Anabolic Steroids - Drug Addiction

Many of us are familiar with anabolic steroids from reading or hearing about them in the media. They are a drug which is based upon the male hormone testosterone which is responsible for male characteristics such as muscle mass, increased stamina and the ability to recover quickly after exercise.

This makes them very popular with athletes and bodybuilders.

Anabolic steroids are usually taken orally or injected although there is a gel version which can be rubbed onto the skin.

What are ‘anabolic steroids?’ 

These are synthetic drugs, produced in laboratories which contain the same properties as the male hormone testosterone. In other words they are an artificially produced version of a hormone which naturally occurs in the body.

Testosterone is the hormone which is responsible for facial hair, deep voice, physical growth and muscular development in men. Women too have this hormone but only in tiny amounts.

Anabolic steroids have been used to treat anaemia, delayed puberty and muscle wasting conditions but their use is limited. But they have a far greater use in the bodybuilding community.

They are available only on prescription but people manage to obtain them illegally from bodybuilding gyms or online. 

There are several different types of anabolic steroids which are known by their following ‘trade’  names:

  • Anavar
  • Deca-Durabolin
  • Winstrol
  • Dianabol
  • Stanozolol

What do anabolic steroids look like?

Tablets and capsules: or a solution which can be injected.

How are they used?  

They are taken orally (tablets, capsules) or injected. There is also a gel or cream which can be rubbed into the skin.

Many people who take steroids use a regimented system which they claim is a tried and tested way of doing so. They argue that this increases the effects of these drugs but reduces the risk of any damage to the body.

They may use any of the following ‘systems’:

  • Stacking: using more than one type of steroid. Mixing together oral and injectable forms to boost their effect.
  • Pyramiding: start with a low dose and then gradually increasing this over a six or twelve week cycle. The idea is to get the body to gradually become accustomed to a high dosage.
  • Cycling: an ‘on off’ process in which drugs are taken for a period of time, stopped and then restarted. This is designed to enable hormone levels to return to normal during the ‘drug-free’ phase.

What is its street name?

Anabolic steroids are either referred to by their trade names, e.g. Dianabol or as ‘gear’ or ‘roids’. 

Who uses anabolic steroids

They are used by bodybuilders, athletes and other sportspeople who see them as a means of building muscle and improving their performance in competition.

There are also people who use them in spite of not having a sports background because they wish to build muscle as a means of self-defence. These include nightclub bouncers and security guards.

There has been recently the emergence of a condition called ‘athletica nervosa’ which tends to affect teenage boys and young men. This condition is characterised by an obsession with body image and extreme workouts in order to achieve perfection. This can include using anabolic steroids as a means of attaining a physical ideal.

This is more of a problem for young men but anabolic steroids are taken by women as well, for example female bodybuilders and athletes. But there is a group of women using testosterone for reasons which are nothing to do with muscles or athletic performance.

These women use steroids to become more confident, assertive (or aggressive) and basically, as a way of getting ahead in the workplace. They view this as a necessary way of getting to the top in a male dominated world.

How much do anabolic steroids cost?

Prices for these do vary according to the location. As a general guide you might pay £20 for 100 tablets.

What are the effects of anabolic steroids?

Athletes and bodybuilders claim that when taken in combination with a high protein diet and strict training, steroids enable them to build bigger muscles. They also argue that they enable them to train at a higher intensity and to recover more quickly following a workout. Other effects include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Increased libido/sex drive
  • Aggressiveness
  • Increased energy
  • More decisive
  • Increase in lean muscle mass and decrease in body fat
  • Increase in strength and stamina
  • Euphoria (in some cases only)

High doses of steroids can lead to aggression, violent outbursts (known as ‘roid rage’), mania and paranoia. Other effects include nausea, stomach irritation and fluid retention.

Is it easy to become addicted to anabolic steroids?

It is possible to become dependent to the effect that you don’t want to lose the changes in your physique or the ability to train hard and recover quickly.

It appears to be more of a case that users don’t want to lose the ‘benefits’ of steroid use -  increased muscle mass etc rather than any physical/mental addiction.

But there are withdrawal symptoms connected to steroids which include mood swings, depression, insomnia and tiredness. This causes the user to take more steroids.

What are the risks of anabolic steroids?

Steroid use can result in long term damage to your health and in some cases this can be fatal. There are side effects of steroid use which disappear when someone stops taking them but there are other effects which are permanent.

These risks include:

  • Acne and/or oily cysts on the skin
  • Thinning of the hair
  • High blood pressure which can lead to a stroke or heart attack
  • Paranoia and an inability to sleep
  • Stunted growth (in adolescents)
  • Risk of infection, damaged veins or ulcers from shared needles.
  • Shrunken testicles, breast development (gynaecomastia), erection problems and risk of prostate cancer in men. Lowered sex drive and reduced sperm output.
  • ‘Masculinisation’ in women which includes thickened skin, growth of facial hair, deeper voice, prominent jawline, menstrual irregularities, smaller breasts and an enlarged clitoris.

People who take steroids find that they are prone to aggressive behaviour and violence - even if before taking steroids they were peaceful or mild mannered. This can happen in both sexes and is known as ‘roid rage’.

What is important to bear in mind is that not all of these effects are reversible once someone stops taking steroids. In many cases their condition will return to its pre-steroid state but other effects will stay with them for the rest of their life.

Anabolic steroids are a Class C drug. This means that they are legal if prescribed for veterinary or medical use but not if they are obtained with a means to supply others.


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