Steroids and Misconceptions
Drugs generally referred to ‘steroids’ can be categorized as corticosteroids and anabolic. Corticosteroids are drugs that doctors usually prescribe for controlling inflammation in the human body. They are mostly used to help specific conditions like lupus and asthma. They are not similar to the anabolic steroids that attract a huge media attention because of their usage by some bodybuilders and athletes. Anabolic steroids referred to as synthetic hormones have the ability to boost the human body’s capability in producing muscles and preventing their breakdown. (Roberts 221-234)
Some athletes use steroids with the hope of improving their capability to hit farther, run faster, lift extra weight, jump relatively higher and have more stamina or patience. In most of the countries, including United States, the usage of anabolic steroids without doctor’s prescription is against law. Androstenedione is a type of anabolic steroid that is used by athletes who wish to build their muscles. However, it is a misconception, as research suggests, that Androstenedione, if taken in large quantity or doses every day, can increase testosterone level significantly, ultimately leading to different health problems. Steroids usage can cause the liver to develop tumor or increase chances of heart attacks ultimately shortening the life. Steroids can cause hair loss and affect user’s reproductive organs. Moreover abusers of steroids can become more violent and angry, aggressive in behavior. (Burns)
A specific research made in this regard hypothesized that Testosterone supplementation in male induces fiber hypertrophy of muscle. (Sinha-Hikim, Indrani, Roth, Lee and Bhasin) Testosterone, directs the human body to enhance or produce male features like facial hair growth, increase muscle power and deepening of the voice. It is a significant element of male development in the phase of puberty. When the testosterone level is increased by anabolic steroids in the blood, they rouse muscle tissue in the human body to grow stronger and larger. However, the overall effects of excess testosterone circulating in the human body can be harmful and dangerous over time.
Other misconception about steroids includes a general opinion that steroids, in fact, do not effect growth of human body. Adolescents and teenagers who abuse anabolic steroids are exposed to a risk, throughout their lives, of remaining short and not reaching the natural body height. It is pertinent to highlight a false impression that only specific persons use steroids. In fact, there are many types of people who use, rather abuse steroids. For instance some teenagers abusing steroids fear of not being noticed by their colleges or coaches and persons sensitive of their performance or appearance abuse steroids for the sake of their self-esteem. (Steroidabuse.com)
How Do Steroids Work?
Anabolic steroids impact the metabolism in each and every cell, in some cells producing complications such as changed lipid metabolism specifically in the liver, while in other cells producing required adaptation, for instance increase in muscle size. Training or exercise along with proper nutrition is needed to build large muscles and ensure that fats do not increase in large amount. Steroids are taken in pill form or through injection. They stimulate specific proteins which are involved in the building of muscle tissue. The side effects of steroids, without a proper medication or doctor’s prescription, are; cancer; liver tumors; jaundice; fluid retention; high blood pressure; increased risk of heart attack; kidney tumors; and severe acne. (DrugAbuse.Gov 2005)
Anabolic steroids specifically assist athletes by facilitating endeavors to gain extra strength and also produce muscle mass for more muscular endurance, speed and power. For instance, Barry Bonds, a Major League Baseball outfielder started using steroids just after 1998, according to media reports. Although Bonds categorically denied such allegations but reports asserted that Bonds added 15p of solid muscle and increased his weight from 210 to 225 pounds. (Kroichick)
Male hormones like testosterone are primarily responsible for certain developmental changes that take place in the body of men through adolescence. Steroids possess both anabolic and androgenic properties. Some of the androgenic impacts include significant changes in sexual characteristics like; hair growth; shrinking of testicles; loss of hair on scalp; growth of hair on the face as well as body; and increased aggressiveness. (Willey, 176-178)
Steroids are Dangerous
Anabolic steroids which are not prescribed by a doctor or a licensed physician can also be described as steroid abuse. While using steroids, lawfully and as per doctor’s instructions, is not dangerous, its abuse is dangerous and could lead to different health dilemmas, some of which may have permanent ramifications. The abuse of steroids is dangerous due to two basic reasons; first it is illegal; second it can damage the health of persons particularly if taken in large doses. Moreover, health problems that are caused due to abuse of steroids may not surface for a long period after their usage.
Even though, steroids might support in the process of muscle building, they produce significant side effects. Using of steroids over a long period of time can impact the reproductive system negatively. In males, abuse of steroids can also result in impotence and even reduced size of testicles. Females abusing steroids are also exposed to grave dangers. They may have certain difficulties with menstrual cycles as steroids can upset the maturation as well as release of eggs from ovaries. Such disruption may result eventually in problems related to fertility over time. The illegal dose of anabolic steroids is ten to hundred times higher as compared with the dose prescribed by a doctor for medical problems. (Poore)
Apart from health problems, there are other dangers of abusing or unlawfully using steroids. Usage of steroids without prescription is, in fact, breaking the law. Drug testing has become more common and prevalent for all athletes. The failure of a drug test by an athlete may have legal consequences including monetary fines, jail time, forfeiture of medals or trophies or exclusion from team or an event. For example many players in baseball have been named as abusers of steroids, their reputations negatively affected. However, the fight against abuse of steroids, especially among athletes, is the responsibility of every stakeholder. (Wilson, Schmidt)
Steroids can cause fusion and advancements of the epiphysis. As there is increase in the androgen levels, it leads to advancement of bone age. Growth is ultimately finished when bone plates are entirely fused. Most of the times, users of anabolic steroid do not have proper access to adequate amount of sterile and clean needles, or do not follow proper injection protocol, the dangers of contracting HIV or Hepatitis significantly increases. There is also a danger of hair loss due to abuse of steroids. Anabolic steroids can also convert to variations of Dihydrotestosterone, a standard reason of early hair loss.
Steroids can also increase the process of male baldness specifically in predisposed users. Because the natural testosterone of human body is not required when anabolic steroids are used, the body halts generating its own testosterone supply which results in testicles shrinking. Abuse of steroids can result in the significant rise of blood pressure due to their overall ability to increase red blood cell count. The steroids users are more exposed to ‘Roid Rage’ or increased aggression. Evidence suggests that abuse of anabolic steroids significantly increase aggressive and violent behavior among some users.
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The main limitation with my topic isn't that there currently aren't any studies on the long-term effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), but mainly in how the studies are conducted. Two studies on the long-term adverse effects of anabolics were done on oral compounds, which are known to have very different effects than the injectable compounds. Oral compounds are much faster acting, can potentially be hepatotoxic, and must be taken several times per day. Injectable compounds are injected directly into the muscle and have a much longer active life in your body. As a result of this, the muscle gains aren't as dramatic as oral compounds. This would be fine, but the study didn't state that. It just presented its findings as fact. Another limitation that I found is that studies on AAS don't indicate that different compounds effect people in different ways. For example, Winstrol, which is commonly used by bodybuilders for fat loss or “cutting” purposes, will have a profoundly different effect on someone than the use of Trenbolone, which is often used for “bulking” purposes.
Over ninety percent of the research that I've found on the adverse and long-term effects of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) have been done on mice or other animals. The studies that were done on humans were being done on people with severe burns or underweight subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These were interesting to read but offered little relevance to athletes cheating in sports. AAS affect athletes differently than people who are barely clinging to life.
One study on chromosome damage as a result of anabolic steroid use found that individuals who are weight training and taking AAS have a higher rate of cytotoxicity and chromosome damage compared to the two other groups that were tested. The study was done over a two-month period and compared the results of fifteen males weight training, fifteen males weight training and taking AAS, and twenty sedentary males. The problem that I have with this study is that in the discussion portion of the study, the researchers tried to take their short-term results and infer that there would be an almost linear progression of worsening effects if the study lasted one more second longer.
Currently, there aren't any studies done in which the participant is given a controlled dose of testosterone with all other variables controlled. This is mostly due to ethical reasons and that nobody will consent to doing long-term testing. The fact that the use of PEDs in sports is so taboo makes it difficult to find peer reviewed information on it, but the fact that it is so controversial makes it much more interesting to research. This could be considered a limitation or possibly a strength.
Contribution: Athletes who use steroids aren't bad people. They're just trying to do their jobs better.
“The only real solution for eliminating PEDs in sport is for the fans to stand up and say ‘we don’t want to see any more doping in sports.’ This hasn’t happened and probably won’t. What this is about, pure and simple, is entertainment. We like seeing 'bigger than life' people doing 'bigger than life' things. The fans have arguably created the market for these drugs” (Yesalis et al 1998). Fans like seeing world records broken every year and the revenue generated by sports teams reflects this.
PEDs aren't ruining sports or American culture as many people would like to believe. In reality, because PEDs in sports has become commonplace over the years, revenues have increased in the trillions of dollars (Adams et al 2004). The one thing that all the trillion plus dollar major sports have realized is that fans want to see larger than life people doing larger than life things. Fans want to see 40-yard dash times shattered each year at football combines. They want their linemen all to bench press over 500 pounds (Adams et al 2004).
In the future, I think that people will be more accepting toward PEDs because things are heading in that direction already. “Hormone replacement therapy” is just a fancy term for taking PEDs. There is reason to believe that there will be a new form of performance enhancement. Within the next several years, there will be a new trend among athletes called “gene doping.” There has already been conclusive testing in mice as well as in cows, and it’s only a matter of time before athletes get their hands on this technology (Riewald et al 2005).
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