Why are anabolic steroids abused?
Anabolic steroids enable athletes in certain sports to build up muscle tissue during training more quickly than in training without drugs.(1-3) Many athletes believe they can win in competitions only if they use steroids.(4) It has not been proven that steroids alone directly increase muscle mass for athletes in training. Gains may be due to psychological effects.(2,5) In sixteen trials of steroids as muscle builders, nine trials concluded that steroids were effective while seven concluded that they were not effective.(2) At the same time, anabolic steroids are used to build up muscle tissue after certain kinds of surgery and cancer in which the patient experiences loss of muscle tissue.(6-8) This topic is covered in detail in the section entitled, "Steroids and Body Growth." At first, only athletes in certain sports abused steroids to enhance their training. Steroid abuse spread to other sports over time. Now, the only two Olympic sports which have never had an incident of steroid detection are women's field hockey and figure skating.(7) This topic is covered in detail under "History." Steroid abuse is no longer limited to the world of sports. In recent years a growing segment of steroid abusers are high school students not involved in any organized sport.(1,6) When surveyed, these non-athletic steroid abusers say that they take steroids to improve their appearance or health.(9) Steroids may help some athletes develop bigger muscles if used with rigorous training.(2,3) However there is no evidence that high doses of steroids taken without exercise will do anything for muscle mass. Overweight people who don't exercise run the risk of high blood pressure and other heart problems. However, there is no evidence that rigorous athletic training, with or without steroids, will lengthen life or reduce disease.(9) There is evidence that excessive amounts of steroid side effects can prematurely stop body growth, cause hardening of the arteries and heart attacks, produce liver disease, atrophy of the male sexual organs, and many other effects.(9-11) These topics are covered in detail under the heading, "Effects of Steroids on the Body."
1. Kleiner SM. Performance-enhancing aids in sport - health
consequences and nutritional alternatives. J Amer Coll Nutr
2. Smith DA, Perry PJ. The efficacy of ergogenic agents in
athletic competition. part 1: androgenic-anabolic steroids.
Annals Pharmacother 1992 Apr;26:520-8.
3. Kopera H. The history of anabolic steroids and a review of
clinical experience with anabolic steroids. Acta Endocrin
4. Johnson MD. Steroids. Adolescent Med 1991 Feb;2(1):79-93.
5. Wilson JD. Androgen abuse by athletes. Endocrine Reviews
6. Kashkin KB, Kleber HD. Hooked on hormones - an anabolic
steroid addiction hypothesis. J Am Med Assoc 1989 Dec
by Trent Tschirgi, R. Ph.
(c) 1992 University of Maryland Office of Substance Abuse Studies.
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