Steroid Abuse Drug Facts
Steroids are chemicals, or hormones that the human body naturally produces. These hormones help the cells, tissues and organs perform their jobs well. Everyone needs a healthy balance of hormones to propagate and grow. Steroids may also refer to man-made medicines and the two main types are corticosteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids, or anabolic steroids.
Corticosteroids are medicines that help fight inflammation. They are typically prescribed to manage asthma, arthritis, some autoimmune diseases and skin conditions and some forms of cancer.
Correctly termed anabolic-androgenic steroids, this group of drugs are man-made male sex hormones also known as testosterone. Anabolic refers to muscle building, while androgenic pertains to increase male sex characteristics. A doctor may prescribe anabolic steroids for males who do not produce enough testosterone, or for those who lose muscle mass due to other health conditions.
Athletes and bodybuilders use anabolic steroids to enhance their performances and bulk-up. Abuse of anabolic steroids may happen as users get a different kind of “high” with their improved body, strength and performance. Little do they realize that anabolic steroids, when abused, can result in long term damage to the user.
Steroid Screening Cut-Off and Detection Time
Testosterone in the body may be endogenous (naturally produced in the body) or exogenous (taken as supplements or drugs). To distinguish the two, the T/E ratio is employed. The average, normal ratio is usually 1, varying on either lower or higher.
The drugs to test are nandrolone and testosterone with a cut-off level of 2 ng/ml and a detection period of at least 4 days and up to 6 months. Each brand and type of anabolic steroids have their own detection period. This test is more specific than a regular drug test and is usually referred to as a steroid test kit or steroid testing.
DEA Steroid Drug Classification
Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, anabolic steroids are considered a Schedule III drug. Drugs in this schedule have less abuse potential than those listed under Schedules I and II. Anabolic steroids are currently accepted in the United States for medical use and treatment. Abuse of this drug could lead to high psychological dependence and low or moderate physical dependence.
Steroid Drug Types
Anabolic steroids are synthetically manufactured testosterone hormones to help in building muscles by increasing nitrogen retention and synthesis of protein. They mimic the effects of natural hormones and help in building up appetite and stimulating bone growth. In recent years different types of anabolic steroids (hormones) were introduced. Aside from testosterone, some of these synthetically manufactured hormones are:
Forms and Routes of Steroid Administration
Anabolic steroids are available in a whole range of forms from tablets to gels. They are also available in capsules, creams, transdermal patches, liquid drops, oil or water-based injectable solutions.
- Oil/water-based injectable – most common method for using steroids, either by injecting the drug intravenously (into the blood stream) or intramuscularly (into the muscle). This process is done at least three times per week.
- Pills – usually in capsule form or gel tablets and taken on a daily basis.
- Creams – the least intrusive method as they are rubbed directly onto the user’s skin.
- Transdermal Patches – attached to the user’s arm or buttocks for a steady release of steroids.
The doses taken may be 10 to 100 times higher than the prescribed doses to treat medical conditions. This drug is mostly taken in complex patterns to avoid side effects. These patterns are:
- Stacking – where the user combines two or more different kinds of steroids.
- Cycling – where the users takes steroids for a period of time, stops, and then starts again.
- Pyramiding – where the user slowly but methodically increases the frequency or dose of the steroids until he or she reaches a peak amount, and then tapers off gradually.
However, even if used in any of these patterns, there is no evidence that these practices reduces the negative side effects of steroids.
Steroid Brand Names
- Deca Durabolin
- Sustanon 250
- Testosterone Cypionate
- Testosterone Enanthate
Uses of Illegal Steroids
Only a small percentage of anabolic steroids are legally approved for human or animal consumption. Testosterone and most of its derivative compounds, oxandrolone, nandrolone, ethyltestosterone and decanoate are the primary anabolic steroids that are currently, medically prescribed in the United States for the treatment of:
- Testosterone deficiency
- Delayed puberty
- Breast cancer
- Tissue-wasting due to AIDS
Anabolic steroids such as boldenone, trenbolone and mibolerone are used in veterinary medicine.
Steroid Street Names
- Gym candy
- Balls and Bulls
- Weight Trainers
Effects and Symptoms of Steroid Abuse
Steroids have androgenic and anabolic effects. Androgenic effects include masculinizing effects such as increased facial hair, deepening of voice, and enlargement of some male sex glands. Anabolic effects include increase in muscle mass, calcium in the bones and some internal organs. Steroid hormones generally stimulate some parts of a muscle cell and this stimulation increases protein production and some chemicals linked with the increase in muscle mass.
Short Term Side Effects of Steroids in Men
- Damage to the heart
- Reduced sperm count
- Difficulty or pain while urinating
Long Term Negative Effects of Steroids for Men
- Development of breasts
- Liver disease or liver cancer
- Shrinking of the testicles
Short Term Side Effects of Steroids for Women
- Excessive hair growth
- Breast reduction
Long Term Side Effects of Steroids for Women
- Enlarged clitoris
- Deepened voice
- Abnormal menstrual cycles
Other Short Term Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids
- Fluid retention
- Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Reduced sexual functioning
- Increase in muscle size
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Rapid weight gain
- Improved appetite
- Improved healing
Long Term Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids
- Heart attacks and strokes
- Cardiovascular, liver and reproductive organ damage
- Clotting disorders
- Stunted growth in adolescents
- Increased tendon and muscle injury
- Reduced sexual functioning
- Increase in muscle size
- HIV/AIDS, cellulitis, abscesses and other bacterial infections can occur when injecting
Anabolic steroids are only prescribed for certain medical conditions such as stimulating bone growth and appetite, inducing puberty in boys, and treating chronic muscle wasting conditions. Anabolic steroids and androgens are also used to treat:
- Hypogonadism in men
- Breast cancer in women
- Conditions causing hormonal imbalances
However, since the mid-1940’s, anabolic steroids have been used by amateur and professional athletes, Olympic athletes and body builders to enhance their physical appearance, strength and performance. Because of the numerous short and long term effects of anabolic steroids, people with the following conditions or have a history of such conditions should not take the drug:
- Mental disorders
- Heart conditions
- Blood clotting and other related disorders
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
Those who are trying to conceive, or are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take anabolic steroids.
People who use anabolic steroids may become psychologically and physically dependent on them. Each user has his own unique experience when using steroids and coming off the drugs. When a regular user stops using, he can exhibit signs of withdrawal that can be linked to addiction. Symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Craving for steroids
- Diminished sex drive
In some cases, severe depression drove users to suicidal thoughts and actions. Research indicates that depressive symptoms may last for up to a year after the user stops taking anabolic steroids.
History of Steroids
The yet unnamed anabolic steroid had its beginnings in the 1930’s when a team of scientists created a synthetic testosterone to treat men who lack the hormone for normal development, growth and sexual functions. During WWII, it became evident that testosterone could be utilized to help malnourished soldiers recover from loss of weight and improve their general performance.
Athletes began to use steroids as a performance-enhancing drug after the war. During the 1956 Olympics, Soviet wrestlers and other athletes performed exceptionally well. Upon learning that those athletes were on testosterone, Dr. Zeigler, an American doctor, created a much-improved version of the drug and called it anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids were used not only by Olympic athletes but by high school and collegiate athletes, as well as professional sports players. The performance-enhancing drug was finally banned by the International Olympic Committee in 1975. This was the kick-off point of black market sale of anabolic steroids.
In 1988 the Anti-Drug Abuse Act included federal regulations on the sale and possession of steroids. Two years later, the Anabolic Steroid Enforcement Act of 1990 was passed by Congress. This act classifies anabolic steroids under the Controlled Substances Act.