Anabolic Anabolic steroids also increase nitrogen retention
Anabolic steroids are performance enhancing drugs. They are a
synthetic form of the chemical testosterone that is normally found in the body.
By taking anabolic steroids, a person’s testosterone level can be raised up to a
hundred times more than the usual amount of 2.5 to 10 mg. Per day. The increase
in testosterone increases anabolic activity, which results in greater muscle
bulk. It also increases protein synthesis and androgenic activity (enhanced
secondary sexual characteristics) in males. The users of steroids want to
increase the anabolic effects and reduce the androgenic effects, but no steroid
is known to have just anabolic effects.
Anabolic steroids can be taken in two ways, by injection or they can be
taken orally. Both oral and injected steroids carry benefits and adverse
effects. Orally taken steroids are well absorbed into the stomach and they are
excreted fairly rapidly. The bad side of taking oral steroids is that they are
more toxic than injected steroids. They are highly potent, which makes the risk
of overdosing very high. Steroids that are injected are less toxic to the liver
and are less potent than oral steroids on an equal dosage basis. Injected
steroids have a delayed take up, which makes them last longer. It also allows
them to be detected in drug tests for a longer period of time.
How they work in the body:
When anabolic steroids are introduced into the body, under certain
conditions they increase: protein synthesis, lean body mass, and the nitrogen
balance in the body. A steroid receptor is formed which stimulates the
synthesis of enzymes. With the stimulus of enzymes in the body, protein
synthesis is also increased. One enzyme system that is placed into the body by
the receptor is the ribonucleic acid (RNA)-polymerose system. This system
promotes cellular protein metabolism and synthesis which utilizes nitrogen. By
utilizing the nitrogen, the anabolic action is increased, which leads to larger
muscle size and strength. Anabolic steroids also increase nitrogen retention in
the body. They move the nitrogen equilibrium to the positive side. This allows
the body to utilize ingested protein better, but the balance does not last
forever. The body’s homeostatic mechanisms regulate the balance and change it
back to normal. This is one set back to anabolic steroid use. In order to gain
lean body mass a person may have to eat up to 10,000 calories / day and must
continue a rigorous weight training program. If this is not followed, taking
the steroids would be worthless.
Despite the increase in muscle size and strength, anabolic steroids
carry an even greater risk, the side effects. The side effects can be permanent
or even deadly. Serious side effects are seen in the liver, the cardiovascular,
central nervous and reproductive/endocrine systems.
One major side effect that can be found in the liver is hepatotoxicity.
This is the poisoning of the liver. It shuts down the liver’s ability to
process blood, which in turn shuts down the whole body. Prolonged use of
anabolic steroids can cause cholestosis and jaundice (yellowish coloring of the
eyes, skin and body fluids). Even though most adverse side effects in the liver
are reversible upon discontinuation of steroids, fatalities can occur. The
fatalities occur from hepatic cholestosis, liver tumors or peliosis hepatitis
(blood filled cysts that can rupture and cause bleeding and liver failure).
Very noticeable effects occur in the reproductive system. In males the
testicles shrink by about 20%. They become impotent. Their sperm count can
decrease by 90%. Also gynecomastia can be seen in males. Gynecomastia is the
enlargement of the breasts. One adverse effect that can be seen in both males
and females using steroids is inappropriate hair growth. In females, anabolic
steroids can cause irregularities in their menstrual cycles. It causes the
female voice to deepen and clitoral hypertrophy. Clitoral hypertrophy is the
enlargement of the clitoris. Many of these things are irreversible, but some
can be changed with the discontinuation of steroid use.
In the cardiovascular system adverse effects can be very deadly. When
taking steroids an increase in LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol and a
decrease in HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol occurs in the bloodstream.
This can carry a risk of coronary heart disease and myocardial infarctions.
They can also cause retention of fluids. High blood pressure can cause an
increased risk of congestive heart failure and strokes.
The adverse effects in the musculoskeletal systems are not life
threatening, but they are very noticeable. Younger steroids users can have a
premature closure of the epiphyses (growth plates) in the long bones. This
irreversibly limits the full adult height potential. With the use of steroids,
muscle/tendon strength changes. The muscles become stronger, but the tendons
become stiffer and less able to withstand force. This causes an increase in
muscle strains or ruptures.
The central nervous system is also effected by the use of steroids. In
the person taking steroids, aggressive behavior, self confidence and a sense of
well being are seen. Also manic mood swings can occur. These mood swings can
range from euphoria to sexual arousal to irritability and hostility. Cognitive
impairment can also set in on the user. Cognitive impairment can involve
distractibility, forgetfulness, and confusion.
The use of steroids is nothing new to the world. Since the time of the
Greek Olympics athletes have been using performance enhancing drugs in order to
heighten their athletic performance. In 1886 the 1st person to die due to
performance enhancing drugs was a French cyclist. He took a speed-ball, a mix
of cocaine and heroin, which eventually killed him. Physicians in the 20’s ran
tests on athletes by inserting monkey testicles into male athletes to help boost
their vitality. Adolf Hitler supposedly administered the hormone testosterone
to himself and his troops in order to increase aggressiveness. In 1953 the
first anabolic steroid was introduced. It had five times more strength building
effects than natural hormones. In the 1960’s the IOC (International Olympic
Committee) started to ban performance enhancing drugs due to their popular use.
At the 1976 summer games in Montreal, the IOC initiated the first testing for
steroids. Today testing is done routinely on the collegiate and international
level. The USOC (United States Olympic Committee) can suspend an athlete for up
to two years if caught using steroids. Repeat offenders may be suspended from
competing on the Olympic level for life. The NCAA does year round testing
regardless if the athlete is in season or not. Selected teams are notified two
days in advance of being tested, and 18 players are tested at that time.
Positive testing results in a one year suspension of the student athlete.
Signs of use:
The physical signs that are portrayed by steroid users are extremely
noticeable. They include:Rapid weight gain
Alterations in body composition, with marked muscle hypertrophy
Disproportionate development of the upper torso
Needle marks in large muscle groups
Development of male pattern baldness
Gynecomastia (breast enlargement)
Increased susceptibility to tendon strains and injuries
More frequent hematoma or bruising
Elevated blood pressure
Hirsutism (abnormal development of facial / body hair)
Atrophied breasts in females
Deepening of the voice in females
The use of steroids can carry a maximum of 10 years in prison. Also a
fine can be imposed in addition to the jail sentence, or by itself. The fine
can be as high as $250,000.
260,000 students in grades 7 to 12 either use or have used steroids.
The American Heart Assoc. estimates at least half of all Division I
college football players have used steroids over a substantial period of
Black market steroids are topping sales of $400 million per year.
One million Americans, half of them adolescents use black market
In order to obtain good muscle mass building a person may have to consume 10,000
calories / day or the steroids will be useless.