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Decriminalization Of Steroids Essay, Research Paper

The Decriminalization of Steroids

Everyone has a view on steroids whether or not it is shaped by mass media, schools, or peers. Not many people have a realistic idea of what steroids really are and what they do. I spent a few hours in various diet and fitness related chat rooms on the net while doing this paper and found out that the common stereotype is that all steroids are harmful and produce breasts. Some people believe supplements such as creatine and weight gain powder are steroids, which is false. Another common misconception is that only world class athletes use them. It seems most people are too lazy to read medical texts on steroids and would much rather let the media and government tell them about it. This attitude of don t confuse me with the facts and medical jargon is what s wrong with societies view on steroids. With all of the misinformation floating around it s no wonder why steroids are considered dangerous drugs. To quote John F. Kennedy We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” (cybernation.com)

The term “anabolic steroids” commonly refers to steroids that are synthetically produced. Some common anabolic steroids are Nandrolone decanoate, Primobolan, and Sustanon (a blend of four types of testosterone) just to name a few. Testosterone studies are nothing new. In 1771, a Scotsman transplanted the testes from a rooster to a hen and confirmed his hypothesis that the hen would display characteristics more like the rooster. About 78 years later in Germany, a German scientist furthered the research in by examining the effects of castration upon the secondary sex characteristics of roosters and proving the existence of a masculinizing substance produced in the testes and released through the bloodstream. In 1935, scientists working in Amsterdam succeeded in collecting ten milligrams of a chemical from one hundred kilograms of bull testes and identified this chemical as testosterone. (David K. 85-86) By the early 1950’s, scientists were trying to isolate testosterone’s muscle building properties without the masculinizing effects. Synthetic anabolic steroids were then developed in this quest.

Testosterone has both anabolic (tissue building) and androgenic (masculinizing) qualities. The anabolic/good effects are primarily muscle growth. The androgenic/bad effects are gyno and the development of secondary male sex characteristics, such as growth of facial and body hair and the deepening of the voice. Obviously, the anabolic effects are desirable for sports performance and cosmetic appearance. In adults, especially women, the androgenic effects are not desirable at all. There are ways to block the anabolic effects though. Medicine such as Nolvadex, Clomid, and Arimidex (anti-estrogen agents) can be used to negate the androgenic effects.

Unfortunately, these are illegal substances as well. In my opinion, steroids are not the evil drugs everyone has come to expect. Steroids are much safer than many substances legal and illegal. Yet most people will get drunk at a party and not think twice about it. Odds are the majority of people probably won t ever use steroids in their lifetime, but for the government to make them illegal is absurd. I feel the government has made a grave mistake by criminalizing steroids. Hopefully, in due time they will become legal and help many people by doing so.

Critics of steroids say Roid rage is a deadly side effect of anabolic steroids. Enormous media attention has been focused upon the reported adverse psychiatric effects (especially violent behavior) of steroid use. Roid rage is a term for steroid-induced “spontaneous, highly aggressive, out-of-control behavior where the police either were called or should have intervened” (Yesalis & Cowart, 60). A few researchers have suggested that symptoms including increased aggression are a common side effect of anabolic steroid use. For example, a flawed 1988 study suggested that psychiatric disorders occur with unusual frequency among athletes using anabolics (Pope & Katz, 1988, 487-490). Experts say that “If this phenomenon is real, it is relatively rare (probably less than 1 percent) among steroid users. Even among those affected, the impact of previous mental illness or abuse of other drugs is still unclear” (Yesalis & Cowart, 60). “Some long-time steroid users have never suffered any emotional instability, or anything more than transient physical effects” and many steroid users describe non-violent feelings of euphoria, well-being and enhanced self-confidence as common effects (Wright & Cowart, 51)

Opponents of steroids also say in men, the abuse of anabolic steroids can reduce sperm production, cause acne, shrink the testicles, and cause impotence and irreversible breast enlargement. Women can develop masculine characteristics such as deepening of the voice and excessive body hair. Also, in teens abuse of steroids can stunt bone growth in adolescents and result in potentially permanent damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Individuals who inject anabolic steroids with nonsterile needles also risk developing HIV and other blood-borne infections as well.

I concede that using nonsterile needles does greatly increase the risk of HIV. Then again it really does not matter what you are injecting into your body as long as you are sharing needles your risk for HIV greatly increases. I do agree that youth should NOT be using any kind of steroid. Their bodies are just not developed yet and the adverse effects could be permanent. According to the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) in 1999 2.7% of 8th graders and 10th grades admit to using steroids at one time. The percentage slightly raises to 2.9% when the same question was asked to 12th graders. Another study done on twelve to seventeen year olds (by the Department of Human Health and Services a year before) shows that marijuana use was at 8.3%, tobacco use was 18.2%, and alcohol use was at 21%. Although the numbers for youth steroid use are not high compared to the above I would still like to see them be lower.

I strongly feel that the self-administration of anabolic steroids by teenagers must be strongly discouraged. Teenagers are much more likely to abuse anabolic steroids (as is the case with alcohol.) They are less focused and less educated, more susceptible to peer pressure, and eager for fast results, teenagers are also more likely to use anabolic steroids in dangerously high dosages and without any medical supervision. Teens seem less willing to suffer these post-cycle size and strength reductions, and are more likely to continuously use high-dose steroids for prolonged periods, which is hazardous. By taking it for a long duration, your body will then cease to produce testosterone. Your body senses you are producing a great amount of testosterone so it ceases to produce any more. Sort of like the if you have the cow why buy milk analogy. Then when you quit using your endrocrine system for a long period of time it usually never returns to normal. Which is why most people who use anabolic steroids go through what they call cycles (a 8 to 12 week period where they use anabolic steroids then they quit for a long period of time until their body s system is back to normal.)

Unlike the majority of other illegal drugs steroids are drugs that are beneficial when used responsibly and in moderation. Drugs like heroin, marijuana, and cocaine have no health benefits attached to them, and the only benefit (and I use that term very loosely) is the sheer pleasure the user experiences when they get high . Marijuana is glamorized in such comedies like Friday Dazed and Confused and who can forget the classic Cheech and Chong movie Up in Smoke. I have yet to see a comedy about anabolic steroids. In fact the only movie I have seen called Steroids (with Ben Afleck) is filled with exaggerations. For example, getting roid rage immediately after taking a few pills. The very notion that one dose of steroids would produce an instantaneous negative effect is absurd. Steroid exaggerations are even found in comic books. I remember reading a Marvel comic book called SuperPro where the lead character fights a villain on steroids. The funny thing is that with every dose of steroids the villain took he doubled in size. What purpose does this propaganda serve? As far as I am concerned all it does is use unnecessary scare tactics to get people to believe steroids are evil.

Marijuana can be used for medicinal purposes in the state of California (Prop 215) and Arizona (Prop 200) as of November 1996, yet marijuana serves no true medicinal purpose. Some may argue that the temporary relief of pain can be considered a medicinal purpose but more effective painkillers are available through a doctor or over the counter for that matter. In my years as a naval medic no doctor I talked to would even consider prescribing marijuana to his or her patients. If any illegal drug should be considered for Medicinal purposes it should be anabolic steroids.

Even products that are legal like alcohol and tobacco have far greater health risks than anabolic steroids do and ever will. According to the National Vital Statistics Report, (Vol. 47, no. 19.) Alcohol killed 19,576 people in 1997 (Not including motor vehicle related deaths), drunk driving killed about 17,000 people the same year. Total deaths from alcohol accounted for 98 billion dollars in total costs, which is about a quarter of the annual estimated highway costs. The thing I find interesting is that in the same report the total deaths related to steroid abuse was not even in the top 50. To put it in perspective, caffeine related deaths were higher than steroid related deaths. Tobacco claims 400,000 lives each year, is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, results more than 50 billion dollars in direct health care costs, (www.fedstats.com) and has no health benefits whatsoever but will continue to be legal as well.

Another point is that one of the greatest dangers in self-administered steroid use involves the failure to be monitored by a doctor. The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 has greatly increased this danger and has created an even wider gap between the athletes and the medical community. President Bush signed the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 into law as part of the Omnibus Crime Control Bill. The law applies in every federal court across the country. It now places steroids in the same legal class (Schedule III) as amphetamines, methamphetamines, opium and morphine. Which means possession is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, between February 1991 and February 1995, they initiated 355 anabolic steroid investigations, which resulted in over 400 arrests and over 200 convictions. (Lanigan)

Under the current views and laws of our society, it is a criminal act for a physician to administer anabolic steroids to a healthy adult for purposes of physical enhancement. However, it is perfectly acceptable to perform the much more radical and dangerous procedure of surgically implanting foreign prosthetics into virtually all parts of the human anatomy for the same purpose, which subjects patients to fatal risks associated with general anesthesia and post-surgical infection. Many more people have died or been permanently injured from botched liposuctions, breast implants and other cosmetic surgery procedures in the past few years than in over forty years of anabolic steroid use by athletes. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was a fairly heavy steroid user for years and has had no adverse effects. Not only is he a model of good fitness but also is a spokesperson of The Presidents Council of Physical Fitness. Also, Lee Haney, 8 time Mr. Olympia winner, is the current chair of the council. He used anabolic steroids in the past as well and is also a model of good fitness.

Because the self-administration of anabolic steroids is a federal crime, very few users are willing to confess their steroid use to physicians. Seeing how federal enforcement efforts have now targeted physicians, very few doctors want anything to do with athletes taking steroids these days. Doctors caught distributing steroids to athletes have been criminally prosecuted. Walter F. Jekot, M.D., for example, was sentenced in 1993 to five years in federal prison for dispensing steroids to athletes. Based upon the reading of the Control Act physicians who prescribe steroids for other than approved illnesses, open themselves up to a presumption of illegal activity. What can be defined as approved illness then? Hormone replacements for the elderly is not considered approved by current law. The restoration of strength and muscle mass in the elderly would greatly benefit society by making them less susceptible to diseases and decrease ever rising health care costs. By not allowing trained physicians from administering steroids in a controlled manner, the law has now forced athletes and your average Joe to either buy steroids off the black-market or seek out unethical and possibly incompetent physicians to supply them steroids.

Finally by legalizing steroids we would get most of these black market products of the streets and out of the youths hands. Many of these black market products are tainted with impurities. It has been estimated that up to 90% of black market anabolic steroids are contaminated or contain other foreign substances (Gallaway). Especially now with the use of computer technology and being able to make replica labels and boxes it is easier to make fakes steroids. Speaking from experience it is very easy to make a fake product. When I worked in the lab at the hospital I worked at I remember testing a supposed vial of Winstrol (an anabolic steroid.) It consisted of milk powder and a household cleaner. This is very dangerous to be injecting into your body. Which makes me wonder how many of todays youth have actually been taking steroids or just fakes. I also remember a good friend who had a cyst on the top of his thigh about the size of a tennis ball, I had to lance and drain it, and my friend could barely walk for weeks. As it happens the product he was injecting into himself was a fake and had given him the infection.

It can be concluded that “[a]s used by most athletes, the side effects of anabolic steroid use appear to be minimal” (Di Pasquale, 5). Despite over forty years of use by athletes and non-athletes, many of who are now well into there 40 s and 50 s, we have yet to hear reports of an epidemic of steroid-related deaths. Even the medical literature does not support the depiction of a serious health crisis related to anabolic steroids. It would be false to say that anabolic steroids, especially counterfeits, are safe for unsupervised self-administration. Though on the other hand, it would be equally false to state that anabolic steroids are deadly drugs that deserve harsh criminal penalties for personal use by adults. One can say that there is a serious question as to whether or not Congress may have grossly overreacted in addressing the non-medical use of anabolic steroids by people. I urge you to read more about steroids by picking up good books such as The World Anabolic Review 1996, The Steroid Bible, Anabolic Advantage and The Essentials of Steroid Use just to name a few. So the next time you hear the word steroid visions of a 300pound WWF wrestler beating up his girlfriend does not pop in your head but a clear image of what steroids really do.


Cybernation.com, www.cyber-nation.com/victory/quotations/authors/quotes_kennedy_johnf.html ,( May 1st 2000)

Di Pasquale, M.G., Anabolic Steroid Side Effects: Facts, Fiction and Treatment (M.G.D. Press; Warkworth, Ontario, 1990).

K. David, “Ueber des Testosteron, des Kristallisierte Manniche Hormon aus Steerentestes,” 5 Acta Brev. Neerland Physiol. Pharmacol. Microbiol. (1935), pp. 85-86.

Gallaway Steve, The Steroid Bible (3rd ed., Belle International, 1997).

Lanigan, John, and Scheidhauer, Sharon, DEA Briefing Book (U.S Department of Justice, Arlington, VA, Oct 1999)

Lubell, A., “Does Steroid Abuse Cause – Or Excuse – Violence?” The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Volume 17, Issue2 (1989), pp. 176-185.

1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, U.S Department of Health and Human Services

National Vital Statistics Report, (U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Vol. 47, no. 19, 1997)

Pope, H.G., & Katz, D.L., “Psychiatric and Medical effects of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Use,” 51 Arch. Gen. Psychiatry (1994), pp. 375-382.

Wright, J.E., and Cowart, V.S., Anabolic Steroids: Altered States (Carmel, IN: Benchmark Press, 1990).

Yesalis, C.E., & Cowart, V.S., The Steroids Game (Champaign, IL; Human Kinetics, 1998).

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