What are anabolic steroids?

The term “anabolic steroids” refers to testosterone derivatives that are used either clinically or by athletes for their anabolic properties.

Anabolic steroids, or rather anabolic androgenic steroids or SAA, are substances manufactured close to the male sex hormone testosterone secreted in the testicles. They were discovered in the 1930s and were quickly used to improve the performance of athletes. They produce two different categories of effects.

– Androgenic effects: accentuation of male secondary sexual characteristics with increased hair growth, an increase in the size of the vocal cords, libido.

– Anabolic effects: they increase the muscle mass and decrease the fat mass.

Types of anabolic steroids

All steroids that are anabolic are derivatives of testosterone and are androgenic as well as anabolic, as they stimulate growth and function of male reproductive tract. Individual drugs vary in their balance of anabolic: androgen activity but none of the currently available drugs are purely anabolic. 

All the anabolic steroids currently used are derivatives of testosterone or are structural modifications of testosterone that influence its pharmacokinetics, bioavailability, or balance of androgenic to anabolic activity. 

There are a large number of anabolic steroids used illegally, the most commonly used nowadays are Testosterone, Stanozolol, Metandienone, Nandrolone and Oxandrolol – the substances are injected or taken orally.

  • Testosterone:  testosterone cypionate, propionate, enanthate, and undecanoate. Esterification at this site renders the steroid more fat soluble and delays absorption into the circulation. All but the undecanoate must be injected.
  • Mesterolone, nortestosterone, methenolone, methandrostenolone, northandrolone, danazol, nandrolone, stanozol: These derivatives resist metabolism in the liver, so are orally active. This modification is associated with significant hepatic toxicities.

Athletes can take steroids for a while, stop and resume use several times a year. This process is called cycle dosing. Athletes often use several steroids at the same time (a practice called cumulative dosage), by different routes (oral, injection or patch). They can also increase the dose in cycles (called pyramidal dosage). This method can give rise to high doses. Cycle, cumulative and pyramidal assays are intended to improve the desired effects and minimize adverse effects, but little evidence supports these benefits.

Legal Anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids are taken illegally to increase lean muscle mass and muscle strength; As a result, new products, legal substitutes for anabolic steroids, have recently been developed. These healthier alternatives, composed mainly of natural ingredients, make it possible to obtain such results without taking any risk for health. 

Because of the health dangers of steroids, new anabolic products, which are much less dangerous and contain no chemical substances, have appeared on the market. The best known manufacturer to date is Crazy Bulk, an American online site offering food supplements developed only for sportsmen. Their original formulas will indeed facilitate mass gain, fat loss and improving physical stamina.

Each of the products marketed is after having passed rigorous clinical tests. This allows in particular having evidence of their effectiveness. But also and above all to make sure that they do not present any risk of side effects. Or contraindications with other medical treatments.

anabolic steroids

Risk inherent of anabolic steroids

Anabolic steroids have many and varied side effects, some of which are irreversible, including: behavioral / psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular problems, liver and kidney function disorders, impaired sexual function and fertility in women, and men, skin problems, endocrine system disorders, increased risk of developing cancer, and others.

Chronic use of steroids increases 4.6 times the risk of death among people who use them compared to people who do not use them.

The danger resulting from the method of use: The way in which anabolic steroids are taken for bodybuilding and improving athletic performance exposes addicts to the side effects listed above, because of the concentrated use of several types of products simultaneously. Even the cyclic use of a drug is dangerous – taking the drug continuously and daily, followed by a pause and then again, taking the drug continuously and even in the form of “piling” – Consumption of a variety of products simultaneously, while each of the products includes a different active duration, puts the addict in danger.

The unrecognized quality of steroids: The products may be counterfeited, and come from manufacturers who do not ensure adequate conditions for the production of drugs. Therefore, these products may contain harmful substances, bacterial infections and have a wide variety of different doses. In addition, illegal anabolic steroids are drugs that are not registered with the Ministry of Health, and whose safety has never been tested; therefore, those who consume them actually take products that could potentially be dangerous to their health.

Absence of medical supervision: Substances are not administered under any medical supervision, and therefore people using these products are exposed to high doses without supervision. 

Psychological effects of anabolic steroids

The most characteristic sign is a rapid increase in muscle mass. The rate and extent of the increase are directly related to the doses taken. Patients who take physiological doses have slow and often imperceptible growth; taking mega doses can increase lean weight by several kilograms per month. There is also an increase in energy and libido (in humans), but it is more difficult to highlight.

Psychological effects (usually present only at very high doses) are often reported by the family:

  • Large and irregular mood swings
  • Irrational behavior
  • Increased aggression (“cold fury”)
  • Irritability
  • Increased libido
  • Depression

An increase in acne is common in both sexes; libido can increase or, more rarely, decrease; aggression and appetite may increase. Gynecomastia, testicular atrophy and decreased fertility can be seen in humans. Some virility effects (eg, alopecia, clitoral hypertrophy, hirsutism, more severe voices) are common in women. In addition, breast size may decrease; the vaginal mucosa may atrophy; and menstruation can change or stop. Virilization and gynecomastia can be irreversible.

Side long term effects of anabolic steroids

The following list details some of the most common steroids as well as their most notorious side effects; they are categorized below from the most dangerous to the lightest.

  • Oxymetholone, Fluoxymeterone – very toxic to the liver
  • Nandrolone – very acute inhibition of testosterone, damage to blood vessels
  • Danabol, Stanozolol (oral) – toxic to the liver, testosterone inhibition
  • Enanthate / Testosterone Propionate, Trenbolone – Testosterone Inhibition
  • Boldenone, methenolone – slight inhibition of testosterone
  • Oxandrolone – very slight inhibition of testosterone
  • Inhibition of testosterone

Inhibition of testosterone, in other words a decreased production of testosterone, will sooner or later affect any consumer of steroids.

This is caused by a mechanism called reverse reaction inhibition: the production of any hormone whose release is regulated by the hypothalamus (and this includes testosterone) is inhibited if the body detects high levels of this hormone (or similar substance) in the body. Inhibition of testosterone results in reduced testicular size, loss of libido, mood swings, and other symptoms associated with low levels of testosterone.

  • Damage to the liver

Anabolic steroids sold as tablets have generally been chemically altered, so that their active substance passes through the liver without being broken down or degraded.

This chemical alteration is called 17-alpha alkylation. 17-alpha alkyl steroids are still toxic to the liver and this toxicity depends on the dose administered.

In fact, many other widespread substances cause liver damage, depending on the doses: analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, statins, contraceptive pills and the list is not exhaustive. The problem with AAS is that they are consumed at much too high doses.

The most common sign of liver problems is an increase in liver enzymes. A high level of enzymes is always a sign of disease, a signal that something is happening at this vital organ. Inflammation or even necrosis of the liver is to be considered.

  • Cardiovascular complications

Cardiovascular disease (heart disease and / or blood vessel disease) is often cited as one of the side effects associated with SAA. The negative impact that some anabolic steroids can have on high density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL is actually the “good” cholesterol and it seems that steroids lower levels of this substance in the body, thus affecting the overall lipidic landscape.

Anabolic steroids can also cause high blood pressure, at least for some users. High blood pressure is very often associated with heart disease.