Anabolic steroids are effective in enhancingathletic performance. The negative aspect of this is the undesirable sideeffects that could put one’s own health in jeopardy. Steroids have an effect onnumerous organ systems, in which some are irreversible. This life-altering drugnot only causes severe discomfort, but can even cause death ifadministered in heavy doses.
Steroids were firstintroduced as a form of synthetic testosterone in the early 1930’s by a team ofscientists. The substance was utilized as an aid for men that were not able toproduce enough hormonal growth, development, and sexual functioning, secondaryto naturally secreted low testosterone levels. After World War II, an American physiciandeveloped a more selective form of what we know today as anabolic steroids. Accordingto the Center for Substance Abuse Research, “today, illicit sale of steroidsare still prevalent and surveys show that adolescent use of steroids is on therise and that a great number of adults are actively using” (52) anabolicsteroids. Forhuman males, the reproductive system is greatly affected in relation to the useof steroids.
The prolonged use of anabolic steroids can result in an increaseof abnormal sperm cells, which decreases male fertility, and causes atrophy ofthe testes. According to Lawrenson, “other effects that can happen are abnormalsperm and a decreased sperm count” (117). Using more than one kind of steroidat a time increases the chances of infertility, but after a cessation ofsteroid use, the changes in infertility reverse after one to three months,depending on the individual and the dosage administered. There has been casestudies regarding male infertility. For example, “the first case involved a31-year-old bodybuilder with a six- year history of infertility due to a lowsperm count” (fitFLEX 22) had reportedly consumed steroids for approximatelyfive years. According to his published medical findings, “an examinationrevealed shrunken testicles, a low level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH),low levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and a low testosterone level” (fitFLEX24). However, after a year of steroid free, his sperm count was highly improved.The subject’s wife became pregnant twenty months after the cessation from theuse of steroids.
The use of anabolic steroids, also produces hormonal imbalances. Onesignificant side effect is that of gynecomastia, which, irreversible in nature,causes breast formation in males. This happens because of the increased levelsof estrogen, which are typical female sex hormones. The way it works with somepeople can be totally different from the way it affects another person, but theprogression for suffering gynecomastia can be as rapid as a matter of two tothree days and as long number of weeks after consuming anabolic steroids. Gynecomastiais a common side effect of anabolic steroid use. It can be preventable but itmost cases young male and females have it. Even with the effects of gynecomastia,sexual desire in males is increased, even though the rate of erectiledysfunction is increased as well.
Erectile dysfunction is a condition in whicha person cannot keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Manypeople believe erectile dysfunction is caused by physical problems but “theinitial stirrings of an erection begin when your brain sends signals to yourbody, through a vast network of cables called the central nervous system” (Oz7). This might seem to be incongruous,but sexual desire is dependent on the androgen hormone (a steroid hormone thatcontrols the development and sustenance of masculine characteristics), whileerectile dysfunction is not. Steroids also cause a person to become moreaggressive. When this level of aggressiveness meets the level of sexual desire,the risk of sexual assault is increased. Females have some of the same side effects asmales, such as increased sexual desire and aggressiveness, but they also havecertain side effects that are unique to females. Such side effects areirregularities in the menstrual cycle, hypertrophy of the clitoris, sudden acnebreakouts, hair loss, receding hairline, increased facial hair, deeper voice,and breast atrophy.
Women who use anabolic steroids usually experiencemasculine side effects. Unlike the male’s ability to recover from most sideeffects, the female steroid user’s deeper voice, hair loss, enlarged clitoris,and decreased breast size are irremediable. In addition to this, pregnant womenwho use anabolic steroids can become prone to pseudo-hermaphroditism or growthhindrance of the female fetus. It could even lead to fetal death. Women usinganabolic steroids have a difficult time getting pregnant “and those who did,had a disproportionate number of miscarriages” (Ungerleider 93). According to Ungerleider, “of those who didgive birth, a number had babies with clubfeet or blindness” (97). Anabolic-androgenic steroids can also producepsychological effects such as hallucinations, euphoria, confusion, paranoia,and insomnia. The University of Gothenburg did a study regarding the connectionbetween anabolic-androgenic steroids and mental health problems.
They usedseven hundred previous athletes that consumed anabolic-androgenic steroidsthroughout their youth. Many of those were wrestlers, and weightlifters whocompeted approximately between 1960 and 1979. Out of those seven hundred, “twentypercent of them admitted using steroids during their active careers” (ScienceDaily10). According to Claudia Fahlke, director of Centre for Education and Researchon Addiction, “we have found a clear link. AAS users were more likely to havebeen treated for depression, concentration problems, and aggressive behavior” (14). Because of the sense of euphoria, alongwith other potential factors, steroid users could become addicted to the drug,followed with symptoms of withdrawal, which is a physiological and mentalreadjustment that accompanies the discontinuation of the use of an addictivesubstance.
Such symptoms consist of mental depression, suicidal behavior, andin some cases, severe psychosis. The rate of suicide has been increasing in theUnited States in the past thirty years. Several factors can lead a person toattempt suicide or have suicidal ideations. In the case of anabolic steroid use,”3.9% of a sample of 77 those classified as AAS Anabolic-Adrenergic Steroidusers reported attempting suicide” (Darkes 142).Of all the possible negative effects ofanabolic steroid abuse, the most perpetually detrimental, would be that ofdeath.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some of the most prominent causes of death in anabolicsteroid users are “heart attacks and strokes, even in athletes younger than 30″(58). The human heart and the brain are the most vital organs in the humanbody. In anabolic steroid abusers, an imbalance of lipoproteins causes fattythrombi to form in the vessels after being pumped through the heart. As thethrombus travels through the body, it can cause a decrease or a cessation ofblood returning to the heart, which may lead to cardiac arrest. If it travelsup the carotid arteries in your neck, which feed your brain with oxygen richblood, it could prevent that blood from reaching your brain, causing a stroke.Although these may be common occurrences in today’s society based on severalother lifestyle choices, it is not typically encountered in people under thirtyyears of age.
This is a direct correlation to the anabolic steroid’s disruptionin high and low density lipoprotein levels in the arteries of the human body.Anabolic steroid abuse also greatly affects the liver. Studies from theNational Institute on Drug Abuse have shown that “steroid abuse has beenassociated with liver tumors and a rare condition called peliosis hepatis, in whichblood-filled cysts form in the liver” (86). The liver is very vascular. If steroiduse is not discontinued, the engorged cysts continue to grow, or are nottreated accordingly, there lies the dangerous possibility of cystic rupture,which would cause internal bleeding, and ultimately, death.
The essence of competition is what drives aperson to give it his or her all. For some, the use of steroids is an expeditedway to reach their personal goal of aesthetics. To others, it is much more thanmere aesthetics. Prospective athletic careers hang in the balance, and peopleare willing to sacrifice anything to reach the highest podium, run the fastestlap time, or shatter personal weightlifting records in extraordinary times. Itis distressing that some people feel as though they have to alter themselves inorder to succeed, in order to be accepted. If the general public could be madeaware of the detrimental physical and neurological side effects of anabolicsteroid use, it could help deter people from negatively altering not only theirbodies, but their lives.