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Athletes not the only ones abusing anabolic steroids

by Ned Wicker
(Wisconsin)

The vision of a 320-pound offensive lineman in the National Football League, or a muscle-bound Major League Baseball player jacking a monstrous homerun is what comes to many Americans when they think of anabolic steroids.

The average person on the street would probably go to that image immediately, and because of all the publicity over the years, I have to admit that I too have that opinion. But that image was created by abuse, not the medically-prescribed use for the drugs.

Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids are intended to treat steroid hormone deficiency. An example of a medical condition would be a boy not reaching puberty. The steroids are also used to treat patients suffering with diseases that deplete their natural lean muscle mass, or when their body is wasting away.

“Anabolic” Refers To Muscle Building

The term “anabolic” refers to the muscle building aspect of the drugs, while “androgenic” is the male sex characteristics that are also impacted. These legally prescribed treatments can bring great benefit to the patient and serve to help restore physical vitality.

However, steroids are also the center of controversy in athletics, as athletes use them to gain advantage, and in many cases, actually destroy body and mind in the process.

Many years ago I knew a group of professional wrestlers who got involved with steroids, mainly because they are just getting stated in the business and wanted to move up the ladder.

One kid in particular could not have weighed more than 160 pounds, but had this desire to get into the ring with guys twice his size. Back then, a 225-250 pound wrestler was pretty big, not like the 300 plus we see today. The young man took the steroids, worked out in the gym and grew to nearly 260. He was one of the lucky ones, because he didn’t contract all of the side-effects at least not while I knew him.

Athletes use steroids in cycles

Athletes will use steroids in cycles, which can range in duration from a couple of weeks, to a couple of months, depending on the drug and the desired results. The drugs most commonly are injected, but can also be taken orally. There are different types of steroids that can be taken, and sometimes they are taken in combination. This practice can lead to negative results.

Steroids do not give the user any sense of euphoria, so recreational use is not the purpose, but that does not mean there are not negative side effects which could be similar. What can happen in long-term use is that the user may experience mood swings, which lead to behavioral issues. Commonly, the user becomes agitated and may get violent. The drugs can also cause other psychiatric problems, including paranoia and delusions.

Unlike recreational drugs, it is more difficult to determine if steroids themselves are addictive, or if the individual is merely addicted to the perceived effect of the drug. Users will often continue using, even though the benefits are not there, but the negative effects persist, such as relationship ills and other social issues.

The mood swings are coupled with sleeplessness, loss of appetite and one of the more dangerous side-effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is depression. When the benefit of the drug is experienced, a use may feel invincible. He may also feel quite the opposite. Suicide is known to occur.

When users experience the down side of steroids, they might turn to other drugs to counteract the negative side effects. Abuse of illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine is common among users self-medicate to feel better. Often they wind up in treatment centers because of this abuse.

There are serious health risks associated with steroids, such as liver damage, high blood pressure, jaundice and renal failure. While steroids might make an average athlete into looking like a Greek god, the steroids can cause serious damage to the testicles, as well as other negative physical changes. Hepatitis and HIV/AIDS are also unexpected consequences associated with steroid use.

There are fathers out there who allow their high school sons to use steroids, in hopes of “earning” a college scholarship. Adolescents using steroids are at risk of stunted growth as a result of a faster skeletal growth while under the influence of the drug.

Girls using the steroids may develop facial hair and have changes in their menstrual cycle, or even stop having their time of month entirely. The dream of athletic success is intoxicating, and so the lure of looking the other way is enormous. Much more harm than good will be the result of steroid use for the purpose of getting an “edge.”

Whether it’s a college scholarship, a starting position in an athletic team, or dreams of looking good and being more appealing, the health risks associate with steroid abuse are staggering. It isn’t worth it. Like so many other “legal” drugs that are abused, steroids, prescribed by a physician, in the right dosage, in the right increments, are beneficial. But as in life, too much of a good thing is never good.

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