What are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids are a group of powerful compounds that are closely related chemically to the male sex hormone testosterone. These artificial substances were developed in the 1930's originally to help men whose bodies produced inadequate amounts of the natural hormone that is responsible for the development of masculine characteristics occurring at puberty, such as lowering of voice and growth of body hair.
How are Steroids Used?
Physicians seldom prescribe steroids today, and the few remaining medical uses for them are generally limited to treatment of certain kinds of anemia, severe burns, and some types of breast cancer.
What are the Side Effects?
Steroid abusers subject themselves to more than 70 side effects ranging in severity from liver cancer to acne and encompassing psychological as well as physical reactions. The parts of the body that are most seriously affected by steroids are the liver and the cardiovascular and reproductive systems. In males, steroids can cause withered testicles, sterility, and impotence. In females, irreversible masculine traits can develop along with menstrual irregularities, breast reduction, and sterility. Psychological effects in both sexes include aggressive, combative behavior known as "`roid rage" and depression. Some side effects may not show up for years, such as heart attacks and strokes, and some might not even be recognized as side effects, such as failure to achieve full height potential because of arrested bone development during adolescence.
Most steroids used illegally are obtained through the black market from underground laboratories and foreign sources. The quality and purity of such drugs are questionable at best. Furthermore, while steroids may build muscle, their intended effect -- increased strength -- may be offset by the fact that the strength of tendons and ligaments doesn't increase with muscle strength. This imbalance may result in injuries that take a long time to heal. Little research has been done to assess the long-term effects of steroid use; nor is there much clinical evidence of the effects on women and adolescents. Young people whose bodies are still developing are particularly vulnerable, as are women, because they have less of the natural hormone.
Sources: U.S. Department of Education U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Specialty Center Source of Information on Steroids:
National Federation of State High School Associations
11724 Plaza Circle
P.O. Box 20626
Kansas City, MO 64195
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