Steroids Side Effects
A young man frightened to go out on the street in case he gets attacked, a man determined to win a race for the first time in his life, a man disillusioned by his failure to build noticeable muscles. What do these people have in common? They are likely to attend a gym and their self doubt will be increased by the appearance of fitter, more capable guys working alongside them. Add a sprinkle of ladies determined to prove that being feminine is not a barrier to performing well, a steroid dealer looking to increase his income, and you have a recipe for disaster. People like these three men are vulnerable and the promise of better performances, muscles to be admired, an opportunity to be the best, a chance to prove people wrong, will be exploited by the steroid dealer constantly looking out for these people and people like them.
Carrying out research on the internet you can read many different stories about the side effects of steroid use and you are presented with two totally different views, one from the medical establishment and one from the users. It is not difficult to be aware of, almost immediately, the category that each story falls into. The medical profession, who are usually stating the government view, exaggerate the effects and the users play down the effects. If we take a middle line it is obvious that steroid side effects are very real and are evidently a serious problem for guys and girls who only want to enhance their lives, to lose the inferiority complex that blights their daily lives.
Those who take drugs, in whatever form, are constantly making excuses for their behaviour and always say that they are in control, that they can give up at any time, that the side effects are totally exaggerated, that they are not bad people just because they take drugs. The steroid users are convinced that if there are side effects stopping the habit for a time will reverse the damage and they can then continue as before. The dealers would tell you that they are just trying to help their clients, that they do warn them about side effects, and that the steroids they hand out are safe because the people who supply the dealers tell them this. It is well documented that there are drugs, including steroids on the market that are from very dubious sources and that the dosage stated is not always correct.
What are the side effects of steroids? They fall into two categories, long term effects and short term effects. It is the long term effects that the users and the dealers will attempt to gloss over, and they will try to convince themselves that by giving up for a period will reverse the short term effects. It should be stressed that opinions are divided on the long term effects but there are obvious issues that must result in long term damage.
Short Term Effects
The increased aggression reported in steroid users has been described as “roid rage”. Though not scientifically proven it would seem that, as people react differently to drugs, the increase in testosterone, the increase in blood pressure, and low self esteem due to drug dependency, are contributory factors that are likely to increase aggression in users and will vary in degree depending on individual reaction. This kind of behaviour occurs in other drug users who are affected by changes in the body and the brain.
Water retention (Endema)
Steroids are known to cause water retention when taken in controlled amounts on the advice of a doctor. The irresponsible use of steroids can lead to swelling in the ankles, knees, feet and wrists. Stopping the taking of the steroids will control this condition. If this occurs it can be relieved to a certain extent by elevating the legs above the head, a common practice amongst deep vein thrombosis sufferers.
Atrophy of the testicles
This condition causes the testicles to shrink and is caused by the fact that testosterone is being introduced into the body from another source (steroids) so the testicles automatically stop producing testosterone themselves causing them to shrink. It is also thought that this may lead to sterility in men though there is no clear evidence that this is the case.
This condition is caused by excess testosterone in the body which is converted to oestrogen which is a female hormone and causes swelling of the breast tissue. This results in enlarged breasts which require surgery to reduce as it obviously causes great embarrassment. It will not help the state of mind to have to go into the gym with this condition. It is hardly the macho image that a man would seek.
Acne is as kin disease that affects some people. It is a rash of pimples that usually attack the face area and cause great distress to both males and females. It is particularly present during adolescence and the onset of puberty. The hormonal changes that occur are the cause and with the use of steroids these hormonal changes are greatly exaggerated with the result that severe acne can result causing embarrassment and distress.
Steroids affect the levels of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol in the bloodstream resulting in high cholesterol which can eventually lead to long term damage such as heart attack or strokes.
These are the main short term effects although many others have been mentioned including baldness and liver damage but there is a lot of speculation and not enough medical evidence to support these as real effects. Many dealers recommend drinking a lot of water if side effects are present which washes the liver and may restrict any damage. Other effects mentioned include dizziness, nausea, jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, sleeping problems and hallucinations though again lack of hard evidence does not fully support theses effects.
Long Term Effects
There is little evidence to support the long term effects of steroid use but some are evident, such as those described below. It is obvious that abuse of the body in whatever form it takes is going to have long term effects.
Young men who are still growing and take steroids may damage the growth plates in the long bones. The brain senses the level of hormones in the body and instructs the bones to stop growing. This may result in them being permanently shorter than average.
The risk of high cholesterol associated with steroid use increases the chance of blood clots to the heart or the brain which can result in death or severe disability. In addition high blood pressure and the increase in muscle mass places greater strain on the heart as it struggles to increase the supply of blood to cope with this. This may cause premature death from heart attacks.
Enlargement of the prostate is usually a problem with older men but it has been known to develop in younger men who are taking steroids. The additional testosterone introduced into the body causes it to swell, significantly increasing the risk of cancer.
The use of steroids has been shown to cause liver damage. Known as peliosis hepatitis blood filled cysts can replace the tissue in the liver which can lead to liver failure. It is thought that these cysts can turn into tumours leading to liver cancer. One of the signs of liver damage is jaundice which is known to occur in steroid users.
As previously mentioned “roid rage” is a problem amongst steroid users but there are other psychological effects. In young men particularly the brain is starved of a substance that is essential for the feeling of “well being” and can lead to depression in later life. Other effects include mood swings, hallucinations, paranoia, and anxiety.
Effects on Females
The side effects of steroids on female steroid users can be devastating. They may lose their feminine curves, and develop coarse skin. They may grow facial hair, their voices may deepen, their breasts may shrink and their clitoris grows. It also causes changes in the menstrual cycle or stops it altogether. There is a risk of tendon and ligament damage, and the possibility of weakening the immune system. They are also prone to an increase in cholesterol levels, cardiovascular damage and an increased risk of heart attacks. There is also the risk to the reproductive system such as infertility and cervical cancer it is obvious that introducing testosterone into a female body is going to increase the male characteristics. This can also lead to the growth of bodily hair and result in hair loss from the head. The psychological effects of such changes must be frightening as they may be long term even if the steroid taking is stopped.
In these days of heightened awareness of health and fitness and the desire to eat more healthy foods it is alarming that steroid abuse is so prevalent. More people are attending the gyms in an effort to change their appearance whether for their own sakes or to attract the opposite sex. A lot of pressure is being applied to people to look healthier and that probably applies to women more than men. The majority of men and women who do go to the gym are at no risk from steroid pushers who usually operate by word of mouth though it is always a risk that the dealers, who feed on vulnerability, will see an opportunity for increased income. However a large percentage of their clients are body builders who crave to have muscles that catch people’s attention and also enhance their performance in the case of competitive weight lifting.
The other people most at risk of exposure to steroid dealers are athletes who are also looking to enhance their performance. Some have the overwhelming desire to be winners and feel at a disadvantage because they do not have the talent or the dedication to be winners so decide that cheating is reasonable to attain the best possible performance they can give. When men in the gym look around and see well muscled bodies on their fellow trainers rather than be jealous and wish that they could look that way it would be a good idea to find out how they got bodies like that. It may be that they have worked hard in the gym for many years to get to that level and taking steroids is not an option to them. They are dedicated and the intelligent ones will know that taking performance enhancing drugs like steroids may well have a detrimental effect in the long term.
Opinions vary greatly on the effects of steroid use. Although medical research is being conducted there is a divide amongst experts as to the effect of steroid use. Some of the users will write articles on the internet that is totally positive about the advantages of such use and the medical profession will write a negative article whilst both are discussing the same symptoms. It is well known that drug users will always try to justify their habit by producing facts and figures or even research that shows that their habit is not dangerous and causes no ill effects. The medical profession will offer views, supported by statistics that prove that drug use causes great harm, not only to themselves but to their families and friends indirectly. They will also argue that medical facilities are stretched by having to deal with self-inflicted illnesses and the weakness of those people taking steroids. Steroids are used by the medical profession to treat illnesses such as asthma and it is understandable that they resent misuse of such a drug when they are seeing the side effects that it has on their genuine patients. People will always be tempted by the lure of drugs as it is the lazy way to solve their problems and get a quick fix whether it is to enhance performance, to look better, or just to make them feel good temporarily.