Anabolic Steroids: Performance Enhancing but at What Cost?
Competition is part of life and we are all programmed to strive to be successful. The temptations of winning and of becoming bigger and stronger can be quite powerful. Performance enhancing drugs, especially anabolic steroids, have become widespread, including usage by non-athletes who want to improve their physical appearance. Younger athletes see their role models using these substances, only adding to their appeal. Unfortunately, anabolic steroids have potentially dangerous and permanent side effects.
What are anabolic steroids? Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormone testosterone. These steroids help with the construction of new proteins and increased muscle size and strength. These processes occur naturally in the body, but anabolic steroids enhance these normal biologic activities. Anabolic steroids should be distinguished from other types of steroids that are not anabolic, such as corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation in the body. Anabolic steroids, although illegal, are obtainable in communities, weight rooms, and via the Internet.
Steroids can be taken orally or injected. Steroids taken alone without combining with training have no significant effect. Also, any benefits of anabolic steroids are quickly lost after they are stopped.
What are the side effects of anabolic steroids? Some of the side effects of steroids are reversible when the steroid use stops but some side effects are irreversible, including:
Males and Females
Acne, especially on the face and back Mood swings, depression, possibly suicidal behavior
Elevated blood pressure
Infection or injury from injection of steroids (including HIV and Hepatitis)
Possible increased risk of cancer
Increased risk of death, especially from cardiac causes
Dependence—There are withdrawal symptoms after they are discontinued, such as depression, fatigue, and reduced muscle size and strength, which makes it more difficult to stop.
Females (these side effects are irreversible)
Body hair growth
Lower sperm count
Children (these side effects are irreversible)
Premature closure of growth plates, stopping growth
How can we prevent children from using anabolic steroids? Parents must realize that anabolic steroids are not only a problem in elite athletics; children are also exposed to these drugs. Parents should talk about steroids and other performance enhancing drugs with their children. Discuss the risks and side effects of these drugs with your children. Parents and coaches should continually stress the values of hard work, training, discipline, teamwork, participation, and fun in sports as opposed to winning at all costs attitude.