Anabolic androgenic steroids are synthetically created drugs that mimic the chemical compound found in the male hormone testosterone. Most commonly known simply as ‘steroids’ these chemicals are abused by athletes to artificially improve their performance and muscular appearance. According to a study done by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA), steroids are commonly taken orally in pill form or directly injected. Many users even combine various types of steroids to produce enhanced effects—this is known as stacking.
It is illegal to use anabolic steroids recreationally and without a prescription. They can be legally prescribed medically to treat a variety of issues, such as delayed puberty and to help curb the muscle loss caused by AIDS and cancer. Overall, steroid use is illegal and falls into the category of performance enhancing drugs.
Long Term Effects of Steroids
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the long-term use of steroids affects both the body and mind.
According to the TCADA and NIDA, the body experiences devastating long-term effects from steroid use, which can affect many of the bodies systems.
- Steroids affect the cardiovascular system by enlarging the heart. This creates enhanced risk for heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks and increased cholesterol levels.
- They also dramatically affect the reproductive systems of both men and women by providing unnatural levels of testosterone. Men can experience sterility, erectile dysfunction, shrunken testicles and breast enlargement. In females, excessive testosterone can cause irregular menstrual cycles, sexual dysfunction, reduction of breasts, genital swelling and unnatural hair growth.
- Many other vital organs are also affected by long-term steroid use. The liver can be permanently damaged which can lead to cancer, bleeding, jaundice and hepatitis. Kidneys are also damaged, resulting in various kidney diseases and kidney stones.
NIDA reports that the long term effects of steroids can have a similarly devastating effect on the mind as many other illegal drugs, such as those that effect opioid systems, serotonin or dopamine levels. They can leave the brain permanently damaged and unable to produce vital chemicals. NIDA reports the below mental effects of steroid abuse:
- Feelings of invincibility, Loss of interest in daily life, Delusions, Continuous headaches, Impaired judgment, Extreme aggression, Paranoia, Jealousy, “Male Anorexia”, unable to notice changes to their body, Irritability, Various psychological dysfunctions
Adolescents who use steroids illegally can experience all of the above symptoms, with the addition of several more. They may experience stunted growth and accelerated puberty. Adolescent abusers dramatically risk not reaching their expected, natural height if anabolic steroids are taken before puberty.
What Happens After A User Stops?
According to Dr. David Kaminstein, the withdrawal symptoms caused by ending steroid use are similar to ceasing use of other drugs:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Enhanced psychological effects, such as anger and irritability
Dr. Kaminstein warns that sudden cessation of steroids can be dangerous, as the body’s chemistry has likely become reliant on them. Dr. Kaminstien and NIDA both suggest seeking professional help to stop steroid use. Many physicians, according to NIDA, will provide medications that restore balance to the hormonal system if steroid use has gone on for long enough. In many instances, supportive counseling can be enough to sufficiently cease steroid use, it depends on how long and how often steroids were used.
Steroids Are Incredibly Dangerous
Anabolic steroids may seem like a tempting way to improve athletic performance and reach a new level of impressive aesthetics. However, they carry devastating long-term health effects. Steroid abuse can alter every aspect of your mind and body in an extremely dangerous way. It can lead to severe mental disorders, physical deformities and even death.
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