Effects of Steroids
Steroids are generally referred to as a group of drugs that are used in medical science to treat a large number of medical conditions. Steroids serve various medical purposes like regulating sexual characteristics in men following the testes removal surgery on the vent of testicular cancer. They are also used to treat adolescent males suffering from issues with their pituitary gland as well as cancer, which are known to cause degradation in muscle tissues.
These drugs can also be used to enhance reproduction, and regulate metabolism as well as the immune system. They are also used for improving muscle mass, inflammation issues, and many other medical complications. Many young and healthy people turn to steroids in the hope of gaining muscles. Doctors abstain from prescribing for the same and using steroids without prescription is considered illegal.
Classification of steroids
Steroids are further classified into:
- Anabolic Steroids – These are known to promote growth in the skeletal muscle of males and are used to treat some medical problems related to muscle loss, late puberty, and hormone deficiencies. Athletes as well as bodybuilders use steroids for facilitating muscle growth and improving athletic performance. This is considered to be an illegal practice and the law has provided for stringent punishments to those found guilty of doing so. These steroids are administered through ingestible pills or steroid injections into the skeletal muscle of an individual.
The three most common ways in which users abuse steroids are known as stacking, cycling, and pyramiding. Stacking is extremely dangerous as this involves using more than one steroid at a time. Users tend to believe in the notion that using two steroids at once increases their individual benefits. Cycling on the other hand involves taking a steroid over a certain period of time, allowing the body to rest and then starting afresh.
Pyramiding is a process that combines both cycling as well as stacking. Users begin with low doses of one or more steroids initially in the cycle, gradually increasing the dosage. Halfway through the cycle the dosage is maximized and then it is again gradually reduced to zero by the end of the cycle. Athletes design their exercise programs in such a way that they can get the most out of their exercise programs. They schedule more exercises when the effects of the steroids are likely to be at an optimum high. Steroid use cycles are usually between six to 12 weeks long. A rest period is likely to follow for recuperation purposes after the exercise program is over .
- Androgenic Steroids – These are known to develop male sexual characteristics including organ development and the development of other physical features. These are given to individuals who have potency related issues or growth deficiency. Repeated usage is likely to introduce uncomfortable physical changes like breast development in males and facial hair growth in females.
Some of the most common oral steroids are Anadrol, Dianabol, and Oxandrin while popular injectable steroids include Equipoise, Deca, as well as Depo.
Growing mainstream usage and abuse
Studies in recent years have shown an alarming increase in steroid abuse by individuals across different cultures and ethnicities for the obvious physical advantages steroids are known to bring. According to a study conducted in 2000, almost 2.5% of individuals in the 12th grade reported steroid abuse, a number which increased to 4% by 2002. These individuals, mostly in their teens, use steroids to improve their athletic performance, but a wide majority is using steroids to fulfill their aspirations of possessing the perfect physique.
Steroids are also being increasingly used as recreational drugs as it is known to induce euphoria in individuals and gives them a sense of intense power. Black markets around the world are being flooded with steroids owing to them being prescription medicine and the general difficulty to procure them. Although law defines unauthorized steroid use as an illegal practice it has been constantly ignored by steroid abusers.
Two sides of the coin
Steroids are known to contribute greatly to the human body but proven research has shown us that there are dangerous side effects that cannot be ignored. Steroid usage is strictly recommended only under the doctor’s prescription.
In sports, athletes are taking mega dosages of steroids sometimes up to 100 times more than what doctors would suggest for medical treatment. Bodybuilders and athletes have the perception that normal training would not be enough to be successful. They also believe that some of the other competitors may be using steroids that give them an unfair advantage. Bodybuilders and athletes are not the only ones who indulge in steroid abuse. Football players, discus throwers, street skaters, and many more are also known to have abused steroids to enhance their performance and improve the efficiency of their training regimes. But this is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.
Athletes who abuse steroids are in a constant cat and mouse game with doping agencies. Athletes try and plan their steroid use to ensure that the drug is out of their system when there is a scheduled drug test. At times, masked drugs are taken to effectively cheat the test by securing a negative result during after the test. Black market developers continue to introduce steroids known as ‘designer steroids’ that are known to be undetectable through testing.
It is also not advisable to use two types of steroids at the same time, but many athletes around the world are ignoring the manuals and instructions written on steroid covers. First-time users are seeking guidance from sellers or misinformed people and are falling prey to the web of misconceptions people have created about steroids. Some individuals also give in to steroid use after picking up on the cues from their friends who are already indulging in steroid use. These individuals procure steroids from the black market where steroids are known to be notoriously adulterated. There have been reports of vials of water or dye being passed on as illegal steroids by players. Let’s discuss more in detail as to what are the positive and negative effects of steroid use.
Positive effects of steroids
It is important for you to understand that the negative effects of steroid use are found in individuals who have a proven history of steroid abuse. Steroids are known to have several positive effects for the human body, and when administered in the right proportions by licensed professionals they are unlikely to cause much harm to the individual. Some of these positive effects of steroids are discussed below:
- Steroids are known to increase recovery times in individuals dramatically. Cortisol is a hormone which is produced inside our body to help it handle stress. Cortisol is responsible for causing damage to muscle tissues and slowing down the time taken for a human body to recuperate. Steroids are known to regulate the production of this hormone when an individual’s body is stressed. This helps bodies to recover from sustained injuries a lot faster than normal and allows more stamina while an individual is exercising.
- Another positive effect steroids are known to have is that they increase the muscle size of the user. Steroids multiply the nitrogen content in the human body. Increased nitrogen levels facilitate higher production of protein in the body which is a critical factor in the development of more muscles. Muscles will start to develop without exercising them but a rigorous training regime could produce dramatic results .
- Steroids are also known to greatly reduce body fat in the human body. Although no particular reason for this has been determined, general speculation suggests that steroid users lose body fat because of a sustained increased in their metabolism rate. Several medical experts have reported that steroids tend to accelerate the power producers in cells known as ‘Mitochondria’ that are known to oxidize fat. According to them, this increased production of ‘Mitochondria’ is how steroids help users cut down on their body fat.
- Steroids have the notorious reputation of causing several medical complications in human beings, but many fail to give credit to these drugs for their contribution in the treatment of several dangerous medical conditions. ‘Teriparatide’ is a steroid being used to treat ‘Osteoporosis’. It tends to prevent fractures by strengthening the bones of the patient. Arthritis and several other forms of cancer are known to be treated with controlled administration of steroids in the patient’s body. Steroids also reduce body fat which helps obese patients shed all those extra pounds. They are also being used to treat injuries suffered from major accidents as they improve the recovery speed dramatically. Steroids are also responsible to regulate an overactive immune system which may cause unnecessary inflammations .
- Steroids have proved to be a positive accelerator of red blood cell production.
Red blood cell concentrations are directly dependent on the blood’s oxygen carrying capability and an increase in production will clearly have numerous advantages for the body, including the treatment for anemia. This positive effect however is always mentioned but and not duly acknowledged.
- Steroids greatly enhance athletic performance for the user. Users will experience more energy and stamina levels after they have used steroids. They will also find the training and the ability to push towards new limits during training easier. An unprecedented intensity is felt by the user.
- Steroids also improve a user’s physical strength and his endurance levels. This is one of the reasons why bodybuilders are greatly attracted toward steroids.
- Steroids are a boon for males who are having sexual performance problems. Testosterone replacement therapy is a procedure that involves introducing testosterone to those bodies which are not capable of producing them anymore at the required levels. The testosterone is administered through steroids. Since testosterone production differs from person to person, there is no set standard for the amount of testosterone a body needs to produce. However, external testosterone administration has helped males and have shown positive acceptance among users.
- Steroids are given to HIV positive and cancer patients. Steroids have helped to restore appetite and have even helped to regulate decreasing muscle mass in HIV and cancer patients. Due to this, such patients have the opportunity to be in better health and have an enhanced feeling of well-being.
Steroids introduce the user to an unprecedented improvement in physical prowess which can influence some of them to abuse steroids in the quest for perfection. This is how they are likely to end up experiencing the many side effects of steroids.
Due to the growing popularity of steroid abuse throughout the world, horrific side effects of steroid usage have come forward in recent years. The side effects of steroid abuse overwhelmingly outnumber the positives related to steroid use. Here are some of the many negative side effects that have been related to steroid use:
- Steroids are known to adversely affect the brain of a user. Various studies have reflected a pattern between abnormal testosterone levels and aggressive behavior in steroid users. Users have been found to indulge in violent acts and steroid use has been often used as an excuse. Users of high dosage steroids have often been troubled with psychotic tendencies and heightened levels of anxiety. Other effects include loss of sleep, euphoric tendencies, paranoia, and depression among many others. Users are also known to have exhibited extreme mood swings and in extreme cases, formations of split personalities have been reported. Steroid users are also likely to become more and more dependent on steroids which may lead to an unhealthy addiction.
- Steroids are also known to have caused side effects that are visible on a user’s face. Research shows that steroid use leads to higher water retention in the user’s body causing them to develop a round face with puffy cheeks. Facial hair eruptions in females have also been reported. Bad breath is also a common side effect. The development of a husky voice in female users is quiet common. Acne formation on the face and throughout the body is one of the easily visible side effects caused by steroid use.
- Steroids are known to cause eye damage as well. Corticosteroids are known to cause permanent eye damage to long-term users. Eye infections are being reported by users too. Complicated eye disorders like cataract and glaucoma are known fallouts of steroid use .
- Steroids are also known to cause hair damage. Male pattern baldness has been observed in users of both sexes. Steroids facilitate the production of dihydrotestosterone or DHT that are responsible for causing hair follicles to weaken and shrink drastically. As a result, the follicles are able to produce only fine hair. Gradually, with sustained use of steroids the user is likely to experience permanent hair loss with decreasing hair follicles.
- Steroid users should be aware of the complications that prolonged steroid use can cause to the heart. It has been observed that users continue to take this side effect lightly until a serious cardiovascular issue comes to the fore. Steroids cause heart diseases and it becomes more evident with consistent increase in cumulative cholesterol levels. Cholesterol buildup has been observed on the walls of blood vessels in steroid users which may result in fatal heart strokes. Steroids cause massive reduction in good cholesterol (HDL) levels and dramatic increase in bad cholesterol levels (LDL). Blood pressure is also known to be high in steroid users and they are also likely to experience increased clots in blood vessels. This will cause a disruption in blood flow affecting the heart muscle and increasing the risk of a heart attack to the user.
- Steroid users are known to suffer from several disorders related to the stomach. Users may feel that their stomachs are bloated and this can be an uncomfortable experience. Nausea followed by rounds of vomiting, which may at times contain visible traces of blood have been reported by steroid users. Steroids cause irritation on the stomach lining, sustained development of stomach acids, with a degradation of stomach mucus levels that are likely to cause nausea and vomiting.
- Kidneys are a critical part of the human body responsible for the expulsion of waste material from the blood stream. They are also regulators of salt and water levels in the body and blood pressure. High blood pressure causes considerable damage to the blood vessels as well as the filtration system of the kidneys. Usage of oral steroids causes most of the issues in kidneys. There is a noticeable increase in the average blood clotting time in users since the blood clotting factors will be suppressed.
Consumption of oral steroids leads to the dilution of hormones in the bloodstream making the job of the kidneys harder and causing a lot of strain on them. Steroid users who practice bodybuilding or forms of athletics are also on high protein diets and take a high amount of protein supplements. This may lead to formation of kidney stone which will require a surgery to be removed. Kidney stones tend to shut down the opening to the urinary tract inhibiting the user’s ability to expel urine and retain harmful waste in the bloodstream. High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the kidney by altering their proportion. Damaged blood vessels result in poor blood supply and repress the filtration capacity of the user’s kidneys.
- Steroids are also known to have negative repercussions for the liver which is the largest organ in the human body. The liver is responsible for the filtration of harmful toxins from the blood and it also acts a storage unit for certain important nutrients like vitamins and other minerals. It also manages the levels of chemicals like cholesterol, proteins, and sugars. Liver is also the production unit of the digestive juice ‘Bile’ which is extremely critical for the human body to effectively digest food intake.
Prolonged and unsupervised steroid use will likely cause irreparable damage to the liver and may also lead to cancerous growth in the liver. The liver finds it extremely strenuous to metabolize oral steroids which hamper its ability to clear waste products efficiently. Retention of waste material can lead to many other complications in the human body. Counterfeit steroids readily available in the market are known to carry various kinds of bacteria and viruses which adversely affect the functioning of the liver. Ailments like the Hepatocellular jaundice that can be identified by the yellowing of the eyes and skin are caused by an abnormally functioning liver, as the liver fails to effectively filter the toxins from the bloodstream.
- The development of breasts known as Gynecomastia is another common side effect of steroid use. It is often seen in users who have been long time users of steroids or those who have been using steroids in large doses. A breast tissue is formed in the man’s chest which gradually takes the formation of lumps under the nipples. Timely surgical intervention is needed to remove these lumps or further complications like cancerous growth may entail. In females, breasts are known to show signs of shrinkage.
- Steroids are also known to inhibit bone growth which can lead to lesser height in adulthood due to the untimely closing of the epiphyseal growth plates. This is particularly common in users who abuse steroids during their teenage years or early twenties. Bone pain is another recorded side effect of steroid use.
- Steroids also affect the muscles and tendons of users adversely. Steroid use brings a false sense of strength in the user, which results in him pushing the limits and trying to perform arduous physical tasks which he is actually incapable of. This often leads to muscle tears. Also, due to the accelerated strengthening of the muscles initiated by steroids, the tendons are likely to cave in to the pressure and a rupture may occur.
- Steroid use can adversely affect the user’s skin. The user’s skin pores get damaged causing an identifiable roughness in the texture of the user’s skin. Other skin conditions that have been observed are red blotchy, greasy skin with acne formation on the back as well as on the face. Thinning of the skin and accelerated muscle growth could also lead to the appearance of stretch marks. The impact of steroids on the liver causes jaundice which leads to the skin turning yellow in color.
- Steroids can potentially impair the user’s immune function to deplorable levels with problems and severe effects likely to follow after a period of time. Users with a reduced immune function are at risk of high exposure to many diseases and their capability to fight diseases are also hugely diminished.
- Steroids are known to cause Oedema. Oedema is the condition where the user appears to be bloated. This appearance is caused by the accumulation of fluids which is most visible as swollen fingers and ankles.
- Steroids also cause harm to the prostate gland in males. The prostate gland is responsible for the production of the prostatic fluid. This fluid is a key component of semen and regulates seminal activity. Steroids cause the prostate gland to engorge. The prostate gland’s swelling disrupts urine flow as it surrounds the urethra. Males are likely to suffer from impaired sexual activity due to the changes in the prostate gland. Sperm quantity and quality is also likely to be adversely affected. Harm to the prostate gland basically renders the male impotent.
- Steroid users who are illegally abusing steroids are often frightened to go to the chemist to obtain fresh supply of needles for the fear of being labeled as drug addicts. This causes them to recycle used needles or share used needles that can lead to the transmission of dangerous infections like HIV and many others. The injection site can become tender and swollen causing abscesses that lead to medical intervention which can be painful.
- Steroids are also known to lead to impotence. Steroid use hampers the normal functioning of the testes. Administration of testosterone through artificial causes the pituitary gland to signal the testes to stop production of testosterone. When users stop using steroids, it takes a while for the testes to resume normal functioning. In some cases the testes may never return to normal functioning. Long-term use of steroids may cause a loss in erections as consistent steroid abuse disrupts blood flow to the penile region .
Despite the numerous risks associated with steroid abuse, users continue to abuse steroids for their aspirations to outperform in athletics or achieve physical perfection. Although there are pros to steroid use, the cons outweigh them and it is highly unadvisable for individuals to resort to steroid abuse to satisfy their ego. There are people who will justify use of steroids no matter what, as their philosophy is that in the end the benefits are worth a few side effects. Users indulging in short-term steroid use will escape with minor side effects but long-term users may face devastating side effects that may have irreversible repercussions.
Managing the side effects of steroids
According to research, the side effects of steroids can be managed to a large extent by working in tandem with your doctor and working out an effective health plan. Users under steroid medication need to work toward side effect management to avoid serious complications that are associated with steroid use and steroid withdrawal. It is very important to assess and understand the long-term consequences that follow the usage of steroids. Users have to be extremely disciplined while managing the side effects of steroids. Some of the steps users can take towards managing the side effects of steroids are as follows:
- An improved and well regulated diet should be the first step to manage the side effects of steroids. Steroids increase blood sugar levels which leaves the user exposed to the risk of diabetes. High sugar content in the body is also known to cause migraine headache, fatigue, and confusion. It is advisable to regulate your sugar and carbohydrate intake. Go for regular blood sugar tests, and ask your doctor to keep updating your diet chart accordingly. This is particularly advisable for long-term users of steroids. It is critical that you lower your salt intake as it also leads to increase in blood pressure .
- Regular exercise is another step to manage the side effects that may be caused by steroids. Steroids are known to cause muscle weakness. Exercises and other physical activities which test your muscles are advisable to effectively strengthen the muscles. You should however avoid pushing the limits as steroids give a false sense of strength at times. A good exercise plan should be designed and implemented. Consulting a physical trainer would be a good idea in this regard as they are in the best position to suggest you a good exercise plan which would suit your needs accordingly. Exercising also greatly reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- There are supplements today in the market which make up for mineral deficiencies. These should definitely be utilized by the user as supplements tend to restore mineral resources in the body which may have been diminished due to the use of steroids. Users should particularly stock up on calcium and vitamin D as these are the key minerals that prevent bone loss, which can be caused by steroids .
- Users should also take steps in order to reduce stress. They should identify an activity which they enjoy doing and must do it daily. Ideally, meditation as well as yoga are great stress busters but users can take up something as simple as reading. They should select one according to their personal comfort. It is essential that users put in as much effort to maintain their emotional health as they put in to maintain their physical health as both are correlated to each other.
- Steroid users should avoid habits like smoking and drinking when they are under steroid therapy. Steroids don’t go well with the toxins that tobacco and alcohol introduce in the body. If the user is addicted to any of the two habits, then he should enroll for therapy as soon as possible. Failure to adhere to this step will expose the user to severe health complications.
- Steroid users should always keep the instructional manual of the steroids handy. This gives them the ability to react to side effects on a firsthand basis and avoid mistakes regarding dosage.
Many patients find it difficult to treat the medical condition they are suffering from without the long-term use of steroids and often steroids are the only medication available for certain ailments. With the effective implementation of the aforementioned steps users can learn to cope effectively with the side effects of steroids.
Steroid withdrawal is the time period when the body starts to react and adjust to the reduction in intake of steroids until no steroids are being taken by the individual. During this period, the body gradually starts manufacturing its own hormones to fill up the void left by the reduction in steroids.
Withdrawal symptoms can be seen in short-term users of steroids as well. It is extremely critical to be in touch with your physician while using steroids. Patients should carry the necessary medication prescribed by the doctor so that they can travel without fear and get instant help if any complications arise. The physician should decide when to start and stop the administration of steroids to reduce the effects of the symptoms and eliminate the chances of serious complications which may arise due to withdrawal. Patients who stop high-dose administrations of steroids are at maximum risk of developing a major medical complication.
Quite a lot of steroid hormones in the human body are produced by the adrenal gland. Sometimes the production of hormones fails to match the requirements of the body for various reasons. This is why patients are administered steroids that act as supplements to the natural hormone production.
In some cases, a doctor knowingly increases the levels of steroids in a patient’s body to effectively treat inflammation. Because of external administration of steroids, the body tends to adapt to the changes by reducing natural steroid production. When the external administration is reduced, and eventually cut off, the adrenal gland will react to the low levels of hormone by producing hormones and hormone production will be increased .
Effects of steroid withdrawal
Effects of steroid withdrawal are known to emulate and kick start many other medical complications as well. Weakness, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea (further resulting in liquid and electrolyte complications), as well as abdominal pain are some of the most common effects that steroid withdrawal is often associated with. Constant decrease in blood pressure which simultaneously causes a person to faint or causes fits and dizziness are other complications the steroid use can cause.
Blood sugar levels are known to have dropped in many people who consume steroids. In women, menstrual changes have been reported widely. Muscle and joint pains, fever, changes in mentality, as well as elevation in calcium levels have been reported in some cases. Gastrointestinal contractions decrease dramatically which may ultimately lead to the swelling of the intestine .
Steroid users need to keep in constant touch with their doctors during the period of steroid withdrawal. This is because the doctor needs to be constantly updated with how the patient is doing without steroid medications and how his vitals are coping without supplementary steroid administration. The user should follow the doctor’s prescription as specified by him and should clear all his apprehensions during scheduled appointments with the doctor. The users need to report all suspected complications, however miniscule they may be, to their doctor for timely assessment. This helps the doctor to identify potential complications of steroid withdrawal before they can grow into a major concern for the patient.
Things to keep in mind
Taking into account various research as well as studies by experts over various forms of media it is safe to say that the negative effects of steroids outweighs the positives. But the differences in opinion are polarizing across individuals. It has to be accepted that steroids do have various advantages as well. They are the only known medication for quite a few diseases and most side effects only occur because of steroid abuse, and not regulated consumption of steroids. While critics may call for a ban on steroids, there are many up in arms justifying why steroids are a necessity. Ultimately, it will always go down to which side of the spectrum you are on.
Enthusiasts who are willing to try steroids need to keep quite a few things in mind before they take the leap. First and foremost, it is important to identify the particular steroid you are planning to use and you need to do your own research about the steroid. Ask yourself whether you really need the steroid or you are better off without the consumption of it. If you want it take the steroid, don’t take the shortcut that many users take. Get a doctor’s advice on whether you should or should not take the steroid. Discuss the side effects you may have to deal with in the long run and ask your doctor whether the side effects can be managed. After you have weighed all the pros and cons of using steroids you need to make a final decision.
If you go for steroid administration you will notice considerable changes in a few days. You will see considerable improvements in your physique and your abilities will continue to surprise you with each passing day. Design a workout regime which will give you the most of the positive effects of the steroid use. If you are a bodybuilder, you have to understand that you are not magically going to get a dream physique overnight. Dedicated hard work is a must and be prepared to spend long, excruciating hours in the gym.
The overwhelming impact that a steroid has on users can tempt him to overuse the drug and be greedy for more. This is where you need to control your craving for more steroids because steroid abuse can lead to terrible health consequences and complications. Always keep in touch with your doctor and notify him of your progress. Also, keep an eye out for any side effects, however small they might be, and discuss them with your doctor on your next scheduled visit.
Maintain a journal in which you can record your daily progress that can be used for future reference too. Browse the internet for forums where you can interact with other steroid users and compare results with them. There is useful insight that can be found on the internet but do not easily trust the person at the other end and always trust and follow your doctor’s judgment.
If you are facing uncomfortable steroid side effects after using steroids, consult your doctor and get yourself prescribed medication for treating the side effects caused. Follow the doctor’s instructions carefully or else these side effects could blow out of proportion and turn into a major health complication. When you would want to get off steroid administration, don’t do so without consulting your doctor.
Steroid withdrawal requires planning and is a step by step process which can only be implemented with the help of a doctor. There are many symptoms that are likely to show after a person stops the intake of steroids. Your doctor will write you some prescription medicine to take care of these concerns and you should be able to rehabilitate quite well if you follow the instructions accordingly. Carry the prescription as well as the medicines with you at all times so that you can use them in case of any emergency.