By definition, steroids are chemical compounds manufactured synthetically to have the same effect as the naturally-occurring hormones – like cortisol, which the adrenal glands produce, and testosterone, which is normally present in both males and females – have on the body.
Naturally, cortisol is produced to maintain healthy cells, tissues and organs in the body. When synthetic hormones like steroids are introduced into the bloodstream via oral intake or intravenous methods, several biological good and bad effects can be observed. Like anything taken in excess, steroidal misuse or abuse – especially the types that mimic the male hormone testosterone – leads to numerous physiological consequences.
What are different types and uses of steroids?
As mentioned above, steroids can be can be of two main classifications: the cortisol-like type (or corticosteroids) and the testosterone-like type (or anabolic-androgenic steroids or AAS).
Corticosteroids can be further categorized into glucocorticosteroids and minerocorticosteroids, the previous having anti-inflammatory properties which are best for suppressing swelling, rashes, asthma or bronchitis, and the latter which are used for water-salt regulation in the body. Doctors mostly prescribe these kinds of steroids to people with these medical conditions, and not for muscle-building or performance-enhancing purposes.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids or AAS, on the other hand, are used to increase mass and bulk because it mainly resembles the hormone testosterone.
It is this type of supplement that is easily misused or abused by typical individuals, bodybuilders and athletes alike. If corticosteroids are synthesized for medical maintenance, AAS have a stigmatized usage for increasing muscular appearance and peak performance.
Why are steroids generally bad?
In order to understand why steroids like AAS are generally bad for health when taken in excessive dosages, one must know the overarching effects of the use of enhancements to one’s body and take necessary precautions in all aspects like dosage, frequency of intake, and type of steroids used.
These chemicals, once introduced in the body, have very powerful primary and side effects, and it is the side effects that need to be taken into serious consideration. AAS affects individuals of different age and sex differently.
The physical manifestations of AAS in men include developing breasts, getting painful erections, shrinking testicles, lowered sperm count, and infertility or impotency.
Women, on the other hand, see male-like physical characteristics developing in their bodies such as growth of facial or body hair, deeper voices, irregular menstrual periods, enlarged clitoris, and reduced breast size.
Both men and women taking AAS in excess can get acne, have oily scalp and skin, experience hair loss, have an enlarged heart, develop risks of liver disease or cancer, have high levels of bad cholesterol, experience mood swings or rages, and may even suffer delusions or hallucinations.
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When taken by adolescents, some teenagers show stunted growth or short height. Young girls can also suffer from long-term masculine characteristics when taking AAS. On top of these obvious effects, the mode of introducing AAS into the body can also increase the risk of acquiring HIV or hepatitis infection if unsterile or used syringes are involved.
Which steroids are safe and legal to use?
Steroids are safe when (1) their use delivers minimum to no side effects AND (2) are legal because access to them requires a prescription.
Legal steroids refer to natural supplements that deliver the same results as anabolic-androgenic steroids but WITHOUT the negative side effects mention above. In some countries like Australia, dispense of steroids without a prescription can result to fines from $1,000 to $250,000 plus imprisonment.
There is a growing list of natural and legal steroids out there like Anadrol, Trenbolone and Dianabol and other prohormone alternatives, to name a few.
As with any health improvement endeavors, bodybuilders, athletes and health enthusiasts are always presented with many options in order for them to meet their fitness goals.
Deciding to use hormone supplements is a choice that needs serious thought, in-depth research and careful planning. Knowing that there are safer, effective steroidal alternatives in the market is the first big step to getting ahead of the game.