Anabolic steroids are performance enhancing drugs. They are a synthetic form of the chemical testosterone that is normally found in the body. By taking anabolic steroids, a person's testosterone level can be raised up to a hundred times more than the usual amount of 2.5 to 10 mg. Per day. The increase in testosterone increases anabolic activity, which results in greater muscle bulk. It also increases protein synthesis and androgenic activity (enhanced secondary sexual characteristics) in males. The users of steroids want to increase the anabolic effects and reduce the androgenic effects, but no steroid is known to have just anabolic effects.
Anabolic steroids can be taken in two ways, by injection or they can be taken orally. Both oral and injected steroids carry benefits and adverse effects. Orally taken steroids are well absorbed into the stomach and they are excreted fairly rapidly. The bad side of taking oral steroids is that they are more toxic than injected steroids. They are highly potent, which makes the risk of overdosing very high. Steroids that are injected are less toxic to the liver and are less potent than oral steroids on an equal dosage basis. Injected steroids have a delayed take up, which makes them last longer. It also allows them to be detected in drug tests for a longer period of time.
How they work in the body:
When anabolic steroids are introduced into the body, under certain conditions they increase: protein synthesis, lean body mass, and the nitrogen balance in the body. A steroid receptor is formed which stimulates the synthesis of enzymes. With the stimulus of enzymes in the body, protein synthesis is also increased. One enzyme system that is placed into the body by the receptor is the ribonucleic acid (RNA)-polymerose system. This system promotes cellular protein metabolism and synthesis which utilizes nitrogen. By utilizing the nitrogen, the anabolic action is increased, which leads to larger muscle size and strength. Anabolic steroids also increase nitrogen retention in the body. They move the nitrogen equilibrium to the positive side. This allows the body to utilize ingested protein better, but the balance does not last forever. The body's homeostatic mechanisms regulate the balance and change it back to normal. This is one set back to anabolic steroid use. In order to gain lean body mass a person may have to eat up to 10,000 calories / day and must continue a rigorous weight training program. If this is not followed, taking the steroids would be worthless.
Despite the increase in muscle size and strength, anabolic steroids carry an even greater risk, the side effects. The side effects can be permanent or even deadly. Serious side effects are seen in the liver, the cardiovascular, central nervous and reproductive/endocrine systems.
One major side effect that can be found in the liver is hepatotoxicity. This is the poisoning of the liver. It shuts down the liver's ability to process blood, which in turn shuts down the whole body. Prolonged use of anabolic steroids can cause cholestosis and jaundice (yellowish coloring of the eyes, skin and body fluids). Even though most adverse side effects in the liver are reversible upon discontinuation of steroids, fatalities can occur. The fatalities occur from hepatic cholestosis, liver tumors or peliosis hepatitis (blood filled cysts that can rupture and cause bleeding and liver failure).
Very noticeable effects occur in the reproductive system. In males the testicles shrink by about 20%. They become impotent. Their sperm count can decrease by 90%. Also gynecomastia can be seen in males. Gynecomastia is the enlargement of the breasts. One adverse effect that can be seen in both males and females using steroids is inappropriate hair growth. In females, anabolic steroids can cause irregularities in their menstrual cycles. It causes the...