Androgenic-anabolic steroids are man-made drugs whose actions mimic those of the natural male hormone testosterone. These steroids have two main effects: masculinizing (androgenic) effects and tissue building (anabolic) effects. They are designed to affect the growth of the male reproductive system, growth of body hair, and deepening of the voice and to stimulate the development of bone, muscle and skin. Androgenic-anabolic steroids are used in medical treatment of asthma, arthritis, breast cancer, injuries, growth problems and chemotherapy. When used without the instructions of a doctor, however, they can cause long-term or irreversible problems. Another significant danger includes HIV infection if needles are shared.
The majority of steroid users tend to be young, male athletes, although steroid use is not limited to bodybuilders and football players alone. Increasing evidence shows that male and female athletes in endurance sports such as swimming, running and cycling use steroids. Adolescents may use them to quicken the onset of puberty and maturation, plus male and female models may take them to improve their body image.
Although users report increases in muscle mass, strength and endurance, athletic ability also depends on skill, mental alertness, diet, rest, cardiovascular health and genetic inheritance. The misuse of steroids may lead to health conditions such as liver tumors, jaundice, fluid retention, and high blood pressure. Males who use steroids improperly may experience shrinking testicles, low sperm counts, infertility, baldness and enlarged nipples. Females who use steroids improperly may report deepening of the voice, development of facial hair, menstrual irregularities, and irreversible male pattern baldness. Steroid misuse may also result in premature halting of bone growth in young people before they reach their full height, increased problems with acne, and psychological effects such as uncontrolled aggression and violent behavior called "roid rage", destructive (including suicidal) behavior, depression, paranoia, extreme, irritability and impaired judgment from feelings of invincibility.
Be aware of the following symptoms of steroid abuse:
Rapid weight gain and muscle development
Acne flare up
Jaundice (yellow tinge to eyes and skin)
Mood swings and depressed moods
Access more information on steroids from the Internet from the following sites:
A national multimedia public education initiative designed to alert the public to the dangers of anabolic steroids from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and several partners.
The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information's home page has information on steroids and other substances of abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has national statistics and the latest research findings available.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America has a drug database to help parents identify specific drugs, their effects, and drug paraphernalia.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has public education materials on health topics including steroids.