Don't consider taking steroids until you've swotted up with TheSite's guide.
What are anabolic steroids?
There are many different types of anabolic steroids, but all of them mimic the effects of testosterone to varying degrees. These days anabolic steroids aren't used much in medicine, but can be used occasionally to treat some forms of anaemia and AIDS-related wasting. Try not to confuse them with corticosteroids, which are used to help a number of medical conditions such as asthma and eczema. Some bodybuilders take anabolic steroids, as do some regular gym-goers, to increase the size of their muscles and because they believe the drugs can help increase their stamina and strength.
They often come in pill form, or as liquid which is injected into a muscle. Taking a number of different steroids (and other substances) at the same time is known as 'stacking'. Users stack because of the different effects different steroids are said to have, and they believe that taking two or more kinds will produce different effects.
What else are steroids known as?
Steroid slang is pretty straight forward, with 'roids' being the most popular alternative name. There are many different trade names; commonly used anabolic steroids include Sustanon, Dianabol, Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol.
What kind of effects do they have?
Some users claim steroids make them feel more aggressive and able to train harder.
- If combined with regular exercise and correct nutrition, they can help build up muscle. However, it's not certain steroids actually improve muscle power and athletic performance.
- Users also claim that steroids may also reduce the recovery time needed after heavy training.
And what are the risks?
Unwanted side effects associated with steroid use can include acne, irritability and aggressiveness ('roid rage'), accelerated hair loss and changes in sex drive.
- In women steroids have a masculinising effect and can cause growth of facial and body hair, baldness, voice deepening, shrinking breasts, enlargement of the clitoris and disruption of the menstrual cycle.
- For men the risks include erection problems, breast growth, shrinking testicles, reduced sperm levels and possible, if temporary, sterility. Some of these side-effects, such as breast growth, can be irreversible without surgery.
- Using steroids may also damage the heart, liver and kidneys.
- Young people taking steroids may find their growth stunted.
- Sharing needles, syringes or multi-dose vials places users at risk of infection from HIV and hepatitis.
- Bacterial infections are possible from contaminated drugs and poor hygiene practices whilst injecting.
Steroids and the law:
Steroids can only be obtained legally with a doctor's prescription from a pharmacist.
- Possession without prescription isn't illegal for personal use. Supplying steroids, even if you are just giving them to a friend, is against the law and carries up to 14 years imprisonment or an unlimited fine.
If you are planning on taking steroids:
Think about why you are intending to use. Can you achieve the gains you want through other mean? Have you discussed your training and nutrition with an experienced weight training instructor?
- Steroid users should be taking them in cycles of no more than 12 weeks at a time, with an 'off cycle' of about the same. Try and keep the length of your 'on cycle' down though, your body will thank you for taking time out to let it recover.
- Many steroids are counterfeit. Counterfeits can be very sophisticated, so there's almost no way of telling if drugs obtained through illegal channels are real or not. Hold it up to the light, counterfeits may be cloudy or contain bits. If in doubt, chuck them out.
- Always use sterile injecting equipment. Never share needles, syringes or vials. Never inject steroids into a vein - this has the potential to be fatal.
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