Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the naturally occurring male sex hormone, testosterone. Like all other illegal drugs, their use is highly restricted both because they are dangerous and because they pose a significant risk for addiction. But there are important differences between anabolic steroid abuse and the abuse of other illegal substances, such as cocaine and heroin.
Anabolic steroids differ from other drugs in several notable ways:
- Their mechanism of action is different
- They do not cause intoxication or intense feelings of euphoria, and they rarely cause acute health problems that result from the user’s sudden cessation of dosage.
- Most significantly, because anabolic steroids lack the powerful addiction liability of other illegal drugs, there is no risk of psychological or physical withdrawal symptoms when users stop steroid use.
- Anabolic steroids are not as dangerous as most illegal drugs and they can be used safely under a doctor’s supervision.
Now that you’ve read about how anabolic steroids differ from other drugs, let’s read more about it.
- Mechanism of action different: The mechanism of action for anabolic steroids is to stimulate cells in the body tissues that are responsible for the production of specific proteins. Anabolic steroids are not chemicals that mimic natural neurotransmitters, which are substances released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells.
- Intoxication and intense euphoria: As mentioned above, abuse of anabolic steroids does not cause intoxication or intense feelings of euphoria. This is a significant difference from other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin that have been found to be very addictive.
- Withdrawal symptoms: When users stop taking anabolic steroids they do not experience the intense psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms associated with cessation of most drugs of abuse.
- Dangerousness: The risk for addiction from anabolic steroid use is not as great as with most other illegal chemicals that have been studied, mainly because the dose needed to achieve a level of toxicity or euphoria has a greater potential to harm the person taking it. Despite this, as with other drugs of abuse, people who take anabolic steroids without medical supervision are putting themselves at risk for adverse effects.
- Other names: Anabolic steroids have many street names. A few of the most common ones include roids and gear.
- Toxicity: Although the lethal dose of steroids is much higher than most other drugs, when taken in large doses anabolic steroids can cause acne, cysts, oily skin and hair, increased aggression, high blood pressure and kidney damage.
- Potency: Anabolic steroids are 5 to 100 times more potent than testosterone naturally produced by the body.
- Effective dose: There is a very small margin of safety between the effective dose and the toxic dose. This means that anabolic steroids are potentially dangerous when used without medical supervision.
- Duration of action: Anabolic steroids are in effect for three to five days after administration, instead of a few hours with other drugs.
- Route of administration: Anabolic steroids are normally injected deep into a muscle, instead of being smoked or snorted like cocaine and heroin.
Are Anabolic Steroids Addictive?
Yes, like other drugs of abuse anabolic steroids are not only addictive but also dangerous.
NIDA reports that people who take dangerously large doses may get hooked on the drug and display withdrawal symptoms when their steroid use is stopped. Addiction to anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, some of which are irreversible. These include impotence, male pattern baldness and breast development (in men).
How do Anabolic Steroids Work?
Anabolic steroids mimic naturally occurring substances in the body called anabolic hormones which stimulate cells to make proteins needed for the development of tissues. It is these hormones that cause boys to go through puberty such as the growth of facial hair and deepening of the voice.
People who take anabolic steroids to build muscles are seeking a drug that does what natural hormones do but is better and faster. The synthetic version of testosterone available is not natural, it is chemically altered to have more desirable effects on muscle building. It works by helping your body restore its normal production of testosterone which decreases with age or as a result of injury.
How much do steroids cost? How much does it cost to take steroids?
The price of anabolic steroids varies depending on the location and type of gym or supplement store. They are usually sold in pill form but can also be bought as injections for more serious users looking to bulk up quickly. The average cost of anabolic steroids is about $20 for one month’s supply. The price can range from as little as $5 to as much as $100 per month depending upon the cycle, dose and type of steroid.
Costs may be higher for oral steroids than injectables, research has shown that people who use injectable steroids tend to do so more often and in higher doses than people who take oral steroids.
Is it safe to use anabolic steroids? Are there any side effects?
Yes, if steroid abuse is done under medical supervision and for the exact reasons that they are prescribed, such as replacement of testosterone in men or women past reproductive age or stunted growth due to childhood illness. But, even with supervision steroid abuse is not without risk.
People who use anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes are exposing themselves to possible harm. For example, people who inject anabolic steroids run the risk of contracting or transmitting blood-borne infectious diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
What are “pro-hormones” and why are they sometimes referred to as steroids?
Pro-hormones are precursor chemicals that the body converts to anabolic steroids in much the same way that it converts cholesterol into sex hormones. An example of a pro-hormone is androstenedione, sold legally in supplement stores as andro.
The word steroid itself has become synonymous with any substance or product introduced to enhance athletic performance.
What are the different types of steroids? Are they safe?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of natural hormones that cause greater muscle development. The term anabolic refers to muscle building and androgenic is linked with increased male sexual characteristics. Other hormones can also have anabolic effects, for example, growth hormone, insulin, thyroid hormone and erythropoietin. The presence of steroids in sports has caused particular concern.
What are the effects of steroids?
Steroids can have both short term and long term side effects. Most people who take anabolic steroids do so illegally, without medical supervision or advice as to potentially harmful consequences. As a result, the exact kinds and extent of damage are difficult to measure. The majority of research on steroid use is based on people who abuse steroids rather than those who take them as prescribed by a medical professional, so the effects in healthy athletes may be somewhat different.
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Short term side effects include acne, oily skin, excessive hair growth and deepening of the voice for women. Male-pattern baldness, shrinking of the testicles and breast development also may occur. The long term side effects of steroids can be permanent. Some of these include heart disease, kidney failure, liver tumours and blood clots.