Do you hear about the use of steroids in sports scandals on TV?

Find out what steroids are and more.

We Know: All About Steroids

What are steroids?

More properly known as anabolic steroids, steroids are synthetic versions of androgens, a male sex hormone that encourages the growth of muscle tissue. "Anabolic" refers to muscle-building, and "androgenic" refers to increased masculine characteristics. "Steroids" refers to the class of drugs.

What are steroids used for?

Steroids are used for a variety of different reasons, but they are most commonly thought of as involving athletes. Sports professionals have used steroids in the past illegally in order to build muscle mass and improve their performance. Bodybuilders have also been known to abuse steroids. Still other people have used steroids to boost their self-esteem or to protect themselves in the face of adversity.

When are steroids prescribed?

These drugs are available legally only by prescription, to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence. They are also prescribed to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass. Abuse of anabolic steroids, however, can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible.

What are the signs of steroid abuse?

Steroid abuse shows itself differently in each of the sexes but men and women do share some of the same symptoms.

  • Males: Men can become infertile, have shrunken testicles and develop male-pattern baldness while abusing steroids.
  • Females: Women who abuse steroids can develop excessive body hair and notice an enlargement of the clitoris.
  • Both Sexes: Men and women can experience an elevated risk of a heart attack, liver cancer, shorter stature, cystic acne, HIV/AIDS from intravenous injections, rage and delusions after abusing illegal steroids.

How is steroid abuse treated?

Steroid abuse can be treated, but there have not been many studies conducted on the matter. Primarily, support groups are utilized by individuals going through steroid withdrawal. Your doctor may prescribe medications that help to get your hormonal system back to normal after the disruption caused by steroids. Other medications that may be prescribed include those that treat the individual symptoms of withdrawal such as depression, joint pain and headaches.

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