This sample health essay will explore prolonged steroid usage and its effects on the body, as well as the dangers, risks, benefits, and medical usage of steroids. Though there is a variety of both anecdotal and scientific evidence available on this subject, it still remains a popular subject for debate and argumentative essay assignments.
Background on steroids
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a division of the National Institute for Health in the United States, anabolic steroids is the common name for male sex hormone testosterone’s synthetic variants. Also known as performance-enhancing drugs, anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) is their proper name, and anabolic means “muscle-building” while androgenic means “increasing male sexual characteristics” (NIDA).
Not all anabolic steroids are illegal in all settings; for instance, they can treat steroid hormones deficiency conditions such as delayed puberty, cancer, and AIDS/HIV treatments which cause loss of muscle mass (NIDA). The trouble comes when athletes or bodybuilders use anabolic steroids as a performance enhancer or in order to approve physical appearance, a process known as “doping” (NIDA).
We know that using these steroids is unnatural and not a good thing for our bodies in general, but what precisely do they do to the human body over a prolonged period of time? Steroids have been shown to negatively affect the brain, cause addiction by reinforcement, impair kidney, liver, and heart function, cause high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack at a young age, and increase acne markedly, among other side effects (NIDA).
The most popular conception of steroid use is a mental picture of narcissistic athletes injecting the drug into their muscles. In truth, it is often taken orally or applied as a cream or a get directly to the skin, where is absorbs into the body to do its work (NIDA). The usual amounts taken in steroid abuse may be ten to 100 times the generally safe medical dosages prescribed by doctors (NIDA).
Steroids are not usually taken continuously, but intermittently, in order to keep unwanted side effects at bay and give the body a chance to recuperate from their use (NIDA). Increased use of steroids can increase the body’s tolerance so that it takes more of the drug to produce the same effect; this may be part of the human body telling users that it does not want the drug (NIDA).
In some cases, steroid use may cause the body to stop producing its own testosterone; “cycling” or breaks in steroid use are often performed in order to reduce these effects (NIDA). “Stacking” is the combination of different types of steroids and non-steroidal supplements in order to make them the most effective for an athlete or bodybuilder (NIDA).
Mechanics of legal steroids
Although some of the more familiar addictive behavior people show toward highly addictive drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol are not present in steroid addiction, and they do not provide the “high” associated with these drugs, people have been shown to pursue steroid use at the expense of their physical bodies and social relationships, indicating that steroids are indeed addictive (NIDA; Caron).
In studies, animals self-administered steroids when given the chance, which is in line with studies of other addictive drugs; people do this, as well (NIDA). Steroids are not cheap, and addicts will spend increasing amounts of time and money procuring them; this is another addiction indication (NIDA). Withdrawal symptoms are also a part of steroid use:
- Mood swings
- Reduced sex drive
- Loss of appetite
- Eating disorders
- Steroid cravings
Steroid abuse is linked to extreme depression, as well, which may result in suicide attempts at times; also abusers may turn to other types of drugs such as opioids in order to balance out the side effects of steroids (NIDA).
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Steroid’s impact on the brain
It is important to note that, while steroids do not affect the brain like many other abused drugs (there are no hallucinations, highs, or body highs), they can still be classified as addictive (NIDA). Steroids do not trigger neurotransmitter release of dopamine, which increases feelings of pleasure in other drug abuse situations (NIDA).
Long-term anabolic steroid use can hurt normal brain development by blocking necessary pathways and chemicals, however; these include dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems – over time, then, steroids can have significant behavior and mood effects on the user (NIDA).Steroid abuse often leads to aggression and psychiatric issues in the user, and reports indicate that manic-like symptoms, extreme mood swings, and extreme anger leading to violence (known colloquially as “roid rage”) are not uncommon (NIDA).
Steroid abuse often leads to aggression and psychiatric issues in the user, and reports indicate that manic-like symptoms, extreme mood swings, and extreme anger leading to violence (known colloquially as “roid rage”) are not uncommon (NIDA).
In addition, paranoid delusions, extreme jealousy, irritability, and impaired judgment leading to unwarranted feelings of invincibility have been reported (NIDA). These strong emotional reactions may be driven by the same feelings of inadequacy that first started users on the path of anabolic steroid use, and should not be underestimated, especially in adolescent users (NIDA).
Steroid usage in men, women, and teens
Steroids in men often cause testicular atrophy, or shrinkage of the testicles; reduced sperm count and even infertility; gynecomastia (development of breasts); baldness; and an increased risk for prostate cancer (NIDA). In women, steroids can increase the growth of facial hair; cause male-pattern baldness; enlargement of the clitoris; a deepened voice; and cessation or changes in the menstrual cycle (NIDA).
In adolescents, steroid use may stunt growth because of accelerated puberty changes and premature skeletal maturation for which the body is not yet ready (NIDA). Injection of steroids can also lead to an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (NIDA).
In men, women, and adolescents, severe acne, increased tendinitis risk, liver abnormalities or tumors, increased “bad” and “good” cholesterol, heart and circulatory system issues, rage and violence, psychiatric disorders, drug dependence, injection-related infections and diseases, and inhibited growth development may occur (Mayo Clinic).
Designer and experimental steroids
Designer steroids have been designed by drug manufacturers to be undetectable in current drug testing forums, and are made only for athletes with no approved medical use at all (Mayo Clinic). Since these drugs to not go the same route as other approved steroids in the Food and Drug Administration, they may have unknown or potentially extremely dangerous or debilitating effects on athletes, particularly young athletes (Mayo Clinic).
In researching the effect of high doses of anabolic steroids, researchers are unable to give study participants large doses of the drugs because it is unethical – therefore the side effects and problems associated with these drugs is not well-studied. In other words, we don’t know how these drugs ultimately affect people, and that lack of knowledge makes them dangerous for illicit users (Mayo Clinic).
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Biography. “Athletes Involved in Drug Scandals.” Biography. Bio, 2015. Web. 19 November 2015.
Caron. “Overcoming Steroid Addiction is Possible.” Caron. Caron Treatment Centers, 2015. Web. 19 November 2015.
Marteski, Steve. “Diuretics in Bodybuilding: The Good, the Bad, the Tragic.” ALLMAX Nutrition. ALLMAX Nutrition Inc., 2015. Web. 19 November 2015.
Mayo Clinic. “Performance-enhancing Drugs: Know the Risks.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2015. Web. 19 November 2015.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “DrugFacts: Anabolic Steroids.” NIH. NIH, 2015. Web. 18 November 2015.
United States Anti-doping Agency. “About.” USADA. USADA, 2014. Web. 18 November 2015.
Wilson, Jacque. “Lance Armstrong’s Doping Drugs.” CNN. Cable News Network, 2013. Web. 19 November 2015.