Anabolic steroid is widely used by teenagers and professional athletes to beef up their muscles and enhance physical strength. However, a new Swedish study concluded that such performance-enhancing drug can have certain effect in the user’s mental health later in life.
Researchers from the University of Gothenberg studied a group of former Swedish athletes to look for links between anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) use and mental problems. Of the nearly 700 wrestlers, weightlifters, powerlifters and throwers who competed at the elite level sometime between 1960 and 1979, 20 percent admitted using steroids during their active careers.
The researchers found that athletes who have used steroids were more likely to have been treated for depression, concentration problems, and aggressive behaviour. AAS users were also considered high-risk users other banned substances.
“What we were able to show, though, is that psychiatric symptoms and use of steroids and other drugs tend to reinforce each other in a vicious cycle,” Claudia Fahlke, director at CERA, said in a news release. “This suggests that the anti-doping efforts remain very important, both in and outside of sports.”
The study was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
A recent survey by The Gallup Organization found that even though many American adults think steroid abuse has some negative side effects, only a few actually consider it as a big problem among high school students. This finding shows an obvious disconnect between what Americans know about steroids and the public’s view of it as a problem among teenagers in general.
At this point, you’ve probably heard enough on why athletes use steroids or about the short- and long-term effects of anabolic steroids. So is there anything else you might still be missing?
Read on and find out.
Fact # 1: Anabolic steroid use affects fat distribution in the body
It’s common knowledge that bodybuilders often resort to anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to bulk up, but a Swedish study found that doing so could lead to dangerous fat distribution in the body. According to the researchers at Lulea University of Technology and Umea University, weight lifters who actively use anabolic steroids have more dangerous fat distribution in their body which raises their chances of suffering from strokes and heart attacks. The study involved ten elite lifters and the finding was published in the 2012 edition of The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.
Fact # 2: Anabolic steroid use may cause severe kidney injury
It’s true that anabolic steroids can help you gain muscle mass and strength, but this doesn’t come without damaging your kidney. A 2009 research published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology revealed that habitual use of anabolic steroids has harmful effects on the kidney that were not previously recognized. But the good news is, there’s still a good chance that such kidney abnormalities can be improved by quitting steroids use.
Fact # 3: Steroid use are increasing among females and non-athletes
Gone are the days when steroids are only used by men and females who want to gain competitive advantage in sports. In fact, teen girls were found to be the fastest growing group of new steroids users. A 2003 national survey of more than 7,000 female high school students found that 5.3 percent of 9th to 12th graders had used steroids for non-medical reasons. Many of these girls were not even athletes. Experts said that girls who use steroids are also at greater risk of engaging in other problematic behaviors, such as attempting suicide, teenage pregnancy, and use of other illegal substances.
Fact # 4: Teens use steroids to look physically appealing
A lot of teens are heavily influenced by what they see from movie stars and the desire to achieve similar adoration from other people. Add to that is the presence of social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, wherein posting pictures have become a favorite pastime. Any teen would feel a heightened sense of confidence when their friends tell them they’re looking great. So to address their body image issues, some teens would go the easy route which is using steroids.
Fact # 5: It takes less than 5 seconds to find steroids for sale on the Internet
Obtaining steroids has become very easy with the Internet around. Teens just type in a few steroid-related keywords and they can access dozens of sites that sell steroids. An infographics on Taylor Hooton Foundation showed that it only takes 1 second for a student to locate steroids for sale online, with 40 percent of the high school seniors admitting it’s so easy to obtain the drug nowadays.
Justin Bieber first caught media attention back in 2008 as this cute, very talented singing sensation that could easily sweep many girls off their feet. His voice and smooth moves earned him fame and fortune any teenager could only envy. But attached to such popularity is the need to maintain the adorable looks that many fans have come to love him.
Barely 20, Bieber now sports wider chest, remarkable shoulders, toned biceps, and great abs. Somehow, observers can’t help but wonder if he’s into steroids use, especially considering the erratic and more aggressive behaviors he has been displaying lately.
According to Celebrity Health & Fitness, Bieber has been inspired by the gains Taylor Lautner made to bulk up for his role as werewolf Jacob Black in the “Twilight” movie saga. In fact, so inspired that he sought Lautner’s trainer to help him achieve similar gains.
Even though Beiber maintained religiously “working out in the gym” and despite the lack of admission that he was into steroids, his Instagram photos and recent display of aggressions have become media fancy.
It can be remembered that Beiber was kicked out of a nightclub on his 19th birthday; kept his fans in London waiting for nearly two hours before he appeared on stage; collapsed on stage at another London show; fought with photographers and cancelled a show in Portugal. Most recently, he allegedly screamed at and spit on his neighbor when he was confronted for reckless driving, the article notes.
Steroids use is nothing new in the entertainment industry, as much as it is widely used in professional sports. After all, music and movie celebrities are always expected to look good for their fans.
In addition to enhancing muscles, steroids are known to cause aggressive acts, mood disturbances, and poor decision-making. Other symptoms of steroid abuse include depression, muscle cramps, aching joints, and insomnia. It could also increase one’s risk to cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and certain cancer.
We all know that performance-enhancing drugs are widely used by many professional sports figures and high school student athletes who want to gain competitive advantage in their sports. We also know that men aren’t the only ones who are using them, but also women who want to achieve a sinewy look or an improved physical strength for whatever purpose. However, it appears that not many of us are fully aware of the adverse side effects of using those drugs as much we know of the nice things they can do to the user’s body.
Here are three of the most widely used performance-enhancing drugs and the risks they can bring to the user’s health.
This is probably the most popular performance-enhancing drugs among athletes and teens. They are used to increase muscle mass and strength. Although they have approved medical uses, they are not recommended to boost athletic performance. Still, many athletes are using them as the easiest and fastest way of bulking up.
In men, the negative side effects of anabolic steroids include baldness, shrunken testicles, infertility, impotence, and prominent breasts. In women, the effects include developing deeper voice, enlarged clitoris, increased body hair, irregular periods, and baldness. Men and women who are into anabolic steroids are also at risk of severe acne, liver abnormalities and tumor, high blood pressure, drug dependence, depression, aggressive behaviors, and infectious diseases like HIV (usually acquired through drug injections).
Human Growth Hormone
This performance-enhancing drug is known to produce anabolic effect. Athletes use them to enhance muscle mass and performance. The drug can be obtained only by prescription and is administered by injection. Although it allows tired muscles to recover quicker, thereby allowing an athlete to train harder, it doesn’t guarantee better performance. Among the side effects of the drug include joint pain, muscle weakness, fluid retention, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol level, and impaired sugar regulation. In addition, it could enlarge liver and kidneys which may lead to more serious health problems.
Although commonly used to treat anemia in people with severe kidney disease, this drug is widely used by endurance athletes because of its effect on red blood cell production which gives athletes noticeable endurance boost. The procedure for EPO use, however, carry greater health risk in the sense that it increases the user’s risk for stroke, heart attack and pulmonary edema. Athletes who are blood doping are also more likely to experience seizures and hypertension. EPO injection must carried out with extreme caution, as the blood can be difficult to store and administer.
We know that the use of performance-enhancing drugs, like anabolic steroids, is common in both boys and girls. Still, the issue remains more dominant in boys given how active they are in sports and other activities that require physical efforts.
But when researchers from the University of Minnesota looked into data of nearly 3,000 surveyed adolescents at 20 urban middle and high schools, they found that females were not far behind from their male counterparts in terms of steroids use and muscle-enhancing behavior
According to the findings of “Muscle-Enhancing Behaviors Among Adolescent Girls and Boys,” 62 percent of girls reported changed eating habits to increase muscle size or tone. About 21 percent reported using protein powders or shakes, 4.6 percent admitted using steroids, and 5.5 percent reported using other muscle-enhancing substances. These figures are higher than what has been reported in previous research.
Among boys, more than two-thirds reported changing their eating habits to increase enhance muscle size or improve muscle tone, 34.7 percent reported using protein powders or shakes, 5.9 percent reporting using steroids, and 10.5 percent using some other muscle-enhancing substance.
Almost 12 percent of boys and 6.2 percent of girls reported using 3 or more of the behaviors examined for the study.
“We were not expecting to see rates as high as we did among girls, since this is typically thought of as a boy’s issue,” lead author Marla E. Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H. Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, said in a news release. “Our findings show society needs to reshape how we think of body image concerns.”
Eisenberg added that media images of women — which combine slenderness with a toned, firm and muscular look — could be a driving force in women’s attitude over the use of performance-enhancing substances and behavior. Only that, this hasn’t been emphasized in past research.
“Parents, pediatricians and other health care providers need to be aware that these behaviors are happening, and even if a teen looks muscular and healthy, he or she may still be participating in unhealthy behavior to achieve the ‘perfect’ body,” Eisenberg added. “Adults should start talking to teens about muscle-enhancing behavior as they would any other harmful behavior.”
In the medical field, anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS), or more commonly known as anabolic steroid, is useful in treating conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as delayed puberty, as well as diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS. But in sports, the drug is widely used to enhance performance and/or improve physical appearance.
Over the last 20 years, a string of reports have indicated that a growing number of non-athletes are also abusing anabolic steroids to beef up their bodies. What these people might be missing is that, prolonged use of the drug may severely impact their visuospatial memory, according to a new study published online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Researchers from McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School investigated 44 individuals, aged 29-55, with 31 having used AAS for an average of seven years, the Science Daily reports. Each participant was asked to complete five cognitive tests that assessed a wide range of brain functions, including memory for shapes and locations of objects, memory for lists of words, reaction time, ability to maintain attention, and speed of information processing.
The researchers found that long-term AAS users have poor score than nonusers on a test called “Pattern Recognition Memory,” where participants are asked to try to remember a collection of patterns that they have been presented on a computer screen.
“Our work clearly shows that while some areas of brain function appear to be unaffected by the use of AAS, users performed significantly worse on the visuospatial tests that were administered. Those deficits directly corresponded to their length of use of anabolic-androgenic steroids,” explained McLean Hospital Research Psychiatrist Harrison Pope, MD. “Impaired visuospatial memory means that a person might have difficulty, for example, in remembering how to find a location, such as an address on a street or a room in a building.”
Pope and colleagues are not sure whether extended use of AAS could result to cognitive defects, but they are hoping that their findings would lead to larger studies and increased awareness regarding the possible dangers of anabolic steroids abuse.