Abuse of anabolic steroids in sport is not uncommon. Anabolics are used in almost all sports. There is data proving that in the Olympic sports only figure skating and female hockey on grass are free from anabolic steroids. As far as we know, the greatest prevalence of this phenomenon is in bodybuilding (in other sports, facts of anabolic steroid use are carefully hidden). According to the statistic, the frequency of anabolic steroid abuse was 18.8% among young competitive bodybuilders (G. Sepehri et al, 2009).
Anabolic steroid abuse in bodybuilding
The most common anabolic steroids in bodybuilding are testosterone, Dianabol (with methandrostenolone as an active agent), Winstrol (with stanozolol as an active agent), Deca Durabolin (with nandrolone as an active agent), and Trenbolone, among a few other meds. Steroids contribute to the rapid growth of muscle mass and the increasing of muscle strength. However, these effects are achieved only with the help of constant, competently organized trainings. Steroids feature neither a direct psychoactive effect nor a direct damage to the brain cells and central nervous system. However, they can cause some psychological dependence in case of long-lasting intake.
Causes of steroid abuse in bodybuilding
As a rule, steroids are used to improve the results in amateur and professional sports activities. A lot of people involved in bodybuilding also take them. These are most often young, impatient people who want to build muscles as quickly as possible, with a minimum physical load and for a short period of time. The incentives to take the drug are the following: their peers’ example, the inherent impatience of the age, and desire to quickly make the body athletic and attractive. The “philosophy” of professional bodybuilders is different: they take anabolic drugs as an obligatory component for maintaining good effect obtained as a result of workouts. Adopting this approach by young people with an unstable psyche can lead to a sharp shift in their worldview system where the significance of anabolic steroids for gaining athletic physique may be exaggerated.
Criteria & symptoms of anabolic steroid abuse
Scientists Geraline C. Lin and Lynda Erinoff identify the following criteria for drug abuse. This is self-administration when the medication is self-administered for the sake of reinforcing abilities and gaining the feeling of well-being. Tolerance to all abused medications usually develops, and a larger dose of drug is needed to provide the desired effect. A withdrawal syndrome resulting from abrupt withdrawal of the drug is typically observed. However, in the case of anabolic steroids, psychical dependence, not physical, usually develops.
This condition has the following symptoms and signs:
- a person takes them without a medical prescription;
- increased aggressiveness and frequent mood swings;
- accelerated rates of physical development of the muscles, which cannot be associated with the natural process of growth (most likely, you have seen pictures of very big bodybuilders on the Internet);
- changes in skin color (red spots, darkening);
- traces of injections that were not prescribed by the doctor.
In addition, steroid abuse symptoms include acne.
Health consequences of steroid abuse
Adolescents abusing anabolic steroids experience growth process disturbance: from slowing down to a complete cessation. Acne often develops on the skin, hair on the head becomes sparse, bald spots appear, and other side effects become visible.
Male persons who have been using these medications for a long time may encounter problems with conceiving a child, resulting from the impairment of spermatozoa’s structure and their functional activity. Testicular size decreases because of the oppressive effect on their tissue. Gynecomastia (of breast glands growth) frequently develops.
Female persons, on the contrary, experience the masculinization process (formation of male traits). Their voice coarsens, hair begins to grow on the body and the face, the clitoris increases.
Abusing of anabolic steroids can lead to the deterioration of liver function. This condition is manifested by the development of liver disorder: toxic hepatitis, cirrhosis, etc.
Treatment of steroid abuse
Treatment of bodybuilding steroid abuse may include consulting a psychotherapist. Taking into account the danger of depression development, doctors adjust the plan aimed at anabolic steroids withholding to each patient individually. Both immediate and gradual cessation of drug use is possible. Drugs are effectively stopped against the background of supportive psychotherapy. Additional medicines are not typically required. If necessary, antidepressants and sedatives may be prescribed.
The withdrawal syndrome in case of anabolic steroid abuse has not been sufficiently studied. Scientists have found that discontinuing the use of the drugs is typically accompanied by a worsening mood, depression and thoughts about committing suicide. There are two stages of the withdrawal syndrome. The duration of the first one is about seven days. There may be an increase in temperature, joint pain (arthralgia), a runny nose and other symptoms resembling cold. The second stage can last about six months. It is characterized by a sleep disorder, a decrease or lack of appetite, rapid and/or chronic fatigue.
Of course, not everyone develops dependence on anabolic steroids. This applies primarily to people with weak psyche and the need to increase self-esteem. It should be noted that without the prescription of a doctor, it is generally not recommended to use these drugs. But if you are already taking them, do it sensibly and carefully, without abusing.