Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Steroids: Get the Facts

Knowledge is Power: The #1 deterrent of substance abuse in teens is PARENTS!

What are steriods? - Steriods, the popular name for anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), are synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male sex hormone, testosterone. “Anabolic” refers to muscle-building, and “androgenic” refers to increased male sexual characteristics. “Steroids” refers to the class of drugs related to male sex hormones that promote muscle growth, lower body fat, increase bone strength and promote the development of male sexual characteristics. Slang terms for steroids include arnolds, gym candy, juice, pumpers, stackers, weight trainers.
Are steriods legal? Steroids are Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act, which do have a legitimate medical function. They are legally available only with a prescription. Doctors prescribe steroids to treat delayed growth or puberty, some types of impotence, and body-wasting in patients suffering from cancer or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Common steroid medicines include fluoxymesterone (such as Halotestin) and nandrolone (such as Durabolin). Illegal users often use 10 to 100 times more than the dose a doctor prescribes for medical problems.
What do steroids look like? - Steroids are available in tablet, liquid, gel, and cream form. The liquid can also be injected. The appearance of these products varies depending upon the type and the manufacturer.
Why are steroids abused? - Steroids are abused, often by athletes and body-builders, to enhance athletic performance and to improve physical appearance by bulking up muscles and losing fat. Teenage girls (at risk for eating disorders) seeking to lose weight may abuse steroids. Typically steroids are taken in cycles (“cycling”) of weeks or months rather than continuously; use is stopped and then restarted. In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids, attempting to maximize their effectiveness, a practice called “stacking.”
Steroids and mental health - Steroids can affect mood and behavior significantly, leading to aggression and oppositional behaviors. They do not trigger dopamine response in the brain, which is responsible for the high that often drives substance abuse. Although many users report feeling good about themselves while on steroids, extreme mood swings can also occur, including manic-like symptoms that could lead to violence. Researchers have also observed that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility. Regular use or stopping use can also result in clinical depression and/or anxiety.
Other health dangers of steroid abuse – Steroid abuse can lead to liver damage and tumors, jaundice, fluid retention, high blood pressure, heart disease, increases in LDL (“bad” cholesterol); and decreases in HDL (“good” cholesterol). Other effects include stunted height, beard growth, acne, renal failure, severe acne, and trembling. In addition, there are some gender- and age-specific adverse effects:
 For men—shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, increased risk for prostate cancer
 For women—growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, clitoral enlargement, deepened voice
 For adolescents—stunted growth due to premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes; risk of not reaching expected height if steroids are taken before major growth spurt.
Use of dirty needles can also result in the user contracting hepatitis, AIDS, or various other diseases.
Addictive Potential - Steriods may lead to moderate to low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug, another indication of addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings, all of which may contribute to continued abuse. One of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms is depression, sometimes leading to suicide attempts. Research also indicates that some users might turn to other drugs (usually opioids) to alleviate the negative effects of steriods.
How widespread is steroid abuse? The CDC's 2007 survey found that nearly 4 percent of high school students in the United States had used anabolic steroid pills or shots without a prescription. Young people can find these drugs from users who are at gyms and sports-training centers, also on the Internet.
Successful prevention efforts such as The Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids (ATLAS) program focus on education about the harmful effects of steroids. They also provide nutrition, exercise and weight-training alternatives to improve sports performance, body strength and body image.
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