Steroids

General Information
Physical & Psychological Dangers
Scope of the Abuse
Short and Long Term Effects
Statistics

Physical & Psychological Dangers
There is increasing concern regarding possible serious health problems that are associated with the abuse of steroids, including both short-term and long-term side effects (see Appendix B). The short-term adverse physical effects of anabolic steroid abuse are fairly well known. Short-term side effects may include sexual and reproductive disorders, fluid retention, and severe acne. The short-term side effects in men are reversible with discontinuation of steroid use. Masculinizing effects seen in women, such as deepening of the voice, body and facial hair growth, enlarged clitoris, and baldness are not reversible. The long-term adverse physical effects of anabolic steroid abuse in men and in women, other than masculinizing effects, have not been studied, and as such, are not known. However, it is speculated that possible long-term effects may include adverse cardiovascular effects such as heart damage and stroke.

Possible physical side effects include the following:
  • High blood cholesterol levels – high blood cholesterol levels may lead to cardiovascular problems
  • Severe acne
  • Thinning of hair and baldness
  • Fluid retention
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disorders (liver damage and jaundice)
  • Steroids can affect fetal development during pregnancy
  • Risk of contracting HIV and other blood-borne diseases from sharing infected needles
  • Sexual & reproductive disorders:
    MEN
    – atrophy of the testicles
    – loss of sexual drive
    – diminished or decreased sperm production
    – breast and prostate enlargement
    – decreased hormone levels
    – sterility
    WOMEN
    – Menstrual irregularities
    – infertility
    – masculinizing effects including:
    facial hair
    diminished breast size
    permanently deepened voice, and
    enlargement of the clitoris
Possible psychological disturbances include :
  • mood swings (including manic-like symptoms leading to violence)
  • impaired judgment (stemming from feelings of invincibility)
  • depression
  • nervousness
  • extreme irritability
  • delusions
  • hostility and aggression

Steroid Alternatives
A variety of non-steroid drugs are commonly found within the illicit anabolic steroid market. These substances are primarily used for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. serve as an alternative to anabolic steroids
  2. alleviate short-term adverse effects related to anabolic steroid use
  3. mask anabolic steroid use
    Examples of drugs serving as alternatives to anabolic steroids include clenbuterol, human growth hormone, insulin, insulin-like growth factor, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB).
    Examples of drugs used to treat the short-term adverse effects of anabolic steroid abuse are erythropoietin, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), and tamoxifen.
    Also, diuretics and uricosuric agents may be used to mask steroid use.

Over the last few years, a number of metabolic precursors to either testosterone or nandrolone have been marketed as dietary supplements in the U.S. These dietary supplements can be purchased in health food stores without a prescription. Some of these substances include androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenedione, norandrostenediol, and dehydroepiandtrosterone (DHEA), which can be converted into testosterone or a similar compound in the body. Whether they promote muscle growth is not known.

Are anabolic steroids addictive ?
An undetermined percentage of abusers may become addicted to the drug, as evidenced by their continuing to take steroids in spite of physical problems, negative effects on social relations, or nervousness and irritability. Steroid users can experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, and depression. Untreated, some depressive symptoms associated with anabolic steroid withdrawal have been known to persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the drugs.

Physical & Psychological Dangers
People are willing to take great risk to excel in sports and perform their jobs better in today’s society. We also live in a society where image is paramount to some people. Therefore, the popularity of performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids and anabolic steroid substitute products are the choice of some people to achieve these goals. Steroid abuse is still a problem despite the illegality of the drug and the banning of steroids by various sports authorities and sports governing bodies.

General Public
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Household Survey on Drug Abuse determined 1,084,000 Americans, or 0.5% of the adult population, said that they had used anabolic steroids. In the 18–34 age group, about 1% had ever used steroids.

School-Age Children
The “Monitoring the Future” study conducted in 2002 determined that since 1991 there has been a significant increase of steroid use by school age children. This annual study surveys drug use among eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders in the United States. The first year data was collected on younger students was in 1991. Since 1991 there has been a significant increase in reported steroid use by teenagers. For all three grades, the 2002 levels represent a significant increase from 1991. The following chart illustrates the increase of steroid abuse among teenagers who reported using steroids at least once in their lifetime.

Students Reporting Steroid Abuse 1991–2002
Year
8th Grade
10th Grade
12th Grade
1991
1.9%
1.8%
2.1%
1999
2.7%
2.7%
2.9%
2001
2.5%
3.5%
4.0%
Students Reporting Steroid Abuse 2002
Timespan
8th Grade
10th Grade
12th Grade
past month
0.8%
1.0%
1.4%
past year
1.5%
2.2%
2.5%
lifetime
2.5%
3.5%
4.5%

In the 2002 survey, the youth were also ask how easy it was for school aged children to obtain steroids. 22% of eighth graders, 33.2% of tenth graders, and 46.1% of twelfth graders reported that steroids were “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain.

Steroids are used predominately by males — according to a number of oether studies — with annual prevalence rates two to four times as high among males as that among females.

Possible psychological disturbances include :
  • mood swings (including manic-like symptoms leading to violence)
  • impaired judgment (stemming from feelings of invincibility)
  • depression
  • nervousness
  • extreme irritability
  • delusions
  • hostility and aggression

The Monitoring the Future study also determined that misuse and abuse of steroids is a major concern among school aged children. Some of their findings are alarming and indicate a need for concern:

A survey in 1999 determined that 479,000 students nationwide, or 2.9 percent, had used steroids by their senior year of high school.
A survey in 2001 determined the percentage of 12th graders who believed that taking these drugs causes “great risk” to health declined from 68 percent to 62 percent.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study, a survey of high school students across the United States. A survey conducted in 2001 indicated that 5% of all high school students reported lifetime use of steroid tablets/injections without a doctor’s prescription. The survey also indicated that 5.8% of ninth graders, 4.9% of tenth graders, 4.3% of eleventh graders, and 4.3% of twelfth graders reported lifetime illegal use of steroids.

A majority of the studies performed on steroid abuse indicate males are twice as likely to abuse steroids as females.

Professional & College Sports
The NFL suspended running back Mike Cloud of the New England Patriots, defensive back Lee Flowers of the Denver Broncos, and Keith Newman of the Atlanta Falcons for violating the league’s steroid policy. All three players tested positive for steroids and received a four game suspension without pay during the regular season. Three members of the Norwick University (located in Northfield, Vermont) football team were arrested for possession of 1,000 anabolic steroid tablets. In professional baseball it is widely believed that steroid abuse is rampant. The news media has reported countless instances where players were taking steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. There is also continuous debate about steroid testing and other drug testing in professional baseball.

Law Enforcement Community
Despite the illegality of steroids without a prescription and the known dangers of steroid abuse, the problem continues to grow in the law enforcement community. In Minneapolis, a police sergeant was charged for possession of steroids. He admitted to being a user of steroids. In Miami, a police officer was arrested for the purchase of human growth hormone kits (HGH) from a dealer. The dealer had also informed Federal officials that the police officer had purchased anabolic steroids from him on four other occasions. In Tampa, a police officer was sentenced to 70 months in jail for exchanging 1,000 ecstasy tablets from police custody for steroids.”

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Where do you get steroids ?
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 (e.g. cats, cattle, dogs, and horses) 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 United States 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.

Short-Term Effects
Use of anabolic steroids produces increases in lean muscle mass, strength, and ability to train longer and harder. Many health hazards of short-term effects are reversible. The major effects of anabolic steroid use include liver tumors, jaundice, fluid retention, and high blood pressure. Additional side effects include the following: for men shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts; for women growth of facial hair, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, deepened voice; for adolescents growth halted prematurely through premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes.

Researchers report that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.

Long-Term Effects
The long-term, high-dose effects of steroid use are largely unknown.

Laws and Penalties for Use
The Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 placed anabolic steroids into Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as of February 27, 1991. Under this legislation, anabolic steroids are defined as any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth.

The possession or sale of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is illegal. Simple possession of illicitly obtained anabolic steroids carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine if this is an individual’s first drug offense. The maximum penalty for trafficking is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if this is the individual’s first felony drug offense. If this is the second felony drug offense, the maximum period of imprisonment and the maximum fine both double. While the above listed penalties are for federal offenses, individual states have also implemented fines and penalties for illegal use of anabolic steroids. State executive offices have also recognized the seriousness of steroid abuse and other drugs of abuse in schools. For example, The State of Virginia enacted a new law that will allow student drug testing as a legitimate school drug prevention program. Some other states and individual school districts are considering implementing similar measures.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and many professional sports leagues (e.g. Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League (NFL), and National Hockey League) have banned the use of steroids by athletes, both because of their potential dangerous side effects and because they give the user an unfair advantage. The IOC, NCAA, and NFL have also banned the use of steroid precursors (e.g. androstenedione) by athletes for the same reason steroids were banned.

Source
National Institute on Drug Abuse