With all the accusations floating in the air recently about the use of steroids by highly-paid, and highly-respected, professional athletes, many people have become more aware of these drugs. Unfortunately, not so many realize the danger inherent in using anabolic steroids to increase strength and power.
First of all, anabolic steroids are prescription drugs.
Think about it!
Things that are usually only available through a prescription are only available through a prescription because they are potentially dangerous in some way.
To understand the dangers of anabolic steroids, we should first understand what they are, as well as what they do.
Anabolic steroids are simply a synthetic reproduction of testosterone, the basic male hormone. Testosterone is, among other things, responsible for the physical strength and power, and muscle size, which tend to be more possible in the male than the female.
They are legitimately used by doctors to treat such diverse conditions as kidney disease, muscle diseases, breast cancer, burns, and certain rare types of anemia. However, competent doctors use them cautiously and in minimal doses because of their potentially dangerous side effects. The list of side effects is a long one, and I will not reproduce it here, but they range from the inconvenient to the very dangerous. Most doctors will not prescribe them for bodybuilders and other athletes, and non-athletes, who simply want to increase their performance, and/or physique.
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Those who wish to use anabolic steroids for such purposes will generally have to obtain them from a black market source or with the aid of unethical physicians. Even though this is a conscious choice on the part of the parties involved to break the law and endanger their health and the safety of others around them, one estimate made a couple of years ago put the number of people illegally using steroids at about two million!
In normal use, steroids may be taken orally or injected in small, relatively safe, doses. When used illegally by bodybuilders and other athletes, and even some police officers and criminals, they are generally taken in massive doses far above the normal dosage used for therapeutic purposes.
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When such huge doses are combined with resistance training programs, they generally DO increase strength and muscle mass. However, research and reality have both demonstrated that the adverse side effects, and just plain danger inherent in their use, vastly outweighs the desired benefits.
While men are the primary users of anabolic steroids, some women choose to use them as well. While men are susceptible to many side effects of anabolic steroids, in women, some of these effects may be irreversible. Fortunately, from the perspective of health at least, most of the irreversible effects are primarily cosmetic, such as a deeper voice, the appearance of dark facial hair, and a loss of scalp hair.
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If cosmetic effects were the only problem, the illegal use of anabolic steroids might be a simple knot to unravel. However, many results, both direct and indirect, range from just not worth it to downright dangerous. The murder/suicide case of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, and
the tumultuous events in the life of professional foot ball player Lyle Alzado are just two instances of the destructive potential of the side effects of anabolic steroids use.
An athlete can become more prone to certain injuries and may actually experience decreased performance in some areas. For example, while muscles become stronger, tendons and ligaments do not. Not only does this make the athlete more prone to injury when the muscle exerts more force than the tendons and ligaments can withstand, but also, another side effect of steroid use is a slowing of the healing process.
Yet another problem is that the growing muscle must have somewhere to grow. When muscles increase vastly in size, they many actually grow around bones and joints, subjecting them to stresses which may cause bone to break more easily or joints to become damaged…perhaps permanently.
All of this may pale beside the serious injuries and even death which sometimes occur as a result of the illegal use of anabolic steroids. The violent behavior sometimes referred to as “roid rage” has resulted in injury and even death for friends, family members, teammates, opponents, and innocent bystanders. Many users have died from cancers, tumors, heart disease, and other conditions attributed to illegal steroid use.
Non-athletes will often turn to anabolic steroids in hopes of becoming physically fit. While muscles may grow larger and strength may increase, overall fitness of the individual is dependent on the regular performance of a regular exercise program which does more than simply make big muscles. Cardiovascular function, for example, which is an incredibly important part of health is usually not directly affected by the type of training that generally accompanies the illegal use of anabolic steroids, and the steroids may actually adversely affect the cardiovascular capabilities of the individual. Considering the dangers and illegality of the use of steroids for fitness and performance, whether by a professional athlete in pursuit of a trophy, fame, or more money; or by an individual seeking better health and a higher level of fitness, using anabolic steroids is something to be avoided.