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Anabolic Steroids Essay, Research Paper

Drugs have been used in sports almost as long as sports themselves have been around. The ancient Incas discovered that the ashes from burned leaves of the Coca tree gave the people great stores of energy, and made sleep unnecessary for hours or even days, it was later discovered to be the stimulant cocaine. They would take it before long hunts, battles, and even found it useful in ancient sport competitions. It wasn’t until 1886 that the first drug-related death in sports occurred. A bicyclist took a mixture of cocaine and heroine, called the “speedball,” and died from it. Little were the doctors aware the epidemic that would follow in the next century.

Anabolic steroids, developed in the 1930’s in Europe, are drugs that help to build new body tissue quickly, but with drastic side effects. Anabolic means the ability to promote body growth and repair body tissue. It comes from the Greek word anabolikos meaning “constructive.” Steroids are basically made up of hormones. One woman training to make the 1984 US women’s basketball team used them, her muscles started to bulge, her voice grew deeper, and she even had the beginnings of a mustache. These are all the usual symptoms of anabolic steroids. Steroids were not always used for sports, they started out the same way most drugs did, medicinal purposes. Victims of starvation and severe injury profited from it’s ability to build new tissue quickly. They also helped prevent muscle tissue from withering in patients who had just had surgery. Anabolic steroids are drugs that come from hormones or from combinations of chemicals that achieve the same result as hormones. Hormones may be given to an individual in their natural state, or in a synthetic one. The synthetic state is sometimes more potent than the natural one. Testosterone and progesterone are hormones used in steroids, another kind comes from the adrenal glands, which secrete various necessary bodily chemicals. The steroids themselves can be taken orally, as tablets or powders, and can also be liquids that are injected into the muscles. The steroids taken by athletes contain testosterone or chemicals that act in similar way to testosterone. Testosterone is found in men and women, but in women it is present in much smaller amounts, mainly because it is produced in the testicles in men. More than one hundred and twenty steroids are based on the hormone testosterone. There are many brand names, such as Durabolin, Winstrol, Pregnyl, and Anavar. Basically anabolic steroids control the bodily functions that are normally under control of the bodies natural testosterone. As well as turning women into men and men into manly men it stimulates skeletal muscle mass, some visceral organs, the hemoglobin concentration, and the red blood cell number and mass. Of course, most people take anabolic steroids illegally to stimulate growth in muscle cells. Once a person is born, he/she will not grow anymore muscle cells throughout their life. So when muscle mass increases it is the individual cells growing in size to compensate for either an increase in work, or the release of androgen hormones(found in all anabolic steroids.)

Exercise alone can stimulate the size of muscle cells to increase by anywhere from thirty to sixty percent. The presence of androgen hormones allows for even greater growth. Anabolic steroids act like our natural androgen hormones in that they stimulate anabolic metabolism in the muscles. Anabolic metabolism involves the buildup of larger molecules from smaller ones and includes all the constructive processes used to manufacture the substances needed for cellular growth and repair. As a result of steroids stimulating anabolic metabolism, muscles increase in size to a substantially greater size than they would have been if the individual only exercised.

Doctors take different views on prescribing steroids. Most dislike the use of them in sports, and some will not prescribe them at all for use in sports. They see them as dangerous for healthy individuals, and the taking of drugs to get a winning edge they see as cheating. Others don’t like steroids, but will prescribe them, knowing their patient, if not given them by their doctor, will get them from somewhere else. This way they can regulate them, tell the patient the correct way to use them, and keep an eye on them. Still others doctors consider steroids safe when administered under medical supervision, which includes carefully regulating dosages and watching for the first signs of trouble. A fourth view doctors take is recognizing the possibility that although sometimes steroids do serious harm, the same can be said of minor drugs, such as aspirin. Millions of people take aspirin daily, because the benefits greatly outweigh the risks, and suffer no harm as a consequence, and the doctors feel the same is true about steroids. When under medical supervision, doctors feel their patients are safe because of their good physical condition and the drugs can be stopped if trouble begins to show. They feel that with steroids, much like with aspirin, the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. None of these views can be proven correct or incorrect, but one thing is certain. Steroids used without medical supervision do the greatest harm. The athletes generally do not know how much to take, and take doses that are too large right from the start. Many doctors believe that steroids can lead to heart attacks and even strokes. Steroids cause extreme bloating because they create an imbalance of chemicals in the body and to regain that balance the body holds water. This extra fluid raises the blood pressure and could cause strokes and heart-attacks. Steroids are also suspected of bringing on liver and kidney failure. The steroids seem just as capable of destroying tissues as creating it.

Women are seen as being especially endangered by steroids because of the increased amounts of testosterone. Testosterone steroids are androgenic drugs, which means they promote masculinity. Although women produce small amounts naturally, it is a male hormone. The testosterone present is kept in balance with estrogen, the female hormone. Like testosterone for males, estrogen gives females their feminine characteristics. The woman may bald, grow excess bodily hair, including a mustache, they lose the gentle curves of their body, their skin roughens, weight is gained, and the voice deepens. An unborn child is also endangered, female’s unborn babies will develop such male traits as extra hair, and all unborn children, according to a few doctors, are subject to be handicapped and deformed. Men also are endangered. They may experience a shrinking of the testicles, called atrophy, accompanied by a lowered sperm count, a lessening of sexual desire, infertility, and an enlargement of the prostate gland that men under fifty usually do not suffer from. Steroids are dangerous when used incorrectly, and should be used only under medical supervision. It has undesired side effects for men, women, and even the unborn. When abused steroids are no longer anabolic, they stop building the bodies tissue and start tearing it down as anything will when used in excess.

There are three major divisions of steroids: corticosteroids, estrogens and

progestogens, androgens. Corticosteroids are found in both prescription and non-prescription cremes that are used to control rashes and itches. These two common trade names are Cortaid and Lanacort. This form of steroid is not to be thought of as having addictive properties. The second forms of steroids are estrogens and progestogens. These forms of steroids are female sex hormones that promote sexual development and help to maintain a healthy reproductive system. The third forms of steroids are androgens. These are the male hormones called testosterone, which lead to secondary sexual characteristics and also help to maintain the male reproductive system. These specific forms have been labeled a highly addictive and are frequently abused, they are referred to as “anabolic steroids.”

History of Steroids

Until the year 1935 scientists never knew that testosterone steroids were associated with an increase in muscle production. During the next two years scientists found through research with dogs that in certain circumstances steroids had an increase on muscle mass production. The recent observations that steroids were associated with muscle mass production and strength came in 1954 with Olympic weight lifters. In 1956, Dianabol (Methandrostenolone) was first marketed in the United States clearing the way for athletic use of anabolic steroids. At first only world class Olympians used steroids, and these athletes were involved in strength oriented competitions such as weight lifting. It was not until 1964 that steroids were recognized as being a problem within athletes. Both athletes and trainers during this time period were using these steroids in high doses and as well in dangerous combinations that were not supported by scientific research. This form of anabolic steroid abuse was spread through the athletic community openly through articles and conversation. Even in scientific research today scientists have never tested high doses of steroids used in multiple steroid combinations.

There are two ways for anabolic steroids to be taken into the body, both orally and injected. Oral steroids are highly potent and are excreted fairly rapidly from the body due to short metabolic half-lives (usually within weeks). So, oral steroids are the first choice from athletes who want to rapidly improve their performance and try to escape from the drug tests. Unhappily, these drugs are the most toxic and which have more side effects. Injecting a steroid is less potent and generally exhibits delayed uptake into the body, especially if they are oil-based dilettantes. They have less liver toxicity than oral steroids, but athletes, in having detectability in drug tests for long periods are less using them.

Generical Name Commercial Name Administration Retail Price Black-Market

Oxymetholone Andral Oral $90/100 TABS $300/100 TABS

Testosterone Cypionate Depo-Testosterone Injectable $35/10mL $200/10mL

Stanazolol Winstrol V Injectable $250/30mL $400/30mL

Boldenone Equipoise Injectable $150/30mL $450/30mL

Oxandrolone Anavar Oral $75/100 TABS $150/100 TABS

Methoanrostenolone Dianabol Oral $100/100 TABS $200/100 TABS

The exact numbers can never reflect the actual instances of the negative side effects associated with anabolic steroid usage. It has become apparent that anabolic/androgenic steroid usage has negative effects on the following systems of the body: liver and cardiovascular, central nervous, muculoskeletal, endocrine, and reproductive systems. The chart below shows each of the side effects in respect to the system that is effected, as well as if the effects are permanent or just temporary.

SYSTEM ADVERSE EFFECT REVERSIBILITY

Cardiovascular Increased LDL Cholesterol Yes

Decreased HDL Cholesterol Yes

Hypertension Yes

Elevated Triglycerides Yes

Arteriosclerotic Heart Disease No

Reproductive-Male Testicular Atrophy Yes

Gynecomastia Possible

Impaired Spermatogenesis Yes

Altered Libido Yes

Male Pattern Baldness No

Reproductive-Female Menstrual Dysfunction Yes

Altered Libido Yes

Clitoral Enlargement No

Deepening Voice No

Male Pattern Baldness No

Hepatic Elevated Liver Enzymes Yes

Jaundice Yes

Hepatic Tumors No

Peliosis Hepatis No

Endocrine Altered Glucose Tolerance Yes

Decreased FSH, LH Yes

Acne Yes

Musculoskeletal Premature Epiphyseal Closure No

Tendon Degeneration Unknown

Central Nervous Mood Swings Yes

Violent Behavior Yes

Depression Yes

Psycoses Yes

As well as there being negative side effects, there are great benefits of taking steroids. Steroids have been used for several years for the treatment of asthma, used in order to strengthen the lungs and the diaphragm. Steroids have been studied and are now being used in the treatment of Lupus. Corticosteroids are extremely effective anti-inflammatory agents and can be very helpful in treating active lupus, despite their significant side effects. As far as anabolic and androgenic steroid usage, there is one common effect that is sought and achieved, muscle gain. These athletes and body builders are seeking more muscle mass to either achieve greater strength, faster reaction or more definition. Several strength sports do not condone this usage, and the majority of the athletic organizations have banned the use of them, as well as testing for their presence in competing athletes, such as the NCAA and the Olympics. The effects are great in the final results, but are the costs greater than the reward or benefit, that is for you to decide.

How to Identify Anabolic Steroid Use

Characteristic signs and symptoms can help to identify steroid abusers. None of these signs or symptoms is exclusive to steroid abuse, but the presence of one or more symptoms must alert the physician to steroid abuse. A list of common signs and symptoms is given below:

1. Rapid weigh gain

2. Alterations in body composition with marked muscular hypertrophy

3. Disproportionate development of upper torso

4. Severe acne

5. Needle marks in large muscle groups

6. Development of male pattern baldness

7. Gynecomastia

8. Increased susceptibility to tendon injuries

9. Jaundice

10. Edema

11. Elevated blood pressure

12. Hirsutism

13. Atrophied breast in females

14. Deepening of the voice in females

The use of anabolic steroids offers advantages and improved performance only for anaerobic sports, opposed to aerobic or skilled sports. In anaerobic sports are concentrated the greatest use of steroids, and are the ones which the physician should attempt to identify abusers. Statistically, football, wrestling, weight lifting, swimming, body building, shot put, discus, javelin throwing, and some track and field events are the primary sports for steroids users.

Alternatives to Steroid Use

There are several products on the market that are called safe steroids that have no adverse side effects, but those alternatives will not be documented here due to there lack of evidence and scientific research. There are products that you can purchase from health food stores and nutrition catalogs that boost both your metabolism and aid in the production of muscle mass. Creatine has been linked to great achievements both in strength and speed, as well as having greater ability to increase muscle mass and density. I have personally taken creatine, twice actually, and the results that I achieved were outstanding. The other products that are available are nutritional supplements as well, such as: Designer Protein, Shock Treatments, and a mixture of Creatine and Androphene, such as the one used by the home run record hitter Mark McGuire. But the best bet you can make is to do it naturally, by eating a good diet with a well-balanced structure of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. A well maintained body performs at peak performance, when that same body is being abused its efficiency level reduces dramatically. If you drink alcohol and coffee, smoke cigarettes, abuse drugs and have an overall neglect for your body then the effects of steroids will not be enough to counteract all the other influences of the abuse you are putting your body through. So do it naturally, with a high standard for your personal level of wellness and body awareness. Combine natural foods and supplements and a strict workout plan and you should see great results as well.

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