Sometimes also known as Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS’s), these are derivatives of the hormone testosterone. There are two types of AAS: Exogenous: Synthetic versions of testosterone. Common examples include Nandrolone and Danazol.
Endogenous: Naturally occurring substances involved in the metabolic pathways of testosterone. When testing for drug use, all endogenous steroids have a normal range. Results outside of this normal range are deemed positive .
Steroids can be taken either orally or by intra-muscular injection and are used in a cyclical pattern with 6-12 weeks of heavy use followed by periods of between 1 and 12 months, drug-free. During the heavy use period a pyramid system is usually followed where a gradual increase in daily dose reaches a peak and is then reversed.
Lately other methods of delivery have been used, including tablets, nasal sprays, skin patches, and creams.
Due to the enhancement of testing procedures in the detection of anabolic steroids, 'designer steroids' such as THG have been developed. THG breaks down during the preparation method used for normal steroid testing procedures. A test specifically for the detection of THG has since been developed.
Medical uses of Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic Steroids have been used previously as a hormone replacement to treat:
Hypogonadism (defect of function of the testes or ovaries)
Klinefelter’s syndrome (Sometimes known as XXY syndrome, where a male has an additional X chromosome. This results in reduced fertility)
Some forms of anemia (AAS’s have a stimulatory effect on bone marrow which may increase red blood cell production)
Angioneurotic edema (swelling in the deep layers of the skin, often due to the body mistakenly initiating an allergic reaction)
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Severe cases of osteoporosis
Effects on Performance
Steroids are most commonly used by athletes involved in power sports, for example weight lifting, throwing and sprinting events. Field sports such as American Football and Rugby also demonstrate a high incidence of use, as does body building. The perceived benefits of AAS use include:
• Increased muscle bulk
• Increased muscle strength
• Faster muscle recovery
• Reduced muscle catabolism (breakdown of muscle) following intense exercise which aids muscle recovery and development (not proven as yet)
Side-Effects of Anabolic Steroids
Side-effects from the use of steroids are extremely common and can be quite significant. Most side-effects are reversible once the athlete stops usage although serious long-term side-effects and even death have occurred as a direct result of steroid use.
• Decreased sperm production and sex drive
• Increased aggression, irritability and mood swings
• Liver disorders
• Baldness (alopecia)
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Raised cholesterol
• Gynecomastia (development of over-sized mammary glands in males)
• Menstrual irregularities (in women)
• Hirsuitism (excessive hair growth occurring in females which follows the pattern of male hair growth, i.e. facial)
• Deepening of the voice
• Reduced immunity
• Possible development of tumors (wilm’s tumor, prostate carcinoma and leukemia have been reported, although a connection is not proven)