Anabolic-androgenic steroids, more commonly referred to as anabolics, is the familiar name for synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones (androgens). They promote the growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effects) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects). In the past three decades, steroid use has increased almost 75% among adolescents this past year. I believe that not enough emphasis is placed on the severity of the psychological effects of the drugs, rather than the physical side effects.
Steroids were first developed for medical purposes. They are used in controlling inflammation, strengthening weakened hearts, preventing conception, and alleviating symptoms of arthritis and asthma. Anabolic steroids were developed in the late 1930s primarily to treat hypogonadism, a condition in which the testes do not produce sufficient testosterone for normal growth, development, and sexual functioning. The primary medical uses of these compounds are to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases.
During the 1930s, scientists discovered that anabolic steroids could facilitate the growth of skeletal muscle in laboratory animals, which led to use of the compounds first by bodybuilders and weightlifters and then by athletes in other sports. Steroid abuse has become so widespread in athletics that it affects the outcome of sports contests.
Thousands of steroids have been developed, but they require a prescription to be used legally in the United States. Most steroids that are used illegally are smuggled in from other countries, illegally diverted from U.S. pharmacies, or synthesized in clandestine laboratories. In the United States, supplements such as dehydroepian-drosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione (street name Andro) can be purchased legally without a prescription, through many commercial sources including health food stores. They are often referred to as dietary supplements, although they are...