Aaron Henry was 13 years old when he started taking steroids.
He wanted to gain an edge in football. After four years of using steroids, Henry was 5'9" and weighed 210 pounds. He gained weight and power from taking steroids, but that is not all they gave him.
He experienced spells of vomiting, urinating blood, liver and kidney damage, ulceration over three-fourths of his stomach, a mild heart attack, and an aggressive personality.5 Henry was only aware of steroids' positive effects. He was unaware about their side effects and health risks.
Much of the public—just like Henry—is uninformed or wrongly informed about steroids. The media fails to show the negative aspects of using steroids. Because of this, many people think that steroids only have positive effects, but they fail to realize those using steroids can destroy their body and mind.
Who Uses Steroids?
The public is under the belief that taking steroids will automatically make the user become built and muscular, which is not so. While using steroids, the user must still exercise.
Some people also believe that the only way to achieve a muscular build is by using steroids, yet again, this is wrong. Many people who work hard achieve an excellent physique naturally.
Male bodybuilders and athletes make up most of the steroid users in the U.S.; female athletes and teenaged athletes use steroids as well.
One of the most famous steroid users is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger has held the title of Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia. He used steroids before the health risks were known and before they were illegal.
Another famous steroid user is Sergio Olivia. Olivia was also a bodybuilder and competed against Schwarzenegger. Both men no longer use steroids. They realized their health was more important then rapid muscle growth.
What Are Steroids?
The definition of steroids is, "man-made derivatives of testosterone, the male hormone. They synthesize protein and help promote muscle growth".4 Types of steroids include anabolic and growth hormones.
The definition of an anabolic steroid is, "Any drug or harmful substance, chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogen, progestins, and corticostoroids) that promotes muscle growth, any drug or hormonal substance that stimulates the endogenous production of steroids in the human body which acts in the same manner".2
Types of anabolic steroids include oral and intramuscular injection. Steroids taken orally have a half-life of several hours, while injected steroids have a half-life of several days.2 Steroids taken orally usually come on the form of a pill. It takes these water-soluble pills three to four weeks to clear the body.
The oil-based injections take six to eight months to leave the body.1 After steroids are taken, the steroid molecule bonds to cell receptor sites. Now the steroid molecule can increase protein synthesis, increase nitrogen retention, make metabolic changes, and increase size and strength of skeletal muscle cells.
These all lead to bigger and stronger muscles.2 Some names of popular steroids include Nelvar, Deca-Durabolin, Anavar, Winstrol, Stanozolol, Dianabol, and Anadrol-50.7 Steroids cost as much as 100 to 500 dollars per dosage. Some steroid users take more than one dosage a day.4
History of Steroids
Steroids have been used for years for medical treatment. They were developed in the 1930's to prevent the atrophy or break down, of muscle, in patients with debilitating illnesses. They were also given to patients who had been severely burned. The first non-medical use of steroids was during World War II.
Nazi doctors gave steroids to their soldiers in an attempt to make them more aggressive. The Soviet Union then decided to give steroids to their athletes. Once the U.S. learned the Soviet's secret, they also began giving steroids to their athletes, starting in the 1950's.
It was not until the 1960's that steroids side effects were first documented.8 In 1988, the U.S. passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. This year was called the "Year of Steroids" because so many Olympic athletes were caught using steroids.6
It was estimated that one to three million average Americans were using steroids at this time as well.8
Many serious side effects and health risks are involved with using steroids. Early symptoms of steroid abuse are, serious cystic acne, significant, sudden increases in body weight, headaches, dizziness, severe leg and abdominal cramping, and premature hair loss.1
The entire body is affected by steroid use. Health risks involving the cardiovascular system include, cholesterol modifications, heart disease, anaphylactic shock, high blood pressure, septic shock, and even death.
Effects to the reproductive system include, genital atrophy, genital swelling, sexual dysfunction, sterility, impotence, prostate enlargement, fetal damage, and menstrual irregularities. The liver and kidneys are under constant attack by steroids.
Effects to the liver include, cancer, jaundice, tumors, and Pelosis hepatitis. Damage to the kidneys includes, kidney stones, kidney disease, and kidney malfunctions. Taking steroids can also affect your skin. Acne, oily skin, rashes, purple or red spots on the body, hives, increased body hair, baldness, and increased facial hair in women.
Other side effects include edema bone pain, nausea, chills, diarrhea, insomnia, deepening of the voice, and changes in bowel and urinary habits.
Steroids can also affect the user psychologically. They can become depressed, aggressive, and very hostile.3,8 Some athletes are so aggressive that they have to use tranquilizes when not competing to cope with their hostility.5
Teens and Steroids
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that 12 percent of teenage boys and two and a half percent of teenage girls use steroids. This is disturbing because health risks and side effects are much more serious for teens than adults.
This is because a teenager's body is not fully developed, therefore their growth can be stunted and parts of the body will never have a chance to mature. The effects on women are even worse since androgens and testosterone are more foreign to their bodies than men's.2
A very serious issue is the fact that teens who use steroids for two to three months face dying in their 30's or 40's. Taking steroids is very tough on teens psychologically. Many teen steroid users have what is called, "Roid Mania." This includes wild aggression and delusions.8
The two main reasons why teens use steroids are, sports and looks. Teens feel if they take steroids, they can enhance their athletic ability and hopefully get them into college sports. Looks are very important to teens.
Greg Voigt, a nutrition store owner, comments, "Out of every 100 kids that come in here, 70 want to know what kind of effects steroids will have on their bodies. The other 30 just want them."1
Steroids seem to be a relatively easy way teens to enhance their appearance. They take steroids to help gain them popularity among peers.
Steroids And The Law
Steroids are considered a Schedule III Substance. A Schedule III Substance is a drug or other substance that is an accepted medical treatment in the United States, which when abused, can also lead to physical and psychological dependence. Other Schedule III substances are Amphetamines and Barbiturates.4
Using or possessing steroids can get a person into some very deep trouble. For simple possession of steroids the sentence is, up to one year in prison, and a minimum fine of 1,000 dollars. A person with a previous conviction of simple possession may receive, up to two years in prison and a minimum fine of 2,500 dollars.
Someone with two or more convictions of simple possession may receive 90 days to three years in prison and a minimum fine of 5,000 dollars. A person convicted of selling steroids faces up to five years in prison, a 250,000 dollar fine, and at least two years of supervised release.
A person convicted of selling steroids during this supervised release faces up to ten years in prison, increased fines, and an additional four years of parole.2 Under state law, any person using or under the influence of steroids faces jail terms of one to six years and fines up to 5,000 dollars.
These laws do not apply to emaciated patients that need to gain weight, children that need to gain weight, osteoporosis, and Anemia.1 The problem is, 99 percent of bodybuilders using steroids know how to mask it, therefore they are not caught.4
Quotes from Former Steroid Users
Greg Conigliaro, a former steroid user, faces serious health problems because of his steroid use. "I was destroyed as much mentally as I was physically," says Conigliaro. Some doctors try to agree that steroids are not addictive, but Conigliaro thinks otherwise.
"It's like being an alcoholic. It's a habit you have the rest of your life. I believe steroids are addictive, if not more, than any recreational drug that is out there."4 Because of his steroid use, Conigliaro had to get back surgery because of three ruptured disks, has heart problems, and has high blood pressure.4
Taking steroids put a real road block in Conigliaro's life. His experience shows that steroids are just as bad as any other drug out there. Steve Karr's, former steroid user, health was also damaged from taking steroids. Karr's liver and kidneys are damaged, he contracted jaundice, is short of breath, has pale skin, and is often nauseated.4
These effects came from a drug that is supposed to enhance your health. Steve Courson was an avid "steroid stacker", someone who uses more than one type of steroid at a time. He used 300 mg of Deca-Durabolin in two weeks, doctors only recommend 50-100 mg per month.
He also took 50 mg of Winstrol a day, a maximum of 6 mg is recommended. On top of that he took 50 mg of Anavar a day, the recommended dose is 5-10 mg.7 At first, Steve made quality gains. Now, he is in need of a heart donor.
The health risks surrounding steroids heavily out weigh the few benefits. Steroids are damaging physically and psychologically. Using steroids is even more dangerous for teens because their bodies have not fully matured. Teens also face dying in their 30's or 40's because of steroid use.
Steroids may seem to be the best and easiest way to enhance your body, but they only work for so long. Once the side effects start surfacing, the user will have trouble exercising or may not even be able to exercise. Therefore, everything that they have worked for will goes down the drain.
Since steroids are addictive, once the user stops taking them, their body will crave and need steroids to function. It will take time for the body to be able to function as it once did. It is healthier and more beneficial to train naturally. Produce similar results is possible with a proper diet and a regular exercise routine.
Many people have become successful bodybuilders and athletes while remaining natural. Working hard and putting the extra time and effort into accomplishing your goals so is much more rewarding than relying on illegal drugs for a "quick fix."
Disclaimer: Bodybuilding.com does not condone the use of steroids. The possession or sale of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is illegal. Dietary supplements sold by Bodybuilding.com are not prescription drugs. Rather, they are offered as safe alternatives for those looking to support exercise performance and general health. Please consult a physician if you are experiencing side effects from steroids.
- Cochran, Lee. "Broken Promises, Broken Lives." Argus Leader. 1 Sept. 1991 pp. 1B+
- Collins, Rick. Anabolic Steroids, Bodybuilding, and The Law. 1999-2000 www.steroidlaw.com
- Flax, Ellan. "Steroids: Few Demanding That High-School Athletes 'Just say no.'" Education Weekly.12 Oct. 1988. pp 1+
- Iole, Kevin. "Steroid Use Persists Despite Damning Truth." Las Vegas Review-Journal/Sun. 28 April 1991. pp. 1E+
- James, Michael. "Bulk Up, Up, and Away Go All Your Dreams. Even the Most Muscular Athlete Can't Win From a Hospital Bed." High School Sports. Feb. 1989. pp. 18-22
- Lukas, Scott E. The Drug Library: Steroids. Springfield: Enslon Publishers, Inc., 1994
- Nuwer, Hank. Steroids. New York: Franklin Watts, 1990
- Ribadeneira, Diego. "Steroid Revolution: Youngsters Increasingly Using The Drug Just to Look Good." Houston Chronicle. 6 Nov. 1988. pp. 1B+