Featured Articles

Pumping up with Steroids; Do’s and Don’ts

Isaac, 18-year old, walks up to the psychiatric office accompanied by his parents. He is in perfect health, without an ounce of complaint in him. Then why the urgency? It’s no question to a psychiatrist. He has seen it all! From bipolar disorders to low-key crazy, the young doctor has come across all kinds of mental issues, but not like this one. You see, the parents have brought Isaac to the psychiatrist to assess whether the arguments and irritability he keeps exuding towards the father is normal. Looking at him, the young man is very muscular, dressed in baggy pants that masked his body proportions. He displayed some acne, weighed about 175lbs and stood at about 65 inches with very low body fat. The doctor could tell that despite the superficial confidence he exuded, he was somewhat anxious, restless and abit guarded. He admits to regular mood swings and outbursts of anger that render him destructive. “I even put a hole in the wall of my room”, he jokes. Fast forward, he reveals having used protein shakes, creatine and “andro” (androstenedione, as the doctor later joins the dots). So, what went wrong?

Heart of the matter

Anabolic steroids are essentially synthetic versions of testosterone that can accelerate muscle growth, the heart being one of the muscles. This means that it can be spurred to grow when introduced to anabolic steroids, and while it doesn’t sound too scary, it can lead to a lot of harm as thickening of its lining brings about difficulty in pumping of blood. Studies have also indicated that long term use of anabolic steroids can lead to a condition known as coronary atherosclerosis.

Can steroids cause harm?

Better believe it! A lot of studies have been poured into a group of steroids known as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAs). With over one hundred testosterone derivatives, anabolic steroids have been formulated in different doses and even tastes to be palatable enough for long-term use in muscle building and masculinity. These steroids are more popular among men than women due to the masculinizing property. Commonly used AAs include;

  • Injectables – boldenone, methenolone, nandrolone, stanozolol, depo-testosterone
  • Orals – methandienone, methyltestosterone, oxandrolone
  • Skin patches
  • Gels

While these can be used for conditions that require testosterone treatment, the doses taken by bodybuilders are much higher rendering them unsafe. They carry huge side effects such as breathing problems, anxiety fits, heart problems and even stroke in severe cases. Steroids can also damage sperm production, shrink testicles, and ultimately cause infertility. Isaac was headed on a dark road had it not been the parents’ intervention. It’s like a game of Russian roulette; one may be lucky enough not to suffer from long-term effects of the drugs or maybe unlucky to the extent of life-threatening conditions.

So, are there good steroids?

Definitely! Steroids are grouped into two; anabolic and corticosteroids. While the anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of testosterone, corticosteroids are used in suppressing an overactive immune system and reducing inflammation. They are therefore used medically in conditions like arthritis. Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, can be prescribed as medications to treat patients whose bodies produce abnormally low levels of certain hormones, mainly testosterone. They can also be indicated for patients suffering from muscle atrophy (or loss of muscle mass) such as cancer or HIV patients. These prescriptions are, however, only limited to medical conditions and should not be used in the enhancement of athletic performance.

Take home message therefore is; “Do not follow your fitness trainer blindly”. Avoid abuse of steroids and supplements. It is best to consult with a certified expert or a nutritionist before embarking on a mission to pump up using any form of medication.