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Brief and Straightforward Guide on: Steroids

What Are Steroids?

Steroids are a group of hormones that are naturally occurring or could be bio-synthetically produced. They are fat-soluble, organic compounds having as a basis of 17 carbon atoms arranged in 4 rings.

Different groups of steroids include - corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, oestrogenic steroids, androgenic steroids, and progestogenic steroids. Steroids vary from one another in the structure of various side chains and additional rings and also have varied functions to perform. Steroids are common in both plants and animals.

In humans, the steroids are secreted by the gonads, i.e. the testes and the ovaries, the cortex of the Adrenal glands, (located above the kidneys) and the placenta. These hormones are complex lipids based on a cholesterol molecule, and influence various chemical processes in the body, growth and development, sexual functions and other physiological aspects.

A brief overview of the different Steroids

Corticosteroids: - are a group of anti-inflammatory hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Corticosteroid drugs are synthetically produced and used extensively in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, like arthritis. Corticosteroids are involved in a wide range of physiologic systems such as stress response, immune response and regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, protein catabolism, blood electrolyte levels and behavior.

Sex hormones: - estrogen and progesterone are the female sex hormones, while testosterone in the male sex hormone. They promote the development and maintenance of the secondary sexual characteristics and reproductive structures.

Anabolic steroids: - Anabolic Steroids are synthetically manufactured variants of the naturally - occurring male sex hormone Testosterone.

Understanding Anabolic Steroids in detail

Anabolic Steroids or Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) are artificially synthesized variants of the biologically - occurring male hormone Testosterone. Anabolic refers to the muscle developing property of the hormone, while, androgenic pertains to an intensification of the male sexual characteristics.

Anabolic Steroids are legitimately prescribed to treat conditions resulting from hormonal imbalances, such as - delayed onset of puberty, and medical conditions that cause loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer or AIDS.

Anabolic steroids influence cell growth and replication, resulting in growth and development of muscle tissue and bone size. They guarantee fat - free, lean muscle weight gain and enhance bone strength. All the Anabolic Steroids are chemical off-shoots of the male sex hormone Testosterone.

Anabolic Steroids when administered augment lean muscle mass, enhance muscle strength, and boost the capability to work-out / train extensively. They significantly enhance tolerance and performance levels. These drugs improve the capacity to lift heavier weights, run faster, jump higher, and promise greater stamina and staying power.

Athletes and Anabolic steroids (AS)

Athletes and body builders administer AS, in an attempt to heighten performance levels. AAS are taken either orally or in injection form. Typically, sports persons instill AS in ‘cycles‘, Cycling is a therapy-plan, in which the steroids are administered for a period of weeks or months, and then, stopped for an hiatus, and then re-commenced. What’s more, users amalgamate different types of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids, to take the maximum advantage of their efficiency. This technique is called stacking.

Body builders, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts, use AAS extensively, since, it gives them a competitive edge and enhances performance. However, AAS are illegal drugs and can be procured only through a physician’s prescription and for specific medical conditions only. But rigid FDA norms have made unlawful trade quite rampant.

Are there any side effects of using Anabolic Steroids?

Misuse of AAS results in severe and occasionally, irremediable health problems.

The side effects are –

• Severe acne
• Headaches
• Emotional effects, like - aggression, belligerence, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, paranoia, violence, delusion, hallucinations, depression, and suicidal tendencies
• Sleep disorders and insomnia
• Excessive liver damage, sometimes lasting and untreatable
• Diabetes mellitus
• Affects the lipid profile raising the LDL (bad cholesterol) and reducing the HDL (good cholesterol)
• Atherosclerosis, heart attack
• Renal failure
• Cancer
• Causes reduction in the size of the testicles, reduction in the sperm count, infertility, impotence, too much sexual drive, alopecia, gynaecomastia (enlargement of breasts), and a higher risk for developing prostate cancer, in males.
• For women, there occurs - growth of facial hair, male-pattern hair fall, modification or complete stoppage of the menstrual cycle, maturation and release of eggs from the ovaries is affected, and deepening of the voice.
• Adolescents taking Anabolic Steroids demonstrate arrested growth / stunted physique due to pre-mature skeletal maturation and hastened onset of puberty.
• Edema / puffiness of the face occurs, along with, deposition of fat around the belly. However, the limbs are thin.
• Increased vulnerability to infections
• Osteoporosis or increased fragility of the bones.
• Additionally, individuals who use injectible AAS, are at a great of contracting or transmitting HIV or hepatitis.
• Another grave side effect of AAS abuse is the strong potential of getting addicted to the drug.
• Individuals abusing Steroids have to endure terrible withdrawal symptoms, once, they discontinue taking the AAS. These include - weariness, exhaustion, restlessness, poor appetite, insomnia, mood swings, decreased libido, and strong steroid cravings, all of which are responsible for the continuance of the abuse. One of the most perilous withdrawal symptom is depression, which could sometimes lead to suicide attempts. Research also states that some AS users switch to other drugs to allay the unfavorable effects of AAS.

What’s more, Anabolic Steroids that are taken orally have a greater degree of detrimental effects on health, compared to AS administered via injections. Also, the kind of AS decides the extent and nature of side effects. Anabolic Steroids comprising of a 17-alkyl group have potentially more dangerous side effects, specifically, to the liver. Furthermore, athletes use oral and parenteral AAS concurrently, and in doses that are larger than the permitted therapeutic dose.

The type of the anabolic steroid, the dose, duration of use and the person’s sensitivity and reaction determine the frequency and degree of the complications. What is important to remember is that there aren’t many management options to cure the side effects of AS abuse. Experts say, supportive therapy, along with awareness and education about the serious side effects, the addiction, and withdrawal symptoms, and appropriate medications reinstates balance to the disturbed hormonal system.