The action of testosterone can be in ways both beneficial and detrimental to the body. On the plus side, this hormone has a direct impact on the growth of muscle tissues, the production of red blood cells and overall well being of the organism. But it may also negatively effect the production of skin oils, growth of body, facial and scalp hair, and the level of both “good” and “bad” cholesterol in the body [among other things]. In fact, men have a shorter average life span than women, which is believed to be largely due to the cardiovascular defects that this hormone may help bring about. Testosterone will also naturally convert to estrogen in the male body, a hormone with its own unique set of effects. As we have discussed earlier, raising the level of estrogen in men can increase the tendency to notice water retention, fat accumulation, and will often cause the development of female tissues in the breast [gynecomastia]. Clearly we see that most of the “bad” side effects from steroids are simply those actions of testosterone that we are not looking for when taking a steroid. Raising the level of testosterone in the body will simply enhance both its good and bad properties, but for the most part we are not having “toxic° reactions to these drugs. A notable exception to this is the possibility of liver damage, which is a worry isolated to the use of c17-alpha alkylated oral steroids. Unless the athlete is taking anabolic/androgenic steroids abusively for a very long duration, side effects rarely amount to little more than a nuisance. One could actually make a case that periodic steroid use might even be a healthy practice. Clearly a person physical shape can relate closely to one overall health and well being. Provided some common sense is paid to health checkups, drug choice, dosage and off-time, how can we say for certain that the user is worse off for doing so? This position is of course very difficult to publicly justify with steroid use being so deeply stigmatized. Since this can be a very lengthy discussion, we will save the full health, moral and legal arguments for another time. For now I would like to run down the list of popularly discussed side effects, and include any current treatment/avoidance advice where possible.
Anabolic Steroids in the future Introduction The use of anabolic steroids has been often cited as one of the slippery moral issues associated with sports. These drugs that are used by sportsmen to increase their muscular strength have been found to have harmful side effects as well as condemned as medications that can give some sportsmen an unfair advantage over others. At the same time, these drugs can be effective in helping athletes bring out their potential, especially if their downside is brought down by further research. Thus, sportsmen can have access to these drugs if efforts are taken to test sportsmen for steroids and thus neutralize their harmful potential. This paper will attempt to prove that steroids do have a place in the future of sports medicine and sports as such. Arguments against Steroids Most arguments against the use of steroids boil down to the fact that, if abused, steroids can have a harmful effect on human bodies, leading to dangerous effects. Thus, steroids have been found to affect the brain as “high doses can make people feel happy, euphoric, hyped-up, with disturbance of sleep and even serious psychiatric illness such as mania, very aggressive behavior and psychosis (delusions, pananoia, loss of touch with reality)” (Dixon). Thus, the person who abuses steroids can really end up with a mental problem, something that can really disrupt one’s life and is a serious question for someone who is engaged in sports. Sport is meant to heal, not harm the human body. The harmful effect of steroids is not limited to mental problems. Thus, steroids can adversely affect a person’s skin, causing its thinning and weakening. Bones of the people who use a lot of steroids lose calcium, which makes them weaker and can easily lead to fractures. Weight problem can arise as people begin to eat a lot and experience a rise in appetite, which alone can cause them serious problems. The rise in blood sugar that accompanies the use of steroids can cause diabetes. Perhaps the most serious downside of steroids is the harmful effect associated with disruptions of the immune system that will not function properly in someone overusing steroids. Steroids “knock out” immune systems so that “people on high doses of steroids for medical reasons can die from chest infections and cancers of many kinds” (Dixon). People who use steroids open their bodies to the impact of many bacteria and viruses that their immune systems would otherwise ward off, such as candida yeast – the fungus that can cause inflammation of the skin, vagina, and other organs. For women, androgynous effects associated with steroids can be a serious problem. These effects stem from the application of testosterone that is in fact male hormone. In women it triggers the development of qualities that make a woman look like a man. These include but are not limited to “irreversible enlargement of the clitoris, irreversible hoarsening and deepening of the voice, irreversible increase in facial and body hair, decreased breast size” (Anabolic Steroids). Certainly, given the public opinion of female athletes as often deficient in femininity, these effects are less than welcome. Besides, female athletes using steroids face a greater risk of developing cervical and endometrial cancer as well as osteoporosis (Anabolic Steroids). Men, on their part, are also negatively affecting by the use of anabolic steroids. Their reproductive function is often hurt to the degree when they suffer from infertility. Besides, many men using steroids report a decrease in potency and lower sex drive (Anabolic Steroids). What Are Anabolic Steroids? Anabolic steroids are part of performance-enhancing drugs along with psychomotor stimulants. Anabolic steroids “are used to increase muscle bulk and strength (and therefore, to some extent, speed), and to enhance recovery from heavy workouts or certain kinds of muscular injuries” (Coombs, West 1991:117). The correct term is actually “anabolic-androgenic” steroids, but “anabolic steroids” has become a conventional term that is more widely used. They are used in some sports such as track and field and football where muscular strength of the athletes matters and helps them to win. They stay in the body for prolonged time periods, making it relatively easy to identify them in the body, as they are detectable not only directly after use, but also for prolonged periods after the use. The use of steroids dates back to the isolation of testosterone, a naturally occurring hormone, in 1935. This hormone has “both androgenic (masculinization) and anabolic (tissue-building) properties” (Massimino, Sallis 1997: 237). The same properties have been replicated in synthetic steroids, although scientists attempted to bring down the androgenic properties. They were successful to some extent, although steroids still retain their androgenic properties to a great degree. The first use of anabolic steroids was to treat hypogonadism, a condition in which male testes do not produce enough hormones and thus have to receive outside help. The athletes began to use these drugs in the 1950s, as they spread from the Soviet Union to the US and other nations that wanted in this way stimulate the sports performance of their athletes. The wide spread of steroid use as well as their harmful effect finally led the International Olympic Committee to forbid participants to use anabolic steroids at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal (Massimino, Sallis 1997: 238). At the moment, there are over 100 anabolic steroids. In the US, an individual has to have a medical prescription to purchase these drugs (Anabolic Steroids).
The Benefits of Steroids Despite the numerous cons, steroids do have their bright side – otherwise people would not use them. Thus, they have been reported to help athletes build their muscular strength and improve their performance in this way. This is explained by the role of the steroids in the generation of protein and growth hormone that are both stimulated by steroid use. This is described as anabolic effect. Steroids also have been described as having an anticatabolic effect. This effect appears “due to interaction with cortisol released in response to physical and psychological stress, causing protein degradation and muscle atrophy” (Massimino, Sallis 1997: 238). In addition, this effect is linked to the effect of corticosteroid testosterone by from other receptor sites. Steroids are believed to increase aggression – the reason for which they were probably used by Nazi soldiers in World War II. These drugs can therefore stimulate the performance of the sportsmen, especially in group games where aggression can motivate them for achievement. The use of steroids can also have a mental effect since sportsmen believe in steroids that can allegedly give them greater power. This is the ground for which a group of researchers found that athletes “showed significant gains in strength, even though the athletes received a placebo” (Massimino, Sallis 1997: 239). Sport is only one use of steroids that were originally invented as anti-inflammatory drugs. They are very powerful substances that produce a variety of effects on the human body. Thus, steroids can be used for treating infectious diseases when it is necessary to bring down the inflammation. Steroids can help bring down death rate caused by asthma as well as applied to painful joints and ligaments. Talking of skin diseases, eczema and a number of other skin problems can be treated using steroids. Other uses of anabolic steroids are “to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases” (Anabolic Steroids). The first two effects stem from the inclusion of testosterone in synthetic steroids. Besides, “steroids make the whole immune system less active, which can be very useful in illnesses where there is an immune component – a huge number” (Dixon). The latter is especially important as this shows that the negative side of steroids can simultaneously be the benefit as these drugs can be used to reduce the response of the immune system to the stimulant, making them effective treatment for a range of diseases. Indeed, what is a poison in some cases is a cure in others. The opportunities for the use of steroids are not limited to applying them where it is necessary to reduce the response of the immune system, in particular when it comes to brain tumors. They are also useful in cancer treatment. True, they do not treat cancer as they only prolong the patient’s life. However, in many cases it is necessary to help the patient survive the last few weeks. Steroids in this case act as follows: they reduce the swelling around the brain tumor, relieving the patient’s condition. Anabolic steroids have also been described as having a positive influence on the patients recovering after a fracture. Due to their powerful action on muscle growth and weight gain, they can speed up the healing of the fracture and help quickly revive the function of the corresponding organ. A study conducted by M. Hedstrom, K. Sjoberg, E. Brosjo, A. Astrom, A, and others researched the effects of steroids on 63 female patients who had undergone surgery because of fractures. The women were divided into two groups. One group received only calcium for treatment, while others also received steroids and vitamin D. In their article published in Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (May 2002), the researchers state that the study demonstrated that “the anabolic group did not lose muscle volume during the first 12 months whereas the control group did”. They found that the intake of anabolic steroids had positive impact on the growth of tissue, bone mineral density, and clinical function. The scientists note that functional recovery often takes a lot of time, especially in elderly patients after a hip fracture. The function is often restored incompletely and can be bone mineral density drops after the fracture and the surgery. Therefore, steroids help to solve important problems for patients. The study confirms that “that a low dose of nandrolone decanoate in combination with a low dose of alphacalcidol and calcium has a positive effect on body composition, BMD and the clinical function in elderly women after fracture of the hip” (Hedstrom et al. 2002). Thus, steroids can be of great value in treating patients with fractures.
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