People sit either on one side or the other, and from my point of view, the people that I have discussed this topic which are strictly against their use haven’t competed at a level where you need to push yourself to extremes and have questioned it. Media has and will always portrays anabolic steroids in a negative light and its fairly understandable why given its effects.
Like the people against the use, you get a strong opinion from the individuals that have taken or are taking or they don't entertain the discussion. Unfortunately a growing larger proportion of these individuals are your local gym rat that wants to look the part for the summer or want to win a competition so feel they need to be the best they can be getting their knowledge from questionable websites and friends. Saying this there are responsible users and individuals that take a lot of time into preparing themselves taking it and shouldn't be put in the same box.
Unfortunately the majority of both are usually uneducated in the biochemical effects of anabolic steroids and risks in my opinion and very few have taken the time to read around their effects. I have met numerous individuals that use performance enhancing drugs (PED) who don’t know what the drug does or why they are taking it and are self prescribing based on advise from trusted individuals (who also might not know the drugs true effects).
The benefits of the drug are not fully known and to a layman they are seen as the miracle drug that after a course you become stronger, bigger and better.
To put it into simple terms anabolic steroids are designed to enhance your body’s ability to produce testosterone, which have both an anabolic effect and an androgenic effect.
The Androgenic effects are changes in primary and secondary sexual characteristics. These include voice changes, hair growth on the face, axilla, and genital areas, and increased aggressiveness.
The Anabolic effects of androgens include accelerated growth of muscle, bone, and red blood cells, improve recovery and enhanced neural conduction.
Anabolic steroids (AS) come in numerous ways in which you can induce them from different types of tablet and injectable in both oil and water based form. They also are made from a massive catalogue of producers from home set ups to illegal labs (where producers are known to use second hand bath tubs to mix the steroids and oils together worryingly) to pharmaceutical grade and tbh all are easily accessible.
The negatives of the drug are widely known as they are highlighted in pretty much every article you can find on AS and they are:
• Reduced sperm count
• Testicle atrophy
• Breast development/ gynaemastica
• Risk of developing prostate Cancer
• splayed teeth and overgrowth of the forehead (giving an 'incredible hulk' appearance)
• Facial hair growth and body hair
• Reduced breast size
• Clitorus swelling
• Deepened voice
• Increased sex drive
• Menstrual cycle issues
• Hair loss
• Liver or kidney damage and tumors
• Heart attacks and strokes
• Blood clots
• Fluid retention
• High cholesterol
• Aggressive behavior
• Mood swings
• Manic behavior
• Hallucinations and delusions
However the majority of these effects happen as a result of misusing the drug, and like any drug or herbal remedy if taken irresponsibly it will cause you a wide range of negative effects.
For instance, the misuse of taking multivitamins can cause side effects such as tooth staining, increased urination, stomach bleeding, heart arrythmias, confusion, and muscle weakness.
Proven long term effects of safe use of anabolic steroids are linked to heart, liver and kidney failure, but like anything its down to how you treat your body. (This is not to say that everyone that takes steroids if going to cripple their insides but it does put you at risk.)
However what is most worrying in this day and age is:
- The naivety of individuals that use it,
- The increasing use in younger individuals (Teenagers and early 20’s men are the individuals it mostly appeals to and its probably the least ideal market.)
- The considerable amount of conflicting information on the web,
- The ease of being able to get hold of it,
- The lack of knowledge and reading around not due to laziness necessarily but due to extensive amount of information out there its difficult to know what’s right or wrong.
The big questions is always why to use AS, and in my opinion there are more cons for its than pros when used by your average gym rat or individual wanting to look a bit bigger for the summer or before a competition. I’m always hearing of men and women taking AS to get stronger in the gym, win novice/amateur competitions, look bigger and leaner, loose fat but don’t have any long term aspirations to use those developments/abilities. I always ask what’s the point, why put your internal system at risk unnecessarily. When your heart and liver start to have issues there’s only so much your body and doctors can do to help. Ultimately is it worth the risk?
When to use AS in my opinion is:
- when you have read around AS (There are some good resources out there and one is William Llewellyn's book on ANABOLICS (shown below)),
- make sure you have looked at the effects both positive and negative,
- know what your taking (ie pharmaceutical grade or lab grade),
- how much your taking, when to take it and how,
- inform your doctor and although they will most likely be against you self-administering. They can give you good advice on safe use of injecting, how to administer to reduce any secondary risks and if anything else monitor your health,
- look at where you want the AS to take you. Are you looking at competing at an elite level (Given PED's are not on a band substance list) or are you happy competing for fun. As long as your sport doesn’t class the drug as illegal I fully understand and support individuals taking AS responsibly and both the viewer and the participant can appreciate the results. Remember its the individuals decision and no one else's.
Regarding comments of taking PED's are cheating in strongman or powerlifting, I still don’t fully understand. Due to how the drug works, it basically enhances your recovery enabling you to training high levels more frequently as well as the other effects. So just taking them alone isn’t going to give you the benefits, you still need to eat the right foods and train properly. If it’s not illegal in the sport, what’s the issue. The response that the human body wouldn’t be able to do it without AS is the same as saying if you don’t eat the right food and don’t train properly you wont be able to do it either. The body is still lifting that weight but you have given it every opportunity to excel.
But overall when your training and competing at a high level and you want to win you will do everything possible to be number 1, and unless you’ve been there, you don’t have an argument in my opinion. However for everyday use for the average gym rat, individuals competing at local competitions, wanting to look bigger or to get stronger lifts in the gym I don’t think anyone can advocate its use.
So just to make it clear, I don't agree with the use of steroids but i fully understand why people take them and think we should be more supportive to individuals on them and provide more easily accessible evidence based information on line so people can weigh up their pros and cons for themselves having read reliable information.
Hope you find this helpful.