no direct link between steroids and mental status of the users, there have been alleged reports that anabolic steroids may cause aggression, violence and sleep disorders among users (Doweiko 194). Prolonged use of steroids may result into drug addiction and overdependence. In females, steroids have adverse affects on their moods. Use of steroids has also been linked to increased crimes and suicidal attempts, which implies psychological disturbances. However, no solid evidences have been laid to support these claims.
In my opinion, the use of anabolic steroids should be done only under medical supervision. This is due to its adverse effects such as high blood pressures and deformation of body bones and shape among others. Similarly, most people often suffer from harmful bodily changes such as increased levels of cholesterols. This poses health risks to individuals. Prolonged use of steroids usually results into liver damage. Some male users of steroids have also reported decrease in sperm production. This implies that there are high chances of male dysfunction during sexual intercourse as well as inability to impregnate a woman and have children.
Furthermore, females who use anabolic steroids during pregnancy may develop complications related to pregnancy. During fetal development, steroids can cause deformation of the unborn child by changing gender features of the child. For instance, male fetus has been reported to develop female characteristics and female fetus developing male features. Therefore, the use of anabolic steroids should be avoided at all cost.