The steroids that are designed to be taken through the mouth i.e. orally are known as oral steroids. They are widely marketed and available as pills or capsules but a few syrups also exist in the market. Oral steroids are prescribed by doctors for a variety of reasons and many pharmacies have a stock of these steroids in order to satisfy the demands of prescription users. Oral steroids are not the usual over the counter drugs and their usage come with a certain amount of risk. It is important to inform the users on why oral steroids have been prescribed, how to go about using them, and what symptoms to watch out for in case of a complication so that a report can be lodged with the doctor as soon as possible .
Oral steroids currently available in the market include: cortisone, deflazacort, dexamethasone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, and fludrocortisone acetate among many more. They are being marketed under different brand names in the medicine market. Prednisolone is one of the most commonly known oral steroids and it is also the most widely used. It is used to treat inflammatory diseases like asthma, arthritis, certain skin rashes, colitis, and bronchitis.
Public opinion on oral steroids
The uneducated general public over the years have developed some wild theories about oral steroids predominantly arising from the fact that they are easily consumable orally. There is a consensus among a large group of people that oral steroids are safer and are unlikely to entail any of the side effects that come from injectable steroids. This is absolutely incorrect as both oral and injectable forms of steroids have similar compositions which can be harmful for a person if abused or consumed without proper prescription. Research actually shows that oral steroids can have a harsher impact on the cholesterol levels of individuals and can also lead to liver toxicity or hepatotoxicity.
A section of the public tends to believe that oral steroids are pretty easy to obtain just like all other over the counter drugs. Pharmacies around the world store both oral as well as injectable steroids in equal quantities and users can obtain the desired composition according to their prescriptions. There are very few steroids that are orally consumable, and injectable forms of steroids are generally more popular.
Dianabol is the most popular steroid of all times and it happens to be an oral steroid. But it does not mean that it is easily available to procure in the market. Of late, the black market has been flooded with oral steroids. In the black market oral steroids have gained popularity among addicts and abusers. The steroids in the black market are more often than likely to be adulterated with addictive agents which may cause dependence on the drug. Users are advised to stay away from the black market.
Some tend to think that because these steroids are orally consumable they differ from injectable steroids in terms of effectiveness. This is a popular misconception and is untrue. Oral steroids are neither weaker than injectable steroids, nor are they stronger than them. Some oral steroids may be stronger than certain injectable steroids while some injectable steroids may be stronger than oral steroids.
Oral steroids are understood to be cheaper like most oral forms of medicine but this is another myth which has been wrongly circulating the market. The price of oral steroids tends to differ across compositions. This means while some of them may be cheap, others can be very expensive. The same pricing logic applies to injectable steroids as well.
Why are oral steroids prescribed?
A common medical condition that oral steroids are effective against is asthma. Patients suffering from chronic pulmonary conditions are also advised to take periodic steroid ‘bursts’ which effectively counter the inflammation causing those breathing problems. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as the Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis can also be treated through oral steroid medication. Joint and muscle diseases like arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica are also treated through oral steroids.
Doctors also prescribe them for some forms of cancer. They have been used to substitute hormones in patients whose organs cannot produce the required amount of hormones necessary for vital body functions. They are also known to be particularly effective against lower back pain problems and are being used by doctors to address the same. Generally, doctors tend to start prescribing the patient high doses of the steroid to address the medical condition quickly. With the passage of time the doctor begins to reduce the dosage until the patient is ready to be taken off the medication once and for all .
General points on steroids
Oral steroids in comparison to injectable steroids
Oral steroids have a few selling points which tend to attract users toward them over injectable steroids. Let’s discuss a few of them in detail:
Existing research has proved that although users can reap the benefits of anabolic steroids through oral consumption and experience major changes, they eventually have to combine oral consumption with injectable administration to eradicate the problem of depleted testosterone production in the body. This particularly applies to bodybuilders and athletes who want to improve their performance by using these steroids. This is why anabolic steroids are not meant for users who tend to fear the needle, as eventually down the road they will have to face it.
Side effects of oral steroids
Oral steroids like all other forms of medication come with their respective quota of side effects. While some of these effects can be ignored, others can be life threatening. But users need not worry as steroid usage within the limits and guidelines designed by your doctor will keep any side effects under check. However, steroid abusers need to be very careful about the amount of dose they consume.
Oral steroids are 17-alpha alkylated, which means they have been modified to adapt during the administration phase and survive entry into the bloodstream. These modifications to oral steroids ensure that the liver fails to dissolve the steroid through its filtration attempt and the steroid can successfully initiate its desired action.
There are various side effects that have been associated with the consumption of oral steroids. Some of them are as follows:
It is advisable for the user to keep away from people with chickenpox and immediately inform a doctor if they come in contact with someone having chickenpox. Tuberculosis is another infection which may flare up as a result of oral steroid consumption. It is highly advisable for users to report any symptoms which point towards infectious diseases while on steroid administration, as these symptoms can quickly transcend into a major illness.
Users have also reported confusion, irritation, delusion, and suicidal tendencies under the prolonged use of oral steroids. These mental complications sometimes tend to continue during the steroid withdrawal period as well. The user should enroll himself with a psychiatrist if he experiences particularly disturbing mental problems after consulting his doctor. The user should report all manic episodes to the psychiatrist so, that he/she can design a rehabilitation strategy for the user. The user should seek the help of his close ones in order to prevent any major manic episode which can be extremely dangerous for him as well as others involved.
Research has conveniently shown us that the use of oral steroids can have various disturbing consequences. Major side effects have mostly been noticed in users who have abused oral steroids in order to gain immense strength, and not in users who are on controlled prescription for the treatment of a particular medical condition.
Fortunately, a user can avoid most of the side effects if they are true to their prescription and overcome the tendency to use the drugs for longer durations and in high doses. They should also follow control measures suggested for these side effects and must regularly consult their doctor in case these notice any side effects.
Withdrawing from oral steroids
There is no harm in missing the odd dose when you are a steroid user but major indiscipline can cause users to experience serious withdrawal effects when their body is used to the steroids. These withdrawal symptoms will be prominent when the users suddenly decide to stop consumption of oral steroids completely. It is important to remember that decisions regarding steroid withdrawal and dosage reduction should be taken by the doctor and the user should always consult the doctor when he feels the need for a change in medication. Reductions in dosage are supposed to be carried out slowly, over a certain number of weeks.
It is critical that the user reduces his dosage systematically before completely laying off steroids. The body generally creates its own steroid chemicals or hormones. When oral steroids are being used, the body tends to gradually shut down the glands that are responsible for the production of hormones. When the user stops steroid usage suddenly the body has no hormones in it and the user is greatly exposed to the possibility of suffering from a wide range of symptoms.
Oral steroid withdrawal symptoms
Oral steroid withdrawal symptoms can vary from being serious to life threatening. Some of these symptoms include weakness, sickness, abdominal pains, diarrhea, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure which can further cause dizziness, fainting, or fits.
The systematic reduction of the dosage as suggested by the doctor greatly helps the body’s glands to recover and start producing hormones, eventually returning to their full functionality by the time steroid dosages are stopped.
Few things to remember
Who should not take oral steroids?
There are a very few people who cannot take oral steroids. People who are suffering from a major infection such as AIDS and are not receiving any form of treatment for it should not take any form of steroidal medication because steroids tend to weaken the immune system. There are also rare cases when the person is not capable of taking any form of oral medication be it through capsules or syrups. Such people should be prescribed injectable steroids.
Right use of oral steroids
While oral steroids undoubtedly have their advantages, there are also a frightening amount of side effects associated with them. The nature of side effects is dependent on the exposure to the steroids and it is unlikely for a doctor to expose his patient to high levels of steroids. Generally, it is not these patients under steroid medication who end up displaying major side effects and symptoms associated with oral steroid abuse, but users who tend to abuse oral steroids for their personal physical gains.
It has been established that athletes consistently abuse oral steroids to enhance their performance. Athletes tend to do so because they are insecure about their potential and they have the notion that everyone else is using these steroids. They also abuse steroids to vastly improve the results from their training programs. Many of them are uninformed of the devastating effects oral steroids can cause to both their mental and physical well-being. Bodybuilders also tend to abuse oral steroids at will because oral steroids have proven to accelerate muscle growth and increase physical strength. Bodybuilders like athletes also use steroids to make the most out of their training programs and gain results faster than naturally possible. Oral steroids also help athletes and bodybuilders beat dope tests because these steroids burn out quickly inside the system leaving no traces of its existence in the bloodstream .
Research has shown that oral steroids can cause hallucination and periods of extreme ecstasy in the users. They are also quite easy to slip through security checks making them a rage in the party circuit. This is why they have been abused by drug addicts around the world. Oral steroids are found to be addictive in nature, which means sooner or later the users get hooked to the steroids causing them to opt for long-term use. Long-term usage can lead to side effects which can be life threatening. Drug addicts are also chain smokers or alcoholics and abuse other intoxicants like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. These elements could combine with the oral steroids in their system and cause some devastating medical repercussions.
Athletes, bodybuilders, and addicts often procure oral steroids from the black market where oral steroids are available without prescription in exchange for inflated sums of money. Lab tests have discovered that oral steroids found in the black market have been laced with addictive agents designed to generate dependence on the drug. This is how the flourishing black market businesses retain their customers as steroids are not easily obtainable over the counter from pharmacies.
Users under steroidal medication too can face side effects arising from steroid use. It is critical for them to be in touch with their doctors and report any concerns to their doctor as soon as possible. Users of oral steroids should pay extreme heed to their doctor’s suggestions and not fail in implementing them to the dot. Small mistakes here and there will not cause any major harm but consistent indiscipline may result in terrible complications. The user should stay away from tendencies to abuse steroids just because they have access to them and they need to be extremely self-cautious in this regard.
There needs to be a major awareness drive aimed at informing the general society on the pros and cons of oral steroids. There should be an effective crackdown on black markets selling these steroids over the counter and attempts should be made to eliminate the sellers or agents spreading wrong information about these steroids.
The authorities should impose stricter sanctions against violators who are found to be in possession of oral steroids without prescription. Oral steroids when used only for medical purposes are a boon to our society but its abuse and their subsequent effects make it a bane too. Frightening taboos concerning oral steroids should be alleviated from society and more light should be shed on their positive effects. Medical scientists should be encouraged to continue developing these drugs and make them free of side effects in times to come.
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