Anabolic Steroids Essay, Research Paper
Since ancient history, many athletes have resorted to performance
enhancing aids to give them an edge on their opponents. Greek Olympians used
strychnine and hallucinogenic mushrooms to psych up for an event. “In 1886 a
French cyclist was the first athlete to die from using a performance enhancer,
called speedballs, a mixture of cocaine and heroin. In the 1920’s, physicians
inserted slices of monkey testicles into male athletes to help boost vitality.
In the 1930’s Aldof Hitler allegedly administered the hormone testosterone to
himself and his troops to increase aggressiveness” (Schrof, 54). Athletes had
already begun using the male hormone testosterone to boost performance by the
1940’s. The first synthetic anabolic steroid was developed in 1953, having a
strength building effect five times stronger than the natural hormone
testosterone. Not since the development of the anabolic steroid has any
performance enhancer been so effective and so desired by athletes. Today, black
market sales of anabolic steroids are topping $400 million per year. One
million Americans, half of them adolescents, use black market steroids (Schrof,
Anabolic steroids are synthetic compounds that resemble the natural male
sex hormone testosterone. Male hormones have two different effects in the body.
Hormones have an anabolic effect, which stimulates growth, and they have an
androgenic effect, which increases male sexual characteristics. Anabolic
steroids are constructed synthetically to maximize the anabolic (growth) effect
and minimize the androgenic (male characteristic) effect. Steroids are
molecules that occur naturally in the body and are carried in the bloodstream
and act as messengers. The most important of these messages tell the body to
increase creatine phosphate synthesis and to increase protein synthesis
(Schwarzenegger, 722). These messages are delivered at various ratios depending
upon the type of steroid.
Creatine phosphate and protein synthesis are the two most important
reactions that occur when training. Creatine phosphate is a short-term energy
restorer which allows you to contract your muscles for more than just a few
seconds. The more CP available, the more muscular work you can do, thus the
harder you can train and the more muscle you will build. This, along with the
need for protein synthesis, is the reason for the attraction to steroids.
There are hundreds of forms of steroids that have been synthesized, each
one having differing levels of anabolic and androgenic effects. Some steroids
are used to treat illness and injury. Corticosteroids are one of the most
successful forms that have been synthesized. They are used to treat everything
from tendon injuries to vision problems. There are many other forms of steroids
that were synthesized for their strength and muscle building properties.
Steroids can be taken orally of by an injection.
Oral steroids have many drawbacks. Oral steroids, are constructed to
have short life spans and are broken down all at once. Because of this, oral
steroids put a tremendous strain on the liver. For example, if a user takes 200
mg of an oral steroid, the liver must destroy the entire 200 mg in one day
(Schwarzenegger, 724). Taking oral steroids may also lead to blood sugar
problems. Injectable steroids are chemically constructed to have longer life
spans. 200 mg of an injectable is constructed to last 17 days, meaning that the
body will breakdown only 12 mg per day, which is much easier on the body
(Schwarzenegger, 724). Injectable steroids bypass the liver and go directly
into the bloodstream, and therefore, they are faster acting. Another drawback
to taking steroids by injection, many users complain, is that it must be
administered with huge syringes. The user must insert the needle 1.5 to 2 inches
into the muscle of the thigh or buttocks. The deeper the depth of the needle,
the less of the steroid that leaks through the skin. “Sometimes one of the guys
will inject in one side of his butt one day and the other the next. Then, we
all laugh at him because he can barely sit down for he next three days,” said a
19 year old teenager from Arizona (Schrof, 57).
Not all the side effects have been determined yet. Steroids are known
to have effects on the cardiovascular system, testosterone production, liver
function, and neurologic functions. Prolonged, high doses of steroids can have
serious effects on the liver. Some of these include, progressive cholestatis
and jaundice, peliosis hepatitis, hemorrhaging, and the possibility of liver
cancer (Schwarzenegger, 726). These problems are especially noticeable in users
who take oral steroids.
Steroids possibly have their biggest effect on the brain. Steroids also
cause a marked increase in the level of cortisol, the body’s major stress
hormone (Schwarzenegger, 726). This can also lead to hypertension, stress and
neurologic problems. Steroid users also experience higher levels of aggression,
often called ” ‘roid rages” (Schwarzenegger, 726). A recent study has
definitively shown that anabolic steroids can cause temporary mental problems,
including mood swings and violent impulses (Time, 16). These aggressions can
grow to and become a major problem.
Although many of the long term side effects have not been determined,
the short term side effects can be harmful, even fatal. Athletes who choose to
use steroids or other hormones must take into consideration the delicate balance
of the body. When a new hormone is flooded into the body, a series of events
will occur as the body tries to regain its natural balance. By altering the
balance of the endocrine system users may be taking a big risk.
Schrof, Joannie M. “Pumped Up.” US News and World Report, June 1, 1992,
Volume 12 Issue 21, p54. Schwarzenegger, Arnold. “Anabolic Steroids and
Ergogenic Aids.” The Encyclopedia of Modern
Bodybuilding. New York: Simon and Schuster. Pgs. 721-730. “Health
Report.” Time, June 14, 1993, Vol. 141 Issue 24, p16.