When you think of steroids, what comes to mind? Probably the first thing is some of the most iconic bodybuilders of the 80s and 90s. You would most definitely be correct, but they are the example of extreme misuse of many performance enhancing drugs.
The other 99% of steroid users look like they might even be natural, and only take the drug for aesthetics. The question that has been highly debated over the past few decades is whether the positives outweigh the negatives. For high value athletes in an environment where being natural might mean falling behind and subsequently kicked out of their respective sports, they have a much better excuse compared to most who have no reason besides wanting to look better. In this article I will be explaining:
☐ How steroids work
☐ When they should be used
☐ The pros and cons of illegal steroid use
What Exactly Are Steroids?
Properly known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, steroids are the main way to synthetically increasing testosterone in the human body to much higher levels than it could ever reach naturally (or normalizing low testosterone levels). Anabolic is another way of saying the state of muscle growth, something we do without steroids to a much smaller degree naturally. Androgenic traits are all of the male traits that become more prominent in both men and women following steroid use such as hair loss on the scalp (but hair growth everywhere else on the body), deepened voice and other male features.
A legal way many men increase their testosterone levels is known as TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) and shouldn’t be confused with steroids. Usually prescribed by a doctor, TRT’s main purpose is to bring a male’s testosterone levels back to a normal range, which is between 250-1000.
Anabolic steroids can bring test levels up to anywhere from 2000 to 5000. Easily explaining how they are able to add close to 20 pounds of muscle in less than a few months’ time. The science behind how steroids and testosterone work starts in the body cholesterol, where it is derived. Testosterone enters a cell and switches on muscle protein synthesis. When the body is overloaded with testosterone in the form of anabolic steroids, muscle protein synthesis is increased anywhere from 10 to 100 times, increasing muscle growth, decreasing recovery time, prioritizing the creation of new muscle and strength, as well as making it very easy to retain and gain muscle while losing body fat.
In the medical field, steroids are not only legal, but extremely important for those with certain disorders and diseases. Children who are born with hormonal issues and can’t reach/complete puberty are given low dose testosterone to kick start the process and are discontinued when they reach maturity. Many diseases that cause muscle loss such as AIDS and cancer are treated with steroids, as studies have shown those who take steroids and don’t exercise actually gain more muscle than those who train without steroids. Inflammation can be healed by steroids as well (while athletes use them for this reason to recover from injuries and post workout soreness faster). Conditions such as vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels), lupus (an autoimmune disease), and most types of arthritis can be treated by low dose steroids.
Are Steroids Worth The Risk?
When taken at low doses there are very few side effects associated with treatment, it’s only when steroids are abused and taken at extremely high doses that negatives become common. Not many studies are done on humans which involve high dose steroids, meaning most of the information we know is either by user experience or uncontrolled studies. Most of the common side effects are well documented and include:
✗ Severe face and body acne
✗ Hair loss (on the scalp)
✗ Increased risk of liver/kidney/heart disease
✗ Exaggerated emotions including rage and depression
✗ Increased LDL (the bad cholesterol) and lowered HDL (the good cholesterol)
✗ High blood pressure
✗ Gynecomastia (the development of breasts in men)
✗ Azoospermia (impotence)
✗ Inconsistent/nonexistent periods (in women)
✗ Development of body hair, all over the body (in men and women)
✗ Risk of hepatitis, HIV and other diseases through dirty needles
It’s important to mention here, besides when specified, all of these side effects can happen to men and women. And this list is only for anabolic steroids, many different negatives can occur when steroids are combined with other types of illegal enhancements such as Trenbolone, Oxandrolone, Dianabol, Erythropoietin and more (this is known as stacking and is becoming more popular every year). Most try to avoid side effects by cycling their drugs on and off every few months, so they do not do permanent damage to testosterone levels and appearance. Unfortunately it would only take a single few month cycle to impair fertility in men, deepen the voice of women, and cause irreversible damage to vital organs (especially if a prior underlying condition exists).
Of course every individual reacts differently to performance enhancing drugs, some might be able to use a very high dose year round and not see any problems, while others might take one cycle and drop dead from a stroke. The risk exists in the unknown, shown in the example of one controversial individual known as Zyzz, who was one of the first famous internet bodybuilders.
He claimed to be natural, until photos of him injecting something into himself surfaced online. He seemed to be completely healthy until one day he was found unconscious from cardiac arrest in a sauna, and died shortly after. The important message to take away from Zyzz was that he wasn’t a massive 260 pound bodybuilder we would see on the Olympia stage. He was in his early twenties, was no heavier than 180 pounds and was most likely on moderate dose steroids. If he could die suddenly with no prior side effects or warning on moderate dose steroids, most if not all steroid users could suffer the same fate.
Take Home Message
The point of this article wasn’t to scare anybody away from steroids and just tell you not to do them. That is the way most articles on the dangers of steroids approach things. The purpose of this article was to inform you about what could happen if you aren’t careful. The only group of people that should even consider taking any kind of performance enhancing drugs are adults who have reached their genetic peak and have nowhere to go.
Athletes have too much on the line when risking the performance enhancement, even though it is undoubtedly the most useful for them. The outcast and backlash that comes from professional athletes juicing is almost always being stripped of any achievements they have received, a breach of contract meaning no more income, disapproval from fans and possibly the end of a career.
Anybody who is not yet at their genetic limit or still in their teen years can be permanently damaged by steroids extremely easily, effectively shutting down their production of testosterone for their entire life. The elderly also are extremely likely to be damaged by steroids, by putting incredible unnecessary strain on their kidneys and liver (and could eventually shut them down entirely).
The last negative most don’t talk about when discussing the negatives of steroids is their cost. Pure testosterone and nothing else can run you close to $500 a month if you get high quality, anything less would most likely be cut (mixed) with useless fillers. Steroids are no different than any other supplements, if the price is too good to be true it probably is. Reports of individuals who bought their steroids online for $250 a month (still a big chunk of money), had a mix of nothing but peanut oil and water. Other spend upwards of $1500 a month when stacking multiple drugs.
At the end of the day, most know what they are risking when taking steroids, but believe the benefits outweigh the risk because serious health conditions only happen to those who aren’t careful (strange logic). I am not going to interject my opinion here as I will leave it up to you to decide whether the side effects, backlash and price is something you’re willing to put on the line to change your body. I gave you the knowledge, and I hope you put it to good use.