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Types of Steroids: Androgenic, Cortico, Anabolic - Side Effects of Steroids

Anabolic steroid is a class of steroid hormones related to the hormone testosterone. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the buildup of cellular tissue especially in muscles.

Steroids

The term ‘steroid’ is applied to a group of naturally occurring or synthetic fat-soluble organic compounds (lipids), whose structure is chemically based on a steroid nucleus - a hydrogenated cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene ring system (seventeen carbon atoms arranged in four rings). Many hormones, body constituents and drugs are steroids. All the corticosteroid hormones of the adrenal cortex (glucocorticoids or mineralocorticoids), all the sex hormones (sex hormones are found in higher quantities in one sex than in the other; male sex hormones are androgens, which include testosterone; female sex hormones are estrogens and progesterone), all vitamins of the Vitamin D group (calciferol), the bile acids (ursodeoxycholic acid and analogues), cardiac aglycones, sterols like cholesterol, toad poison, saponins, some carcinogenic hydrocarbons, some corticosteroid drugs like prednisone are all steroids. Synthetic chemical analogues of many of the naturally occurring steroids are vital in medicine. Both natural and synthetic steroids are used to treat many disorders and play a vital role in the normal functioning of the body.

Types of Steroids

Steroidal drugs may be of three types – anabolic, androgenic and cortico steroids. Anabolic steroids are chemically derived from testosterone. Many attempts were made to separate the anabolic effects of the hormones from their androgenic effects, but with little success. Thus anabolic compounds may cause androgenic side effects, especially when used for extended periods.

Androgenic Steroids

Anabolic effects are seen as the growth or thickening of the body’s non-reproductive tract tissues including the skeletal muscles, bones, the larynx and vocal chords and a decrease in body fat. Androgenic steroid effects are seen in the growth of the male reproductive tract and the development of male secondary sexual characteristics. Medically, anabolic steroids were given for osteoporosis in women but it not recommended nowadays. They can also be used to treat the vascular manifestations of Behçet’s disease, for hereditary angioedema, to treat aplastic anemia and to reduce the itching of chronic biliary obstruction.

Cortico Steroids

Cortico steroid is a generic name for the group of hormones that have a Cortisone-like action. They are man-made steroids that mimic the activity of cortisone. Cortisone is produced naturally in the body and is involved in regulating inflammation, thus dealing with injury. Thus corticosteroids are not the same as anabolic steroids. Corticosteroids are used in the treatment of many diseases like asthma, eczema, allergies, arthritis, colitis and kidney disease.

Anabolic Steroids

The large muscle mass of males is because of the nitrogen-retaining effects of androgen. They may have a property of protein building and when taken lead to an increase in muscle bulk and strength. The term ‘anabolic’ is derived from a Greek word that means to ‘build up’. Though the proper term is ‘ anabolic-androgenic’ steroids, anabolic steroids is most familiar to people. Street names: roids, juice, Arnolds,hype, weight trainers, gym candy, or pumpers.

Anabolic steroids were developed in the late 1930s to treat hypogonadism. Hypogonadism is a condition in which the testes do not produce sufficient testosterone for normal growth, development and sexual functioning. The primary medical uses of anabolic steroids are to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV-infection or other diseases. Around the same time, scientists discovered that these compounds could facilitate the growth of skeletal muscles in laboratory animals, which led to their use first by bodybuilders and weightlifters, then by athletes in other sports.

While anabolic steroids are illegal without a prescription, steroidal supplements can be bought over-the-counter legally. Such supplements are more commonly called dietary supplements, though they are not food products. Steroidal supplements contain dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and/or androstenedione – street name ‘andro’. If large quantities of steroidal supplements substantially increase testosterone levels in the body, they might most likely produce the same side effects as anabolic steroids. It is important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate these substances. Hence, they are not held to the same strict standards as drugs.

Effects of Steroids

Medically, anabolic steroids may be used for many purpose, including:

  • Stimulating protein anabolism in debilitating illness and in acute renal failure
  • Promoting growth in children with pituitary dwarfism and other growth disorders
  • The retention of nitrogen and calcium may benefit patients with Osteoporosis and patients receiving corticosteroid therapy
  • May stimulate bone marrow function in hypoplastic anaemia

However, when abused, anabolic steroids can have serious side effects. Athletes and body builders aiming to improve their strength, stamina, speed or body size have always abused them. Steroids appear to work by decreasing the amount of time necessary for recovering between bouts of exercise. Because of this, trainees can exercise more often, or more intensely, without overwhelming the body’s ability to adapt, or over-training.

Over a period of time, the gland that is responsible for the natural production and release of the hormone atrophies in steroid users. This is because their abundant presence in the bloodstream sends signals to various organs and tissues, just like the hormones. Glands also become weak if not used, just like our muscles.

Side Effects of Steroids

Some side effects of steroids (anabolic) are irreversible and they may not be noticed until it is too late.

  • Hormonal system
    • Men
      1. Infertility
      2. Breast development
      3. Shrinking of the testicles
    • Women
      1. Enlargement of the clitoris
      2. Excessive growth of body hair
    • Both sexes
      1. Male-pattern baldness

  • Musculoskeletal system
    • Short stature
    • Tendon rupture

  • Cardiovascular system
    • Heart attacks
    • Enlargement of the heart’s left ventricle

  • Liver
    • Cancer
    • Peliosis hepatis

  • Skin
    • Acne and cysts
    • Oily scalp

  • Infection
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Hepatitis

  • Psychiatric effects
    • Homicidal rage
    • Mania
    • Delusions
Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Steroids in Sport

Athletes take steroids to push their bodies past their limits. Athletes, young or old, professional or amateur, always look to gain an advantage over their opponents. Taking steroids gives them an edge, increasing muscle mass and body strength.

Steroid use is most commonly seen in:
  • Football or baseball players, wrestlers – players of sports that depend on strength and size
  • Track and field athletes and swimmers – those who need endurance
  • Bodybuilders
  • Any person interested in building and developing their muscles

It is important to understand that using steroids does not increase skill, agility and performance. These are determined by many factors, including genetics, body size, age, sex, diet, and how hard the athlete trains.

Anabolic steroids are not legal in organized sports. Most professional and amateur sports organizations and medical associations ban anabolic steroids. Athletes who test positive for steroids will be suspended or disqualified and may lose their chance to compete in their sport. Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants slugger is the latest sports celebrity involved in the federal probe of steroids used in baseball.

Other reasons for steroid abuse

Many buy steroids on the black market without a doctor’s prescription. One reason people give for taking steroids is to increase their muscle size and / or reduce body fat. This group includes people who have muscle dysmorphia, a behavioral syndrome in which people have distorted images of their bodies. Sometimes, people who have experienced physical or sexual abuse take steroids to boost muscle size. Adolescents abuse steroids as a part of a pattern of high-risk behaviors. Despite these commonly cited reasons, researchers agree that most steroid abusers do not have psychological problems when they start abusing the drugs.

Commonly abused steroids
  • Oral steroids
  • Anadrol (oxymetholone)
  • Oxandrin (oxandrolone)
  • Dianabol (methandrostenolone)
  • Winstrol (stanozolol)
  • Injectable steroids
  • Deca-Durabolin (nandrolone decanoate)
  • Durabolin (nandrolone phenpropionate)
  • Depo-Testosterone (testosterone cypionate)
  • Equipoise (boldenone undecyclenate)

 


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