Q: What are steroids?
A: Steroids are a group of drugs that are similar to a male hormone called testosterone. Most people know that some people who want to get bigger and stronger in a hurry use steroids. These steroids are called anabolic steroids, which just means that they build muscle. Another type of steroids are called androgenic steroids; these make people more masculine.
Q: What are some other uses for steroids?
A: Doctors use steroids to treat people who are slow to reach puberty, people with some blood disorders, and those with some types of breast cancer. Steroids are also used by veterinarians to treat animals.
Q: How are steroids taken?
A: Steroids can come in pills or capsules. In these forms, people mix them with liquids or simply swallow them. Steroids can also be injected.
Q: Are steroids illegal?
A: Steroids are legal for use by veterinarians and doctors. It is illegal to sell or buy them on the street. When steroids are sold on the street or in a gym, they are often mixed with other things and can be dangerous.
Steroids are also banned from amateur sports like the Olympics and most professional sports. Several Olympic athletes have lost their medals after they were tested and found to have used steroids to bulk up.
Q: What are some of the effects of steroids?
A: Steroids can make you less tired and leave you more determined to exercise. If that exercise is intense and done along with a nutrition program, steroids can increase lean muscle mass and strength.
Q: So what is the problem with them?
A: The problem is that steroids have side effects, and none of them are very pretty. Some known side effects are acne (not just on the face, but all over the body), high blood pressure, more cholesterol in your body, and impotence.
Q: Are there different side effects if you take a lot of steroids?
A: Yes. Besides the acne and the impotence, people who take large doses of steroids can lose control of their emotions. They can be aggressive and irritable, and may have a hard time controlling their temper. Little things can make them really angry; this is sometimes called “roid rage.” Large doses can also cause depression, sleep problems and anxiety.
Because athletes who use steroids often take doses five to 10 times the medical amount, they are at risk for all these effects. Some bodybuilders take doses 100 times larger than a doctor would give a patient.
Q: What happens if these large doses are taken regularly for months or years?
A: Large doses taken as pills can cause stomach aches, nausea and vomiting.
People who inject steroids and share needles risk getting infections including hepatitis and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Q: Are there different effects for men and women? What about teenagers?
A: Teens who use high doses can have their growth permanently stunted; they might be bigger, but they are also shorter.
Men can develop painful, enlarged breasts and shrunken testicles. Women often grow more facial and body hair. They can also experience an enlarged clitoris, reduced breast size, irregular periods, deepened voices, and the kind of pattern baldness that happens to males.
Many of these effects are permanent and can’t be reversed.
Q: Are steroids addictive?
A: People who use steroids can develop a dependence on them, and will go through withdrawal when they stop using. They may feel sick to their stomach, have headaches, sweat a lot, feel dizzy and be depressed.
Steroids may also be psychologically addictive. Some people may feel like they need to keep using them to stay competitive in their sport, and may have a hard time quitting because they’re afraid of losing their edge.