What are Steroids?

Steroids are a colloquial term for anabolic-androgenic steroids. They are also known as roids, gear, juice, vets' drugs, and Caseys. They are pharmaceutical substances that can be produced naturally or artificially to mimic the effects of testosterone and testosterone derivatives. Steroids are notoriously known among athletes, bodybuilders, and even the general population for their physique and performance boosting properties, along with a whole myriad of dangerous side effects.

Why Use Steroids?

Steroids are widely used in the medical industry to treat a whole range of diseases. These include cancer, AIDS, growth disorders, as well as providing hormone replacement therapy for the elderly. In these cases, the use of steroids are prescribed and carefully administered by doctors and health care professionals who are well trained in medicine and physiology. However, steroids are also sometimes abused by individuals wishing to improve their physique, strength, and/or perform better at sport. In these cases, steroid use is often not under the supervision of a qualified professional. This can then lead to serious side effects.

Steroid Side Effects

Under no circumstance is steroid use ever endorsed by a medical professional, unless an individual has a legitimate medical condition. In fact, the only individuals that promote steroid usage are those who can profit from their sales. This is because there are very serious and life threatening side effects associated with steroid abuse. These include:

  • Increases of bad LDL cholesterol and decreases of good HDL cholesterol (Garevik et al, 2012), which are risk factors for heart disease.
  • Elevations in blood pressure (Grace et al, 2003), again a risk factor for heart disease and also kidney disease.
  • Decreased glucose tolerance levels (Brower et al 1991), which is a risk factor for diabetes.
  • Enlargement of the left heart ventricle (De Piccoli et al, 1991), which may lead to heart attacks.
  • Excessive acne (Melnik et al, 2007)
  • Accelerating balding (Brower et al 1991)
  • Liver damage (Kicman & Gower, 2003)
  • Reduced testes size and infertility (Matsumoto, 1990)
  • Development of permanent male-like features among women (Kuhn, 2002)
  • Gynecomastia (or man boobs) in men (Brower et al 1991)
  • Stunted growth in children (Irving et al, 2002)
  • Development of male features in unborn females and the development of female features in unborn males (Manikkam et al, 2004).
  • Increased aggression or “roid rage” (Perry et al, 2003) and personality disorders (Pope et al, 2000)
  • Addiction and withdrawal symptoms (Trenton & Currier, 2005)

This massive list of side effects is not simply a fear mongering tactic employed by the media. They are well documented and scientifically reported side effects associated with steroid use. This is why steroids should only be used for legitimate medical conditions and under the supervision of a health care professional. Some argue that these side effects only occur with high dose use over a long period of time. However, it has been found that some of these symptoms such as increased cholesterol can occur with a single dose (Garevik et al, 2012). Furthermore, the positive effects of steroids are only maintained for as long as they are used, which leads to long term usage, and eventually, the possible manifestation of the above mentioned side effects. Many users often start with low doses. However, after they see results, start to increases the doses, and therefore increasing the severity of side effects.

Steroid Legal Status

In countries such as Australia, the USA, and UK, steroids are considered to be controlled drugs or substances. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, "possession, use and supply of steroids, other than by prescription from a medical practitioner, dentist or veterinarian is illegal throughout Australia as is unauthorised importation". In order words, it is illegal to have, or try to ship steroids from overseas.

Legal Steroid Alternatives

There are various safe and legal alternatives to steroids. These are generally derived from food or herbal ingredients and are designed to increase the natural level of testosterone production in the body. Many of these have been covered in detail in our two-part article "Testosterone Support Supplements (Part 1)" and "Testosterone Support Supplements (Part 2)", as well as our "Aromatase Inhibitors" article. Here are just a few examples of testosterone boosting ingredients to look out for:

  • Tribulus terrestris: This is probably the most widely used herb to help boost testosterone.
  • D-aspartic acid: an amino acid which has been shown to play a role in testosterone production and release in the body
  • Long Jack (Longifolia): A very promising herbal supplement shown to increase testosterone, strength, and lean gains.
  • Aromatase inhibitors and anti-oestrogen supplements: A group of unrelated compounds that can help to block the conversion of testosterone into oestrogen.

Brower et al (1991), Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 17: 161-171
De Piccoli et al (1991), Anabolic steroid use in body builders: an echocardiographic study of left ventricle morphology and function. Int J Sports Med, 12: 408–412
Garevik et al (2012), Single dose testosterone increases total cholesterol levels and induces the expression of HMG CoA reductase. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy,7: 12
Grace et al (2003), Blood pressure and rate pressure product response in males using high-dose anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). J Sci Med Sport 6: 307–312
Irving et al (2002), Steroid use among adolescents: findings from Project EAT. The Journal of adolescent health, 30: 243–252
Kicman & Gower (2003), Anabolic steroids in sport: biochemical, clinical and analytical perspectives. Annals of Clinical Biochemistry 40: 321–356
Kuhn (2002), Anabolic steroids. Recent Progress in Hormone Research, 57: 411-434
Manikkam et al (2004), Fetal programming: prenatal testosterone excess leads to fetal growth retardation and postnatal catch-up growth in sheep. Endocrinology, 145: 790–798
Matsumoto (1990). Effects of chronic testosterone administration in normal men: safety and efficacy of high dosage testosterone and parallel dose-dependent suppression of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and sperm production. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 70: 282–287
Melnik et al (2007), Abuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids and bodybuilding acne: an underestimated health problem. Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft 5: 110–117
Perry et al (2003), Measures of aggression and mood changes in male weightlifters with and without androgenic anabolic steroid use. J. Forensic Sci. 4: 646–651
Pope et al (2000), Effects of Supraphysiologic Doses of Testosterone on Mood and Aggression in Normal Men. Med Sci Sports Exerc (Arch Gen Psychiatry), 57: 133–140
Trenton & Currier (2005), Behavioural manifestations of anabolic steroid use. CNS Drugs, 19: 571–595

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