Body Over Mind

Anabolic steroid abuse—when your performance and appearance become more important than your health.

Maybe you’ve heard it called Juice, Gear, Roids, or Stackers. Anabolic-androgenic steroids go by various code names. A synthetic version of testosterone (the male sex hormone), anabolic steroids are illegally abused by athletes and bodybuilders in an effort to improve performance or physical appearance. Anabolic-androgenic steroids may also be rightfully prescribed by doctors for a patient dealing with hormonal problems such as delayed puberty or diseases that cause a person to lose muscle like AIDS or cancer.

Before risking your health or career by taking steroids, know these facts.

The Draw

The main reason people take steroids is to improve their game by running faster, jumping higher, or throwing farther. Others abuse steroids as they try to build their muscles or decrease their amount of body fat. People in this category often have a distorted body image (in many cases due to past physical or sexual abuse) that leads them to think they’re scrawny or overweight when they really aren’t.

The Method

Steroids can be purchased online or from individual distributors. Some you take by mouth, others are injected directly into the muscle, and some come in cream or gel form that is rubbed on the skin.

When taken for muscle or performance enhancement, 10 to 100 times the medically prescribed amount is often taken. In a misguided effort to avoid some of the drug’s dangerous side effects and maximize its effects, abusers may cycle the drug by taking it, stopping, and starting it up again. Some stack the drug by taking more than one type of steroid at a time. And others pyramid steroids by slowly taking more of the drug until they reach a point, then gradually lessening the amount until they’re off.

I had good years when I took steroids, and I had bad years when I took steroids. But no matter what, I shouldn’t have done it, and for that I am truly sorry. – Mark McGwire

The Risk

Anabolic steroids are illegal to the general public for a reason. Unlike other abused drugs, steroids don’t cause a “high,” but they can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when stopped. When taken without medical reason or guidance, they can cause both short- and long-term negative side effects.

For starters, steroids mess with your brain. It’s common for someone on anabolic steroids to become extremely irritable, angry, moody, violent, paranoid, and unreasonably jealous. He or she may also seem delusional, have strange ideas or beliefs, and make unwise decisions while on the drug.

Physical short-term symptoms may include horrible acne or swelling in the hands and feet. And when it comes to long-term health effects from anabolic steroid use, people may deal with liver damage, kidney problems, high blood pressure, enlarged heart, and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke, regardless of age. Additionally, taking the drug by injection puts you at risk for hepatitis or HIV/AIDS.

Men who abuse anabolic steroids may have to deal with premature baldness, enlarged breast tissue, shrinking testicles, low sperm count, and a greater chance of prostate cancer.

When women are over-exposed to synthetic testosterone, they may begin to grow a mustache or beard, lose their hair, develop a deeper voice, or have changes in their menstrual cycle.

Taken during the teen years, anabolic steroids can stunt normal growth that lasts a lifetime.

The Remedy

People who’ve made the mistake of taking anabolic steroids can find help with behavioral therapy from a trained professional. Medications are also available to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and reset a person’s hormonal system.

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