Anabolic steroids are drugs that are pharmacologically or chemically related to testosterone; they are commonly used to promote muscle growth and improve physical performance. These substances exhibit both androgenic and anabolic effects.
The anabolic and androgenic effects of anabolic steroids cannot be completely separated, but some synthetic preparations are designed to minimize the androgenic effects.
Unfortunately, illicit use of anabolic steroids is relatively widespread. In the US, the reported use of anabolic steroids among high school-aged males is 6 to 11%. Among females in the same age group, the rate of use is approximately 2.5%. Surprisingly, many users are non-athletes. (Merck Manual, 18th Edition. 2006;1691.)
Athletes may routinely use up to 50 times the physiologic dose of anabolic steroids. When engaging in “stacking” (using several different steroids simultaneously) or “pyramiding” (using increasing doses through a cycle), doses may be as high as 10 times the physiologic dose.
At higher doses, the adverse effects of anabolic steroids become more prevalent. Some of these side effects are well-documented, while others are equivocal.
Adverse Effects of Anabolic Steroids:
•Abnormal lipid profile (decreased HDL cholesterol, increased LDL)
•Erythrocytosis (abnormally high production of red blood cells)
•Liver abnormalities (adenoma, peliosis hepatitis)
•Mood disorders, usually only associated with very high doses (“roid rage,” depression, irritability, erratic or irrational behavior)
•Androgenic effects (acne, baldness, virilization–possibly irreversible– in females)
•Gonadal suppression (decreased sperm count, testicular atrophy)
•Gynecomastia in males
•Premature closure of bone growth centers in adolescents
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