Anabolic steroids are illegal and banned in almost all countries across the globe. While they still do have a certain appeal for men and women who want to bulk up quickly, there are a lot of reasons why the use of these supplements is not condoned by fitness instructors, nutritionists or healthcare practitioners. Of the many reasons that can be cited for making these supplements illegal, their consequent physical and emotional damages are the most pertinent.
What Are Anabolic Steroids?
Before the legality of these supplements is questioned, it is important to understand what these steroids actually are. Anabolic steroids are synthetically created substances that behave like testosterone in the body. Testosterone is the male sex hormone, which is also responsible for synthesis of protein in the body, driving growth of the skeletal muscles. Little known to the people, who insist on using these steroids, is the fact that testosterone is also associated with violent mood swings, and several other physical and emotional conditions. Anabolic steroids are also referred to as Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). The use of such steroids is one of the most debatable topics around body building and weight lighting.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Steroid Abuse?
Overuse or abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to a variety of side effects, some of which are not so harmful, and some which are outright dangerous. The simplest of side effects could be an increase in acne and development of breasts in men, while others such as strokes and heart attacks can be life threatening. Most of the side effects are reversible, and may recede when the abuser stops using steroids. Here are some of the most commonly encountered side effects of steroids in men and women.
Effects on Men
- long or short term infertility
- development of breasts
- testicular shrinkage
- early onset of male-pattern baldness
- erection problems
Effects on Women
- enlarged clitoris
- excessive body hair
- baldness that mimics the symptoms of male pattern baldness
Effects on Musculoskeletal System
- inadequate development of the skeletal system, leading to a short stature
- rupture in tendons
Effects on Cardiovascular System
- increased cholesterol
- increased risk of heart attacks
- enlarged left ventricle
Effects on Liver
- increased risk of cancer
- hepatic infection
- polycystic tumors
Effects on Skin
- severe acne and formation of multiple cysts
- oily scalp and limp hair
- yellowish tinge of jaundice
- increased odema
Effects on Infection
- dangerous for those who have HIV/AIDS
- increased risk of developing or worsening hepatitis
Effects on Psychiatric Effects
There are some instances where steroids may be useful for treating an existing health condition. In such a case, it is important to get steroid based medications on prescription. Steroids, therefore, can and should only be used with a valid prescription from a medical practitioner.
However, in the USA, steroids are classified as controlled substances and their use is heavily regulated. Since steroids are banned, possessing or using them without a valid prescription may be enough for you to get arrested and fined.
Effect of Steroids on Behavior
Apart from their effects on the human health, steroids also have far reaching effects on behavior. Several studies suggest that anabolic steroids, when used in high doses, can cause a condition called ‘roid rage’. This is an emotional response to the high levels of testosterone in the body. Such high levels of the hormones are responsible for increased aggression and irritability.
Steroid abusers are often incriminated in physical brawls, vandalism and other criminal activities. Secondary hormonal changes can trigger severe mood swings experienced by steroids abusers. The extent to which steroid use and abuse contributes to increased instances of aggression and other behavioral problems is not clearly known. However, research has shown that these behavior problems are a part of the side effects of steroid abuse.
Why Have Steroids Been Banned?
It is not unusual to hear about sportsmen and athletes being banned or fined for their steroid abuse. This has led to a widespread assumption that these substances have been banned for the competitive advantage that they offer to athletes. The reality, however, is different. Though steroids have largely been abused by bodybuilders and athletes, the health challenges and concerns they pose are indeed astonishing. In fact, due to these concerns, steroids have been classified under the schedules of controlled substances in the USA.
The short term athletic advantage that can be gained due to the use of these drugs, can certainly tilt the sporting events in the favor of the abusers. Therefore, it becomes all the more important to level the playing field by banning these drugs altogether. A more pertinent reason for banning these drugs and making them illegal, is there association with a variety of health and behavioral concerns.
Steroids were made illegal simply to offset and counter the heavy abuse of these drugs, prompted by their ability to improve athletic performance. This was beneficial in controlling the side effects associated with steroids. However, if steroids were taken for a very long period of time, the immune system could be damaged. The side effects depend on the dosage levels taken. This mainly affects people with high blood pressure and hypertension.
When are Steroids Legal Then?
Though steroids have and cause a lot of physical and emotional side effects, they can be useful for the treatment of certain disorders, including hypogonadotropism. Therefore, the use of steroids is not completely banned. In fact, they can be safely used when a doctor prescribes them in the following circumstances:
- bone marrow stimulation or treatment for bone loss prevention
- delayed puberty, prompting treatment of artificial induction of the same
- stimulation of appetite in long term disease
- preservation of wasting muscular tissues in conditions such as cancer or AIDS
- consensual procedures for reassignment of gender
Management and regulation of steroid use is important throughout the world, because of the harmful effects of their abuse. Since the power and energy felt due to the use of steroids can often be addictive, they are viewed as harmful substances. They can cause several problems in life, both physically and emotionally. Through the banning of these drugs, the civil society also emphasizes its stand on the use of steroids, and claims that it is not worth jeopardizing one’s health and the sanctity of law for short bursts of enhanced performance achieved through the use of steroids.
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