Androgenic anabolic steroids were first created in the late 1930’s by the Germans, and were tested on dogs and later on soldiers. The Germans used them to keep prisoners alive who were dying due to malnutrition and to make their soldiers more aggressive during battle. After the war, doctors in Europe and the U.S. used steroids to treat anemia, malnutrition, and to help patients recover faster from surgery. Two decades later, Dr. Zeigler found that testosterone was the key ingredient in these steroids and soon they were out on the market and readily available. In the well-documented case of the 1976 Olympics, the East German women’s swim team set records and swept the competition. It was later discovered that the team’s doctor and the head of the East German sports federation had given them anabolic steroids which lead to their many unfair victories. Steroids are commonly used in medical practice, curing such things as allergic reaction and arthritis, but also more serous illnesses like some types of cancer. Steroids are also obvious quick fixes for hormone deficiencies or abnormal production, and to imitate stimulation of muscle building androgens (Dempsey 443). They are most often used to replace testosterone in ill-functioning or non-existent testes. The controversial uses today are commonly seen when teens as well as adults (both men and women) use steroids, which are now illegal in the United States, to “bulk up” and/or to achieve better performance in whatever sport they may play. They assist in healing muscles faster, reducing the amount of down time the athlete will need and increasing the amount of time that can be spent at the gym.
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Weight lifters, body builders, and athletes who feel that they need an extra edge to compete above and beyond their competitors commonly use anabolic steroids. They want to be bigger, stronger, work out longer/more often and enhance their athletic performance (Yesalis/Cowart, 40). Approximately ј million prescriptions were written in 2001, and surely many more than that were doses which were handed out illegally (August, 13). High school males are the prime abusers of this drug with around 12 percent admitting to have used them by the time they were seniors (Belliner 48).
Females cannot be written out of the equation though they only make up a minute part of it. One percent of high school seniors say the have taken steroids in the past year; this amounts to about 175,000 student athletes. Professional athletes, especially baseball and football players, are well-known steroid users. Steve Courson, a now avid speaker against the use of anabolics, once took a great part in the steroid: “Courson was a man of legendary strength; he dominated the NFL Strongest Man competitions from 1980 to 1982 and once bench pressed 605 pounds. He believes steroids gave him an edge in developing strength and power.” (Yesalis 15) Angel Meyers was a swimmer in the 1976 Olympic Games and is the only person from the U.S. to test positive while competing. She broke world records that year and after she was found guilty, those records were revoked and she spent one year and four months suspended from any Olympic participation. Androgenic anabolic steroids have been illegal in the United States for almost 25 years. They are however, legal in many European countries as well as Mexico. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently reported that individuals from Russia, Romania, and Greece frequently smuggle steroids into the U.S. from their countries. Consequences for possession of this drug vary from 4 years of jail time, probation and a $1000 fine, depending on the state in which the offense took place.
Many athletes, especially younger ones, overlook the fact that steroids have enormous negative effects, some which can be life threatening. Some short term effects can be reversed such as shrunken testicles in men, severe acne, trembling, breast development in men and facial hair growth in women. Long-term effects which are irreversible include jaundice, liver tumors, strokes, and heart failure. Most commonly found in steroid abusers are liver and heart diseases which are potentially life-threatening. Though no hard evidence exists that steroids cause stroke and/or heart attacks, there is wide suspicion by doctors worldwide. Liver diseases such as jaundice and tumors are also very common. Women who take anabolics slightly heighten their risk of developing breast cancer, loss of hair on their head, and enlargement of the clitoris. These symptoms are usually irreversible. Women also experience the same permanent and temporary effects as men. Anabolics also cause psychological effects due to steroid receptors in the brain that control mood and judgment if the steroids are administered in large regular doses. These side effects include aggression, over competitiveness, and even violence. Dependence on this drug from frequent and high dosage causes depression, insomnia, loss of appetite, as well as decreased sex drive and other symptoms.
Although the dangers of prolonged or even short-term use of anabolic steroids are greatly publicized and evident, athletes continue using them. They do this because they believe that the results are better than the side effects. It gives them an extra push, more endurance, and allows them to spend more time improving on their performance due to the athletes, they simply like the increased muscle mass and decreased body fat that they experience in a shorter amount of time. An ironic aspect of this is that many steroid users refuse to take any illegal drugs fearing failing health or that they will jeopardize their athletic performance. Other reasons for steroid use have been for individuals’ protection. There have been reports of physical or sexual abuse in their childhood years, and some use steroids to “make sure” that that will never happen to them again. Many women weightlifters who have been reaped say that being bigger will either intimidate men or make them unattractive.
In the United States, there is not much going on to sop the use of steroids by athletes or any others. On March 1, 1991, the United States Congress issued the Federal Anabolic Control Act, which made all anabolic steroids a Schedule III controlled substance. The use of this substance is considered as drug use because the amounts taken for muscle growth or athletic performance far exceed that taken for medical purposes. However, there is not much emphasis put on the distribution and/or abuse of these drugs. More is put on marijuana and such substances which have fewer side effects and less serious risks. One thing commonly thought to prevent use of steroids is the obviously surprise drug tests on athletes. This method is practically ineffective according to Dr. Yesalis: “Drug tests catch only stupid, careless and foolish people.” (Kindred 1) Serious athletes can test negative on these test by knowing a few simple tricks such as, taking the pills with a masking agent, flushing out his system within a couple of days of taking the pills, using human growth hormone, or insulin-like growth factor I which don’t have test for, or taking undetectable potions by a famous designer (Kindred 2). Other steps have been taken to educate people by a program called Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids. The program consists of a group of educational sitting that include information about steroids as well as nutrition and weight training. ATLAS uses an approach of education rather than saying how bad they are. This is more appealing to many people and is proven to work in most cases to lessen interest in the use of anabolics. A team-centered approach to ATLAS has shown to reduce new steroid abuse by 50 percent (NIDA 2). Although these are great resources and educational tools, they provide only bases to the fight to prevent the spread of usage of steroids.
More needs to be done if prevention is truly an issue to the people of this country. Though it is burdened with such serous side effects and widespread use, it seems almost unheard of to for someone to be arrested for taking steroids. It is quite overlooked by law enforcement and this is causing many unnecessary deaths relating to the consumption of these brutal products.
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Anabolic steroids are drugs containing, or hormone-like substances, that are used to increase strength and promote muscle growth. They were first developed in the 1930s in Europe to treat undernourished patients and to promote healing after surgery. Competitive weightlifters began using steroids in the 1950s as a way to increase their athletic performance. Use gradually spread throughout the world among athletes in other has been estimated that at least one in 15 male high school seniors in the United States--more than a half-million boys--has used steroids. Some are athletes attempting to increase their strength and size; others are simply youths attempting to speed up their growth to keep pace with their peers. In some countries, anabolic steroids are available over the counter. In the United States, a doctor's prescription is necessary.
While the effects of steroids can seem desirable at first, there are serious side effects. Excessive use can cause a harmful imbalance in the body's normal hormonal balance and body chemistry. Heart attacks, water retention leading to high blood pressure and stroke, and liver and kidney tumors all are possible. Young people may develop and a halting of bone growth. Males may experience shrinking testicles, falling sperm counts, and enlarged prostates. Women frequently show signs of masculinity and may be at higher risk for certain types of and the possibility of birth defects in their children. The psychological effects of steroid use are also alarming: drastic mood swings, inability to sleep, and feelings of hostility. Steroids may also be psychologically addictive. Once started, users, particularly athletes, enjoy the physical "benefits" of increased size, strength, and endurance so much that they are reluctant to stop even when told about the risks. Major athletic competitions, including the Olympics, routinely screen athletes to prevent steroid use.
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Although steroids can have a very positive effect in medicine, it is widely misused by athletes and young men trying to enhance their physical appearance. The bottom line is that the abuse of steroids is not to be taken lightly, and that the physical side effects associated with the abuse of steroids is very serious. Athletes and young men should search for alternative ways to supplement their physical appearance, and or performance.