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Avoid Anabolic Steroids - the Health Detriments of Usage

May. 13, 2013

While there is much evidence that following an appropriate diet in combination with resistance training can lead to a significant increase in muscle mass to aid performance, for some athletes this is not enough; they turn to anabolic steroids as a means to boost their muscle gain. This is seen across a wide range of sports and lacrosse is no exception. Indeed a recent study conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association found that of 23 sports, it was lacrosse where the use of anabolic steroids was highest amongst players. The use of these performance enhancing drugs not only provides players with an unfair advantage and can ruin their reputation if a random drug test indicates that they have been abusing them, but players do not necessarily appreciate that these can have a negative impact on their health and well-being. Here we consider the damage that these drugs can have on the body, supporting the use of more natural methods through diet and exercise to promote muscle growth.

Increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Not many athletes realize that by taking steroids they significantly increase their risk of developing heart disease. Young athletes needn't think that this is not applicable to them, as heart attacks and strokes are not unheard of in those under the age of 30 who take these drugs. It is believed the main way in which anabolic steroids adversely affect someone's chance of developing cardiovascular problems is through their affect on cholesterol levels. While they increases levels of the damaging LDL cholesterol, which is deposited in the walls of the arteries causing narrowing and therefore reducing blood flow, they lower levels of protective HDL cholesterol, the role of which is to help in the removal of cholesterol from the body. Should the blood flow be sufficiently reduced to either the heart or brain, this results in a heart attack or stroke respectively. Steroids are also known to make those taking them more susceptible to developing a blood clot and raised blood pressure, both of which increases the likelihood of cardiovascular events.

Loss of bone mass

Although osteoporosis is considered to be a disease of old age that more often affects women, males who use steroids to enhance their performance make this a very real possibility for themselves in their younger years. Taking these drugs for a three month stint may be enough to cause significant thinning of the bones and if you take them long-term there is as high as a 50% chance you will develop osteoporosis. Your risk is further increased by habits such as smoking and consuming large quantities of alcohol. A fall during a game of lacrosse could be all that it takes to break a bone, with fractures of the wrist and hip being most common. Placed on the sidelines for months waiting for your fracture to heal, you will see your fitness fall, as well as your performance when you re-enter the game; exactly the opposite of what you were hoping to achieve with steroids.

Damage to the liver

Research shows that using steroids for just 12 weeks can be sufficient to cause liver damage and it appears those taken orally cause greater injury than those that are injected. The liver is harmed during the processing of steroids and over time this means that its function is reduced; signs that this has happened include jaundice, abdominal pain and distension, nausea, loss of appetite and feeling generally unwell. Liver tumors, which may either be benign or cancerous, can also be a consequence of using these drugs; if these rupture, internal bleeding can occur. For athletes taking steroids via injection, they also risk developing hepatitis if they make the unwise decision to share needles; this also leaves you vulnerable to contracting HIV.

Reduced fertility

Although college students may not think much about having their own children, taking anabolic steroids can reduce your chance of fathering children when you decide that you want to start a family. The impact of steroids on the male reproductive system is clearly visible, with players who use them finding that their testicles shrink; what you can't see though is that your sperm count is also reduced.

Cosmetic changes

Increased muscle growth is often considered to improve someone's appearance. However, the use of anabolic steroids to achieve this can lead to unwanted changes in the body that are very visible and may be severe enough to cause reduced self-esteem and low mood. The most common changes to physical appearance are an oilier complexion, which leads to the development of or worsens existing acne, as well as hair loss that is characteristic of male pattern baldness. Skin changes will usually clear up on ceasing steroid use, but hair loss can be a permanent problem, which for a young man conscious of his looks will come as a real shock. While hair growth shampoos are one of the treatments that are effective for the management of hair loss caused by a disruption of male hormones, as is the case when anabolic steroids are taken, avoiding the need for these measures is preferable. Therefore think twice before using steroids, as they won't necessarily make you physically more attractive.

Although many of these changes and disease risks are reversible if steroid use is stopped, long-term steroid abuse is more likely to cause lasting damage. The best policy is however to avoid their use in the first place.

By: Eve Pearce



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