Studies have estimated that more than 3 million Americans use anabolic steroids. Many bodybuilders and professional sportsmen take intramuscular injections of anabolic steroids. An estimated 15-30% of all bodybuilders in the US use anabolic steroids for muscle gain. Injected anabolic steroids are divided into those that have long-lasting effects and those that last only for a short time. Nowadays, people are using water soluble, short-lasting anabolic steroids.
The injections and the scar tissues, if any, can lead to a permanent gain in muscle volume, generate an inflammatory process, and finally trigger the hypertrophy and growth of muscle fibers. Synthetic anabolic steroids basically mimic testosterone, which is known for its anabolic properties. Anabolic steroids are not the only kind of injectable steroids. There are anti-inflammatory steroids also.
Anabolic steroids are usually injected into the desired muscles in cycles and in incremental volumes. Anabolic steroid users will frequently change the injection site and move and massage the muscle, so that the steroid is distributed properly between the muscle fibers. This way, unnatural swelling and bulging are also avoided. These are usually injected into the triceps, biceps, pectoral, deltoids, quadriceps, rectus abdominis, and gastrocnemius muscle.
The advent of intramuscular injections
The first recorded intramuscular injections contained paraffin. Paraffin has inert properties and so it was used as a treatment for muscle spasms. Later, purified oils like sesame oil, soy oil, and safflower oil were used by pharmaceutical companies as solvents for anabolic steroids. Bodybuilders discovered that some of these mixtures irritated the muscles and triggered side effects like muscle swelling.
Here is another version about the beginning of injectable performance enhancing drugs, better known as steroids now. The year was 1954 and the World Weightlifting Championship was going on. Dr. John Ziegler was accompanying the US weightlifting team to Vienna as the team doctor. Soviet athletes were dominating the events that year and they had already broken many world records.
As a doctor, Ziegler's curiosity was aroused as to what could be responsible for their performance. According to anecdotes, he invited the doctor of the Soviet team to a bar for some drinks. The Soviet doctor told him that his athletes were using testosterone injections in their training programs.
When the Americans returned, they made efforts to develop synthetic performance enhancers. It is said that initially Ziegler injected himself, the trainer, and three weightlifters with testosterone. All of them gained strength and weight, but side effects were also noted. Ziegler started looking for a drug that would give the same performance but without any side effects. This is how he found methandrostenolone, an anabolic steroid.
Story from the 1970s
By the 1970s, many new anabolic steroids were developed and many Olympic athletes, professional sportsmen, and even high school athletes were routinely using them. Steroids were finally banned by the International Olympic Committee in 1975. While it was not proven that anabolic steroids were injurious to the body, it was recognized that these drugs gave the user an unfair advantage over his competitors.
Now the use of anabolic steroids is strictly banned among sportsmen, and it is monitored by various international agencies through drug tests. But in the bodybuilding world where the regulations are not so tight, they are still used.
Too much of a thing can cause more harm than good. So is the case with anabolic steroids. Steroid abuse can lead to a host of problems.
How do anabolic steroid injections work?
Anabolic steroids and androgenic hormones like testosterone share some characteristics. Athletes use anabolic steroids to gain weight, strength, endurance, and aggressiveness.
Androgenic hormones bring about changes in sexual characteristics, along with anabolic effects such as growth of bone, red blood cells, and muscle and neural conduction.
Anabolic steroids are manufactured in such a way that the anabolic properties are enhanced, while the androgenic properties are minimized. But it is not completely done away with yet.
Muscle cells contain receptor molecules, which are stimulated by the steroid hormones. As a result, specific genes, which produce proteins, are activated. Enzyme systems which are part of the protein metabolism process are also stimulated to enhance protein synthesis, while inhibiting protein degradation. The effect of anabolic steroids is further increased by heavy weight training. It is said that strength training leads to an increase in unbound receptor sites, which in turn increases the effect of anabolic steroids.
Many bodybuilders say that injections of anabolic steroids help them recover faster and train harder. Some say that they are not able to progress and even hold the gains they have achieved if they do not take anabolic steroids. The thing is, anabolic steroids may be acting as anti-catabolics. They may be preventing muscle catabolism (muscle loss), which sometimes accompanies intense exercises. But this is just a hypothesis and has not been proven.
Hormones such as cortisol can cause the breakdown of tissues when a person is exercising or after he or she has finished exercising. It is possible that anabolic steroids block this effect, speeding recovery. Skeletal muscles cells also contain receptor sites for cortisol and its related hormones. By preventing these receptor sites from binding cortisol, anabolic steroids enhance recovery and prevent breakdown of muscle.
What kinds of steroid injections are available?
There are two types of steroid injections – anti-inflammatory steroid injections or corticosteroids and performance enhancing/growth steroid injections.
As the name suggests, anti-inflammatory steroid injections are used to treat a number of inflammatory conditions that affect the body. These can be arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, trigger fingers, and more.
Anti-inflammatory injections contain a substance called cortisone, which is naturally produced by the body, in the adrenal gland. This gland releases the cortisone into the blood, when the body is undergoing stress. The cortisone in the steroid injections is synthetically developed and comes in many brand names. It is nearly similar to the cortisone produced in the body.
The main difference between synthetic cortisone and natural cortisone is that the former is injected into the site of the inflammation and the latter is released into the blood stream. Synthetic cortisone is also long-lasting and more potent, unlike natural cortisone which only works for a few minutes.
There are many categories of steroids such as cortisone, sex hormones, and cholesterol. Drugs that enhance performance are also a kind of steroids.
How does the cortisol injection work?
Cortisone has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It cannot relieve pain directly and only treats inflammation. So, steroid injections also contain an anesthetic for pain relief. When the pain eventually decreases, it is because the inflammation has reduced. The time taken to get relief varies between individuals. You will probably see relief from pain in 48 hours or 72 hours. If there is severe inflammation, or if the inflammation is chronic, the cortisone may take a little more time to give relief and the individual may have to get multiple injections. Most people with joint inflammation will benefit from cortisone injections.
Anabolic steroid injections
We often hear about athletes getting caught for taking steroids, and then we hear about how steroids can be used to treat painful conditions and to treat asthma. What is the difference? The kind of steroids for athletes take improves their performance and muscle mass. These are called anabolic steroids. Sustanon, an oil-based injectable steroid is one example. The thing is, steroids are also found in insects, fungi, and plants, which have their own characteristics.
From a legal point of view, you need a prescription to be able to buy anabolic steroids. Their medicinal use is limited and they are not like corticosteroids. Bodybuilders take them to increase muscle mass and reduce fat.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances, derived from testosterone. When people refer to steroids, it is usually in the context of anabolic steroids. These steroids stimulate the formation of muscle tissue from proteins. The duration of their effect is dependent on the kind of steroid administered. There are some medical conditions that can also benefit from anabolic steroids, for example, diseases that lead to muscle wasting, such as HIV/AIDS, some tumors, growth problems in adolescents and children, and more. Individuals who inject anabolic steroids should use them very carefully. While these steroids do increase endurance and strength, careless use can create a lot of problems as well.
Types of injections
There are three main types of injections. They are intravenous, intramuscular, and subcutaneous injections. Of this, only the second and the third are used to administer anabolic steroids. The last one is not even recommended. Here is more about the three kinds of injections.
Anabolic steroids should never be injected intravenously. In intravenous injections, the liquid is injected into a vein. These injections are usually given to the radial artery or the brachial artery of the arm. Anabolic steroids that are meant to be injected are usually based in oil or water. If it is introduced into the body intravenously, a pulmonary embolism may be induced, which leads to a heart attack.
Anabolic steroids are meant to be given intramuscularly. In this process, the steroid is injected deep into a muscle. The muscle then releases the steroid slowly into the blood, through small veins and capillaries. A relatively large volume can be injected into the body by this way. It is also one of the safest ways to inject any medication into the body. Some muscles can even tolerate up to 5 ml of the anabolic steroid injection, whereas normal muscles can hold nearly 3 ml without any problem. But note that you should rotate the injection site and maintain a gap of 7-14 days before you re-inject into a site again.
Subcutaneous injections are usually water based. The pin penetrates the first two layers of the skin and then the fatty layer or the subcutaneous layer. Hormones such as insulin are usually administered subcutaneously. Sites for subcutaneous injections can only hold low volumes of liquids. So while anabolic steroids can be subcutaneously injected, this method is not recommended.
Are anabolic steroids addictive?
Each individual who uses anabolic steroids experiences unique feelings when he is using the drugs or when he stops using the drugs. Many steroid abusers continue to inject themselves with anabolic steroids even when they start suffering from physical problems and their social relations start getting affected. Such individuals will also spend a disproportionate amount of money and time, trying to procure the drugs. This indicates that there exists an addiction.
Dr. Gary Wadler, from the New York University School of Medicine, says that when a dependency becomes extreme, it is called an addiction and an addiction can either be psychological or physical.
Most people who inject themselves with anabolic steroids, do so to enhance their performance. They do not accept that anabolic steroids can be addictive. The thing is, unlike in the case of other abused drugs, individuals who take anabolic steroids do not do it to get high, but rather they want to increase their athletic performance and muscle mass. This is a complex motivation and therefore it is difficult to determine the addictive properties of anabolic steroids.
Research conducted at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California on hamsters found that hamsters exposed to anabolic compounds showed addictive behavior in time.
Individuals who stop injecting themselves with anabolic steroids may see withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, reduction in sex drive, mood swings, appetite loss, restlessness, insomnia, and increased craving for steroids. Depression is the most dangerous symptom because severely depressed individuals may even attempt suicide. Some of these symptoms will not go away even a year or more later, when the individual has stopped taking the drugs.
When individuals stop injecting themselves with anabolic steroids, for example when they are 'cycling', their muscle gain may drop. When this happens, some will feel depressed.
Bodybuilders who use anabolic steroids often 'cycle' them, which means that they inject themselves with multiple doses over a period time, stop for some time, and then start over again. The period when they are not taking anabolic steroids is called an 'off-cycle'.
There are many reasons why anabolic steroids should not be taken for long periods. When an individual takes external substances like anabolic steroids, which affect the normal homeostatic levels of the body, the body responds by reducing the volume of the substance it produces, to reestablish the level that it is accustomed to. That is why the off-cycle period is necessary, so that the natural process can begin again and the organs are given some break.
For some time during the off-cycle period, the level of testosterone in the body will be very low. Depression is one of the symptoms of low testosterone level. So it is natural to feel depressed for some time when a person quits taking anabolic steroids. In this way, anabolic steroids produce psychological addiction. Some people combat this with post cycle therapy or PCT.
Steroid Injections vs. Oral Steroids
Some people are not sure if they want to use injectable anabolic steroids or take them orally. Here are some pros and cons of each method.
Anabolic steroids are either taken though the oral route or through injections.
Individuals, who desire to get quick results, often prefer to take oral steroids. When oral steroids are injected, they are quickly metabolized, after which they enter the bloodstream and begin to show anabolic effects. Anabolic steroids that are taken orally do not have ester chains. Anabolic steroid that have ester chains first have to be processed by the liver before they become active. Their half lives are also shorter and therefore the system flushes them out faster. That is why many athletes take oral steroids.
But they also have many drawbacks. For example, they leave many side effects. When they are injected, they have to first cross the digestive system and later the liver, before they can enter the blood and produce effects. Passing the digestive system is no small trick and a lot of the steroid is destroyed. So, a large amount has to be taken so that a sufficient amount is left later to cause an effect.
The liver is a vital organ and a storehouse of important nutrients. Excessive intake of oral steroids may affect the performance of the liver.
The liver will try to remove these substances from the body. When the load increases, a lot of stress builds up on the liver. There can even be liver damage if the use of oral steroids is sustained for a long time. A large number of tablets may have to be injected at one time, which can affect their uptake.
Certain compounds are also added to oral steroids to increase their bioavailibility. Without this alteration, oral anabolic steroids may not pass metabolism, which can leave them unable to exert effect. These compounds may also damage the liver.
Athletes and body builders usually prefer steroid injections over the tablets. The health risk they pose is lesser. They do not have the chemical modifications of oral tablets. Instead, they possess esters which give them long-lasting effects. They do not have as many side effects as they don’t pass through the digestive system.
Bodybuilders, who have prolonged cycles, use steroid injections. Their half life is longer than that of oral steroids. This is the reason why athletes who take steroid injections are more likely to be caught by drug screening tests because of the longer clearance time. Some people bypass this problem by taking steroid injections early in the cycle and then switching to oral steroids, when their steroid cycle is ending and drug tests are going to be conducted.
Another disadvantage of injecting steroids is the pain. But there are many ways to minimize the pain. Some injection sites, like the glutes, have a lower number of nerve endings than say, the shoulders or legs. Some people may be tempted to inject the steroids into the lower part of the buttocks, reasoning that the area is very soft and can easily be penetrated. But note that the sciatic nerve passes near this area and if you puncture it, it can cause a lot of pain.
One of the best areas to inject is the upper quadrant of the buttocks, near the waist. But be careful so that you do not hit the pelvic bone. Feel the muscle and then inject. If you are injecting an oil based anabolic steroid, try holding the filled syringe under hot water. The viscosity of the oil will increase, which will enable it to transit smoothly into the muscle. If you are still afraid of the pain, you can desensitize the area with an ice cube. You can also slap the area which will numb it, loosening the muscle.
Which areas of the body are best for injecting anabolic steroids?
The best way to inject anabolic steroids is to do it intramuscularly. Intravenous injections should be strictly avoided. There are nine muscle groups and their corresponding sites, where anabolic steroids may be injected. The nine groups of muscles are glutes, biceps, lats, deltoids, triceps, quadriceps, pectorals, calves, and traps. There are 17 injection sites, but because the muscles mentioned here have corresponding muscles on the other side of the body, so in total these steroids can be injected in 34 sites. Here is more about the muscles and injection sites.
Glutes: Select a spot, two inches under the lower back and a few inches to the left if you want to inject into the left glute. The spot is the same for the right glute also. Never inject into the buttocks directly, because you may injure the sciatic nerve.
Biceps: The center of the biceps, either on the inside or the outside, is a good place to inject.
Lats: There is only one spot on each of the lats. Find the outer edge of the muscle and inject into its center.
Deltoids: While there are three sites on the deltoids, the most suitable one is the lateral deltoid head.
Triceps: There are three sites on the triceps – the outer head, the lower rear head, and the middle rear head. You can inject into the center of each area.
Quadriceps: There are two sites on the quadriceps. The sweep is the best area to inject. Choose an area between the middle of the knee and the hip, a little to the outside, and inject.
Pectorals: There are three points in the pectorals – the upper inside, the middle inside, and the outer lower. All three areas are suitable, though the outer lower may be a little uncomfortable.
Traps: There is single spot, on each side of the traps. Inject into the middle.
Calves: You can inject into the center of the outer or inner head. Most people are not comfortable injecting into this site. Only inject here if it is absolutely necessary.
Of all these points, the glutes and the lateral head of the deltoids are the most suitable points. It is not recommended to inject anabolic steroids into the traps and the calves, because it can be painful. Whichever area you choose to inject, maintain sanitation. Never re-use syringes or needles and never share it with others. Before you inject, sterilize the area with alcohol.
Injecting Anabolic Steroids
Before injecting an anabolic steroid into your body, there are many things to consider. You should have proper knowledge or proper supplies and maintain proper sterility. When you ignore the procedure or do not prepare adequately, it can lead to inflammation, infections, abscesses, scar tissue development, muscle damage, nerve damage, and even fatality.
Proper sterility should be maintained, for example, you should never re-use pins, share them with others, or try to sterilize them by rubbing them with alcohol or exposing them to flame. Dangerous diseases can be transmitted like this. Proper procedures should be followed and utmost safety should be maintained. Here are a few pre-injection tips.
Syringes should never be preloaded. Many people do this, but it should be avoided even if it is only for a few minutes. Injectable anabolic steroids contain solvents which may eat into the plastic in the syringe and the rubber plunger, melting it. If you use such pre-loaded syringes, you risk injecting yourself with rubber particulates and toxic substances that may have dissolved in the liquid.
Correct pin and syringe for injections
Before you try to self inject anabolic steroids, you should understand the different terms. Volumes are usually denoted in millimeter or cubic centimeter, both are the same quantity.
While the body part or the muscle, where the syringe is going to be injected, is an important deciding factor, it is not the only one. The type of liquid that you are going to inject is also important.
Water-based anabolic steroids can be injected through small gauge pins, while oil based anabolic steroids should be injected through a large gauge pin. You might want to know what is meant by gauge? Gauge is nothing but the thickness of the pin. As the gauge number of a pin increases, the thickness of the pin decreases. For example, a 30 g pin is actually thinner than a 19 g pin. Gauge is not a reference to the pin's length.
Note that when you choose a small gauge pin to inject an oil based substance, it will take more time to pull liquid from the container and to inject the liquid.
How to inject
If you are going to start your first cycle soon, 'how to inject' is probably that last thing that you are worried about. You would have started by conducting research on the different injectable anabolic steroids available in the market, which you think can help you reach your goal. But when you have the vials and the syringes in front of you, you will surely think about how you will get the steroid out from the bottle and into your body. At this point, some people will become exasperated and even give up. Here is some information on injecting anabolic steroids.
Draw some air into the syringe and inject it into the vial. The pressure in the vial will increase and drawing the liquid into the vial will become easier. Make sure that the tip of the pin is under the liquid and then pull the plunger back slowly, to draw the volume of liquid that you desire.
If you want, you can change the needle after this. The needle may have lost some of its sharpness as it made its way through the stopper and may cause some discomfort when you prick your skin with it.
Clean the area, which you are going to inject into, with a fresh alcohol swab. Place the pin over the area and simply push it fully. Draw the plunger back a little. If you notice any blood inside the syringe, you have probably hit a vein or an artery and you need to choose another spot. Repeat the same procedure again.
After a few seconds, remove the pin and immediately cover the injection area with a fresh cotton ball and press for a few seconds. If you see a little blood, it is okay. You just pierced the skin and some blood is bound to come out.
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