What are Steroids?
- Anabolic steroids are synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone. Both males and females have testosterone produced in their bodies: males in the testes, and females in the ovaries and other tissues. The full name for this class of drugs is androgenic (promoting masculine characteristics) anabolic (tissue building) steroids (the class of drugs).
- Some of the most abused steroids include Deca-Durabolin, Durabolin, Equipoise, and Winstrol. The common street (slang) names for anabolic steroids include arnolds, gym candy, pumpers, roids, stackers, weight trainers, and juice.
- The two major effects of testosterone are an androgenic effect and an anabolic effect.
- The term androgenic refers to the physical changes experienced by a male during puberty. Androgenic effects would be similarly experienced in a female. This property is responsible for the majority of the side effects of steroid use. The term anabolic refers to promoting of anabolism, the actual building of tissues, mainly muscle, accomplished by the promotion of protein synthesis.
Why are they abused?
- Anabolic steroids are primarily used by bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness “buffs” who claim steroids give them a competitive advantage and/or improve their physical performance. Also, individuals in occupations requiring enhanced physical strength (body guards, construction workers, and law enforcement officers) are known to take these drugs.
- Steroids are purported to increase lean body mass, strength, and aggressiveness. Steroids are also believed to reduce recovery time between workouts, which makes it possible to train harder and thus improve strength and endurance. Some non-athletes also take steroids to increase their endurance, muscle size, and strength, and reduce body fat which they believe improves personal appearance.
Where are Steroids obtained?
- Doctors may prescribe steroids to patients for legitimate medical purposes such as loss of function of testicles, breast cancer, low red blood cell count, delayed puberty, and debilitated states resulting from surgery or sickness.
- Veterinarians administer steroids to animals for legitimate purposes such as to promote feed efficiency, and to improve weight gain, vigor, and hair coat. They are also used in veterinary practice to treat anemia and counteract tissue breakdown during illness and trauma.
- For purposes of illegal use there are several sources — the most common illegal source is from smuggling steroids into the U.S. from other countries such as Mexico and European countries. Smuggling from these areas is easier because a prescription is not required for the purchase of steroids. Less often steroids found in the illicit market are diverted from legitimate sources (e.g. thefts or inappropriate prescribing) or produced in clandestine laboratories.
Common Types of Steroids Abused
- The illicit anabolic steroid market includes steroids that are not commercially available in the U.S. as well as those which are available. Steroids that are commercially available in the U.S. include fluxoymesterone (Halotestin), methyltestosterone, nandrolone (Deca-Durabolin, Durabolin), oxandrolone (Oxandrin), oxymetholone (Anadrol), testosterone, and stanozolol (Winstrol). Veterinary steroids that are commercially available in the U.S. include boldenone (Equipoise), mibolerone, and trenbolone (Revalor). Other steroids found on the illicit market that are not approved for use in the U.S. include ethylestrenol, methandriol, methenolone, and methandrostenolone.
How are they taken?
- Anabolic steroids dispensed for legitimate medical purposes are administered several ways including intramuscular or subcutaneous injection, by mouth, pellet implantation under the skin, and by application to the skin (e.g. gels or patches). These same routes are used for purposes of abusing steroids, with injection and oral administration being the most common.
- People abusing steroids may take anywhere from 1 to upwards of a 100 times normal therapeutic doses of anabolic steroids. This often includes taking two or more steroids concurrently, a practice called “stacking.”
- Abusers will often alternate periods (6 to 16 weeks in length) of high dose use of steroids with periods of low dose use or no drug at all. This practice is called “cycling.”
- Another mode of steroid use is called “pyramiding.” With this method users slowly escalate steroid use (increasing the number of drugs used at one time and/or the dose and frequency of one or more steroids), reach a peak amount at mid-cycle and gradually taper the dose toward the end of the cycle.
- Doses of anabolic steroids used will depend on the particular objectives of the steroid user. Athletes (middle or high school, college, professional, and Olympic) usually take steroids for a limited period of time to achieve a particular goal. Others such as bodybuilders, law enforcement officers, fitness buffs, and body guards usually take steroids for extended periods of time. The length of time that steroids stay in the body varies from a couple of days to more than 12 months.