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Anabolic steroids are used for some medical conditions, but people also use them illegally in some sports settings. They use them to boost muscle mass, performance, and endurance and to shorten recovery time between workouts.
The drugs are artificially derived from the main male hormone testosterone. Testosterone is important for promoting and maintaining muscle growth and developing secondary male sex characteristics, such as a deepening voice and facial hair.
Anabolic steroids, also called anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs), can build muscle and improve athletic performance, but they can also have significant adverse effects, especially when used incorrectly.
Long-term, non-medical uses are linked to heart problems, unwanted physical changes, and aggression. There is growing concern worldwide about the non-medical use of steroids and its effects.
Street names include Arnolds, gym candy, pumpers, roids, and stackers.
Fast facts on anabolic steroids
Steroids are sometimes used in medicine, but illegal use of AASs may involve doses 10 to 100 times higher than the normal prescription dose.
In the United States, AASs need a prescription, but this is not the case in many countries.
All synthetic steroids combine muscle-building effects with the development of secondary male sexual characteristics.
AAS use has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
What are anabolic steroids?
AASs are synthetic versions of the primary male hormone, testosterone. They affect many parts of the body, including the muscles, bones, hair follicles, liver, kidneys, blood, immune system, reproductive system and the central nervous system.
During puberty, increases in testosterone levels enable the development of characteristics such as facial and body hair growth, increased height and muscle mass, a deepening voice, and the sex drive.
Testosterone can also contribute to competitiveness, self-esteem, and aggressiveness.
How do people use them?
Continuous use of AASs can lead to problems such as tolerance. They may even cause the body to stop producing its own testosterone.
Some people use AASs continuously, but others try to minimize their possible adverse effects through different patterns of use.
Cycling: The person takes AASs in cycles of 6 to 12 weeks (known as the “on” period), followed by 4 weeks to several months off.
Stacking: Users combine several different types of steroids or incorporate other supplements in an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of the steroids. This is called “stacking.”
Pyramiding: Some users gradually increase the dose to a peak, then reduce the amount.
However, there is no evidence that these methods reduce the risks.