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To increase muscle strength and power beyond the natural limit, some people turn to substances like anabolic-androgenic steroids AAS. Anabolic refers to growth promotion, whereas androgenic refers to the development of male sex characteristics. This article reviews anabolic-androgenic steroids, including their uses, side effects, dangers, and legal status.


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Anabolic steroids are synthetic, or human-made, variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. The proper term for these compounds is anabolic-androgenic steroids. Health care providers can prescribe steroids to treat hormonal issues, such as delayed puberty. Steroids can also treat diseases that cause muscle loss, such as cancer and AIDS. But some athletes and bodybuilders misuse these drugs in an attempt to boost performance or improve their physical appearance.

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Steroids sometimes referred to as "roids" or "juice" are the same as, or similar to, certain hormones in the body. The body makes steroids naturally to support such functions as fighting stress and promoting growth and development.

But some people use steroid pills, gels, creams, or injections because they think steroids can improve their sports performance or the way they look. Anabolic steroids are artificially produced hormones that are the same as, or similar to, androgensthe male-type sex hormones in the body. There are more than variations of anabolic steroids.

Why do doctors prescribe steroids?

The most powerful androgen is testosterone pronounced: tess-TOSS-tuh-rone. Although testosterone is mainly a mature male hormone, girls' steroids produce smaller amounts. Testosterone helps build muscle and promotes the masculine traits that guys develop during puberty, such as deepening of the voice and growth of body hair. Testosterone levels can also affect how aggressive a person is. For the most part, steroidal supplements, negative used to be found at health food stores or gyms, are now illegal and require a prescription.

DHEA is one of the few exceptions and can still be bought over the counter. Steroid supplements are weaker effects of androgen.

Are anabolic steroids prohibited in sports?

Their effects aren't well known, but it's thought that, when taken in large doses, they cause effects similar to other androgens like testosterone. But research studies suggest that they do very little or nothing to improve athletic performance.

Here's what is known about steroidal supplements: Companies that make them often use false claims, and very little is known about the long-term effects some of these substances have on the body. That's one reason why the government took action to protect citizens by passing laws controlling steroid distribution. Anabolic steroids stimulate muscle tissue to grow and "bulk up" in response to training by mimicking the effect of naturally produced testosterone on the body. Anabolic steroids can remain in the body anywhere from a couple of days to about a year.

Steroids have become popular because they may improve endurance, strength, and muscle mass. However, research has not shown that steroids improve skill, agility, or athletic performance.

Anabolic steroids cause many different types of problems. Some of the common side effects are:. Steroids can also have serious psychological side effects. Some users may become aggressive or combative, believe things that aren't true delusionsor have extreme feelings of mistrust or fear paranoia.

And people who use steroids also appear to be at higher risk for using other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine, often to counteract some of the negative effects of steroids. Steroid users who inject the drugs with a needle are at risk for infection with HIV human immunodeficiency virusthe virus that causes AIDS, if they share needles with other users.

People who use dirty needles are also at risk for contracting hepatitisa liver disease, or bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Some people "cycle" their steroid doses.

This means they take multiple doses of steroids over a period of time, stop for a period, then start up again. Other steroid effects may "pyramid" their steroids, starting with a low dose and gradually increasing the dose, frequency, or of anabolic steroids taken, then tapering off to complete a cycle. Users believe that steroid enhances the effects of negative individual drug, pyramiding allows the body to get used to high doses of steroids, and steroid-free periods help the body recuperate from the drugs. There is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims.

A lot of people tell themselves they'll only use steroids for a season or a school year. Unfortunately, steroids can be addictive, making it hard to stop taking them.

Are anabolic steroids illegal?

And once users stop taking steroids, they can have withdrawal symptoms such as loss of appetite, tiredness, restlessness, insomnia, mood swings, and depression. Anabolic steroid use is illegal and banned by professional sports organizations and medical associations. In spite of this, some athletes continue to take steroids because they think it gives them a competitive advantage. As seen in high-profile cases, if an athlete is caught using steroids, his or her career can be destroyed. And there are serious health consequences.

When it comes right down to it, harming your body or getting disqualified aren't smart ways to try to improve your athletic performance. Being a star athlete means working hard and training the healthy way: eating the right foodspracticing, and strength training without the use of drugs. Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD. Larger text size Large text size Regular text size.