*This post was writen for us by Lily McCann content producer*
Anabolic Steroids – What They Are And Why You Should Avoid Them
If someone told you that there was a pill out there which could increase your musculature exponentially with minimal effort, you’d probably be tempted. No dragging yourself to the gym on dreary nights, no pumping iron when you’re exhausted – just a little bit of work when you feel like it and an explosion of bulging muscle to reward you. Well, such a pill does exist – and you should never, ever, under any circumstances take it. Anabolic steroids have been the bane of the fitness and sports worlds for decades, not merely because they unfairly skew competition but because they can have some appalling effects upon the bodies of users. Unfortunately, despite the pleas of medical and athletic professionals, it seems that steroid use in America is just as prevalent as ever – and our society’s worrying preoccupation with physical perfection and the need to ‘be the best’ may even be increasing their allure.
What Are They?
First, the basics. Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones which usually (although not exclusively) mimic the action of the male sex hormone testosterone. This increases the growth of skeletal muscle (hence the term ‘anabolic’), as well as encouraging the development of ‘masculine’ physical characteristics (although don’t get excited, boys – they don’t make your penis bigger. Quite the reverse, in fact, although more on that later…). The National Institute on Drug Abuse state that anabolic steroids were developed as a medical intervention in the 1930s, and have been used to treat “delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases”. It was not long after their development that researchers noticed that lab rats fed steroids bulked up extremely quickly. From this discovery, it was but a short step to the drugs filtering out into the world of bodybuilding and other sports. This was and remains of serious concern, as steroids can throw a competition unfairly – ‘doping’ is a scourge upon the entire fitness and sports world.
The Pursuit Of Perfection
Worryingly, people are not just using steroids to get ahead in professional contests. The American College of Sports Medicine notes the prevalence of steroid abuse amongst high-school age students (principally white and male). They believe that this may have a lot to do with “our societal fixations on winning and physical appearance”. Much has been written regarding the damaging effects which models of unattainable perfection can have upon the female psyche (with eating disorders and cosmetic surgery being consequences frequently held up for scrutiny), but less is written about the equally damaging effects which the rippling male torsos plastered across billboards can have upon impressionable young men. Of course, the actors and models on these posters dedicate their lives to obtaining these bodies – it’s their job, and they have the time and resources to do so. Personal trainers like Michael George – who has devoted many hours to toning the bodies of “Reese Witherspoon, Toby Maguire, Julianne Moore, James Spader, Live Schreiber, Nick Cannon, Meg Ryan, Christian Slater…” and many more – are readily available to these people, and have the knowledge and expertise to ensure that they shape their bodies safely and effectively. This is not the case for the average high school football player or college jock. They do not see the hours of work and expensive resources which these models of perfection use to get their bodies, however, they merely see their own lack of such a body and feel an undesirable failure as a result. To someone with such a mindset, steroid abuse seems a tempting option.
However, steroids are unlikely to make someone as attractive as they think they will. As steroids mimic the action of sex hormones, the sexual characteristics of abusers are frequently affected. Women who take anabolic steroids may develop deep voices, facial hair, and even pseudo-penises. According to the New York Post, a female bodybuilder named Candace Stevenson “has been left with broad shoulders, stubble, and a one-inch penis” after developing a steroid addiction. However, men who hear this and think that taking steroids will cause them to become hyper-masculine are in for a shock. While they may increase the growth of skeletal muscle, an overload of testosterone can actually cause male sex organs to shut down. According to Dr Steven Christopher Chudik, as anabolic steroids are similar to testosterone, they “provide feedback through organs in the brain to tell the testicles to stop making their own testosterone”. This frequently results in testicular atrophy – a shrinking of the testicles (often quite drastic) which can cause infertility and may be permanent, even once steroid use has ceased. Excess synthetic testosterone (which the male body- already flooded with testosterone often cannot cope with) may also be converted into estrogen, causing gynomastia (the growth of breasts) in men. Not to mention the fact that steroids can cause the hair to fall out, the teeth to splay, and acne in both sexes.
Life Threateningly Addictive
But these physical and sexual changes are not life threatening. Of far more concern are the often deadly changes they can induce on a less superficial level. Steroids can also cause liver and kidney damage, cause blood clots and high blood pressure which can massively increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and induce worrying psychological effects such as mood swings and unwarranted aggression. When taken by those still growing they can stunt growth – both mental and physical – and can even bring on hallucinations and manic delusions in persistent users. Many steroid abusers may see these potential effects as worth risking for the body of their dreams, or believe that they will be able to restrict their steroid use before any adverse symptoms show up. However, steroids are also highly addictive. The addictive properties were first discovered by Yale researchers in 1989 – a New York Times report from that year states that “high-dose, long-term steroid use could cause many of the classic signs of drug addiction, including craving the substance, inability to stop using it and withdrawal symptoms”. This means that many users can swiftly reach the stage where their health may become terminally affected simply because they are unable to stop taking the drugs. If you or someone you know is addicted to steroids and wishes to stop, Drugabuse.com point out that “it’s ok to seek help” and recommend that you call their hotline on 1-888-913-2609.
Do It Safely
The old fashioned way of building up your body may take longer – but it will be a lot better for you in the long run. Furthermore, you’ll look much more attractive than those on ‘roids. Far from the acne-ridden, hair-thinning, weirdly-bulging bodies of steroid users, yours will be a body in its prime and glowing with physical health. If you want to encourage muscle growth, do it through working out and eating more protein. Protein is the substance which muscle needs to grow, so try taking a supplement like Cellucor’s whey protein. This is described as “a pure protein that packs more protein, and better flavors, into each and every scoop”. These kind of products will aid your body in building muscle naturally (and healthily) rather than artificially loading the skeleton with muscle – and damaging almost every other aspect of the body into the bargain.