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It’s Not All Strength: The negative effects of steroid use

Doing “Whatever It Takes” can come with a major price to pay. Whether you’re trying to get stronger, lose weight or get in shape, resorting to a drug—when it’s not prescribed—can get you to where you want physically, but at what cost?

Although highly effective when wanting to get stronger, more pumped, and defined, anabolic steroids not only come with various negative side effects, some irreversible, but can even be as addictive as any drug, leading you on a spiral that can take over your life.

What are steroids?

Medically speaking, steroids already are inside of you—occurring naturally within the body (of humans and of animals).

However, when synthetically produced and consumed or injected, steroids can come in various different forms, from corticosteroids to androgenic steroids, from anti-inflammatory steroids to anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids are the ones that are commonly used by bodybuilders and weightlifters and have been on the market of this industry since the late 50s. Since then, the use of this steroid athletically in competitions has been banned, however, it hasn’t been put out of use.

Athletes and bodybuilders around the world turn to anabolic androgenic steroids, which are mimicked off the testosterone structure—the main reason why you’ll see some of the side effects present in women—which will be mentioned later in the article.

The word “anabolic” stands for “tissue building and muscle development”, which is the part of the drug that will get you that pump. The word “androgenic” means “male production”. That is the part of the drug that will deepen the voice and increase the appearance of body hair (again, keep on reading for a list of effects).

Although the use of steroids is culturally shunned or comes with a negative connotation, there are a few ways that steroids can be used legally.

Legal Uses of Steroids

When a patient is suffering from a certain instance, steroids can be prescribed by a medical professional.

Some of the illnesses that may be treated with steroids are:

  • Testosterone deficiency
  • Anemia
  • Breast cancer
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Muscle-wasting conditions

If you haven’t been prescribed to use steroids, then you are most likely using them illegally. Be aware that there are more ways than one to use and abuse steroids.

Using Steroids: Methods

There are two different ways that someone can consume steroids. A person can either inject them directly into the muscles or take them orally through tablet-form. Taking steroids through injections comes with a risk on its own—a person can contract or transmit diseases like AIDS, HIV or hepatitis.

When taken illegally, there are three ways that a person can use and abuse steroids:

  • Pyramiding: This means you slowly increase the amount the dose of the frequency.
  • Stacking: This means when you are using two or more different types of steroids.
  • Cycling: As if in a cycle, you are taking steroids regularly, stopping, and then starting up again.

However, no matter how you take steroids, you may have to deal with the side effects. The side effects can look different from user to user, depending on various factors.

Factors Contributing to Negative Effects

Certain characteristics play a part in how the steroids will then affect you physically and psychologically. Unfortunately, some of these side effects are long-term—as in irreversible—while others are just short-term effects.

Here are some characteristics that can make a difference:

  • Your size
  • Your gender
  • How you eat (your diet)
  • Your activity level
  • Your age
  • Your health-status
  • Frequency of usage
  • The dose of steroid
  • Whether taken orally or by injection

All of these factors can determine whether or not you’ll suffer from certain side effects.

“Positive” side effects include muscle growth and increase in stamina. However, there are many “negative” side effects associated with the drug.

The Negative Effects

Depending on your gender and age, the side effects may differ. Although it can affect you both mentally and physically, let’s focus on the physical side of it first:

How it can affect men:

  • Hair loss
  • Increase in aggressiveness
  • Decrease in testicle size
  • Increase in prostate size
  • Impotence and infertility
  • Beginning development of breast tissue

How it can affect women:

  • Hair growth (abnormal for a woman—on face and other areas)
  • Deeper voice
  • Hair loss (on head)
  • Decrease in breast size
  • Issues with menstrual cycle
  • Increase in clitoris size
  • Infertility

How it can affect both men and women:

  • Increase or appearance of acne
  • May experience bloating
  • May experience jaundice
  • Issues with heart, from abnormal heart rhythms to high blood pressure to a heart attack, even with the young and healthy
  • Increase in LDL levels
  • Increase risk of diabetes
  • Issues with kidney
  • Gain permanent liver damage or appearance of liver tumors
  • Failing immune function

How it can affect teenagers or even children:

  • Growth can be stunted (in all aspects of the word)
  • Height can be stunted

As mentioned earlier, steroids can also have psychological effects—just as much as it can have physical side effects.

Not only can steroids invoke depression, paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis in those who already have a history of mental medical issues, it can even create psychological problems in people who posed no prior mental issues before taking steroids.

These side effects, already harmful to one’s self, hold an even greater impact because they also affect others. These effects can take a toll on a person’s relationship with family, friends, and loved ones.

Some of the emotional side effects related to steroids are:

  • Depression, which can lead to suicide attempt
  • Anger
  • Impaired judgment
  • Over-competitiveness and aggression
  • Extreme irritability
  • Violent mood swings
  • Frustration

What Next?

Whether you or someone you know has been taking steroids without a medical prescription and have shown signs of addiction or side effects, there is help.

As with any other situation, if a person cannot be woken up, you should call an ambulance immediately, telling the paramedics on site exactly what he or she has taken along with the steroids.

If you are looking for counselling, support, referral or help of any kind related to steroids, you can also contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) NSW all hours of the day at 1800 250 015.

You might come to find that behavioural therapy is a great go-to when seeking treatment for an addiction to steroids. Depending on your situation and the severity of your addiction, you also might be prescribed medication to help treat symptoms of withdrawal, like headaches, insomnia, cravings, depression, fatigue, and muscle pain, among others.

To recognise an addiction, it’s important to first recognise the side effects. Admitting that addiction will be the monumental role in getting help.

You can follow ICON’s fitness expert, Jono Castanoacero on instagram @jonocastanoacero