Pro baseball players, wrestlers and other professional athletes are role models for performance, endurance and sometimes, the “perfect " body. They're also in increasing numbers, role models for the use of anabolic steroids. In 2007, Senator George Mitchell's bombshell report on pro baseball opened a flood of questions about steroid-using pro athletes.
Think about this: when star athletes use steroids despite looming health consequences, why should kids resist? Winning at all costs is a message many young athletes hear. Another question we should ask is, will star athletes forgo the use of steroids when they think the drugs will make them millions, despite potentially deadly health risks?
Another message broadcast loud and clear by the media is that male movie stars now have to appear “buff, " and attaining that muscled and lean look is a goal of many teens and adults who take anabolic steroids. A behavioral syndrome called muscle dysmorphia affects both males and females, causing them to have a distorted body image. Men. In reality, the men may be large and muscular and the women lean and muscular.
What are anabolic steroids?
These drugs are synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones. They promote the growth of anabolic, or skeletal muscle and the development of male *** characteristics in both males and females. Commonly abused steroids include Anadrol, Oxandrin, Dianabol and Winstrol, all taken orally. Injectable steroids include Deca-Durabolin, Durabolin, Depo-Testosterone, Equipoise and Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Doses by abusers may be up to 100 times the dose taken for medical conditions.
The Internet is a source for many steroid users, and variations of performance enhancing drugs are for sale over the counter. Tens of thousands of teenagers have or are using performance enhancing drugs, including steroidal supplements such as androstenedione (street name Andro), which was available legally at retail before the Controlled Substances Act was amended in 2004. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is still a widely available supplement. Little is known about whether these drugs really build muscle mass, and because using large quantities of them increase testosterone levels in the body, their use is risky.
Anabolic steroids are dangerous drugs that pose serious emotional and physical risks.
Physical risks of steroids:
When someone comes off steroids, severe muscle pain can result. Dealing with intense muscle pain when attempting to wean off steroids leads some users to abuse opiates as well.
Physical effects can also be irreversible, such as damage to the heart, kidneys and liver, including heart attack, stroke, renal failure and hepatic cancer. This does not exclude young people. We know that steroid use over a continuous five-year period was the underlying cause of liver cancer in a man in his mid-twenties. Stroke is also a possibility for abusers younger than 30.
Other physical side effects of steroid use include decreased sperm count, increased prostate size and prostate cancer. Steroids are often injected, so the risk of contracting infections such as HIV/AIDS, bacterial endocarditis and hepatitis B and C is increased. Decreased sperm count can be reversed, but since steroids effect hormone production, male-pattern baldness is irreversible as is breast development in men. Women may experience a deeper voice, reduction in breast size, increased body hair and decreased scalp hair, which can all become irreversible. Adolescents may also experience a slow down of skeletal growth.
Emotional swings and changed brain chemistry are possibilities
Mental and emotional risks are serious to catastrophic, as was suggested in the tragic murder/suicide involving WWE wrestler, Chris Benoit in 2007. Extreme mood swings are most apt to happen when someone goes off steroids and may be characterized by anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks and violently aggressive behavior. Studies by the National Institute of Health have shown that steroid use during youth may permanently alter the brain's ability to produce serotonin and dopamine, neurochemical transmitters in the brain that give us a sense of well being. Reduction of these brain chemicals can produce long- term aggression.
Stacking and Pyramiding
In an attempts to derive the maximum muscle building effects of anabolic steroids, users may “stack" or mix oral and/or inject able types of the drug, often in does as high as 100 times the strength of a medical dose. They may pyramid the doses in cycles of 6-12 weeks starting with a low dose and slowly increasing it, then decreasing the dose over time. The theory is that this helps the body to safely adjust. However, there is no scientific evidence that either stacking or pyramiding has any benefits.
Why do hundreds of thousands of people 18 years of age and older use anabolic steroids at least once a year, as estimated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse? Increased, stamina, muscle mass, leaner bodies, enhanced performance are all wrapped up in the promise of these drugs. What users and abusers may not clearly understand are the realities of risk, with no regard to age.
Dr. Barbara Krantz, Interim Chief Executive Officer of Hanley Center, is a noted addictionologist and has been the Center's Chief Medical Director. Hanley Center, West Palm Beach, Florida, http://www.hanleycenter.org , is a premiere treatment facility for addiction treatment. Hanley Center specializes in holistic, age and gender-specific programs, as well as family therapy, co-dependency, education and prevention services.