The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 0.5% of 8th graders, 1.0% of 10th graders, and 1.5% of 12th graders had abused anabolic steroids at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. While the numbers are relatively small compared to other substances of abuse, it is important to know about these dangerous substances and the potential consequences of using them.
Steroids are prescription drugs that are legally prescribed to treat a variety of medical conditions that cause loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer and AIDS.Most anabolic steroids are synthetic substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. They are taken orally or are injected. Testosterone not only brings out male sexual traits, it also causes muscles to grow. ("Anabolic" means growing or building.) Some people, especially athletes, abuse anabolic steroids to build muscle and enhance performance. Abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, some of which are irreversible. They can cause changes in the brain and body that increase risks for illness and they may affect moods.
Our body’s testosterone production is controlled by a group of nerve cells at the base of the brain, called the hypothalamus. It also helps control appetite, blood pressure, moods, and reproductive ability. Anabolic steroids can change the messages the hypothalamus sends to the body. This can disrupt normal hormone function.
Anabolic steroids are bad for the heart—they can increase fat deposits in blood vessels, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. They may also damage the liver. Major effects of steroid abuse can include jaundice, fluid retention and high blood pressure; Also, males risk shrinking of the testicles, lowered sperm count, baldness, breast development, and infertility. Females risk growth of facial hair, menstrual changes, male-pattern baldness, and deepened voice. Teens risk accelerated puberty changes and severe acne. Steroids can halt bone growth— which means that a teenage steroid user may not grow to his/her full adult height. All users, but particularly those who inject the drug, risk infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Scientists are still learning about how anabolic steroids affect the brain, and in turn, behavior. Research has shown that anabolic steroids may trigger aggressive behavior in some people. Some outbursts can be so severe they have become known in the media as “roid rages.” And when a steroid abuser stops using the drugs, they can become depressed, even suicidal. Researchers think that some of the changes in behavior may be caused by hormonal changes that are caused by steroids, but there is still a lot that is not known.Doctors never prescribe anabolic steroids for building muscle in young, healthy people. But doctors sometimes prescribe anabolic steroids to treat some types of anemia or disorders in men that prevent the normal production of testosterone.
Doctors sometimes prescribe steroids to reduce swelling. These aren’t anabolic steroids. They’re corticosteroids. Since corticosteroids don’t build muscles the way that anabolic steroids do, people don’t abuse them.