What Are Steroids?

Steroids are artificially produced hormones that are the same as, or similar to, androgens, the male-type sex hormones in the body. There are more than 100 variations of anabolic steroids. The most powerful androgen is testosterone(pronounced: tess-TOSS-tuh-rone). Although testosterone is mainly a mature male hormone, girls’ bodies produce smaller amounts. Testosterone helps build muscle and promotes the masculine traits that guys develop during puberty, such as deepening of the voice and growth of body hair. Testosterone levels can also affect how aggressive a person is.

Athletes sometimes take anabolic steroids because of their testosterone-like effects.

How Do Steroids Work?

    Steroids stimulate muscle tissue to grow and “bulk up” in response to training by mimicking the effect of naturally produced testosterone on the body. Anabolic steroids can remain in the body anywhere from a couple of days to about a year. Steroids have become popular because they may improve endurance, strength, and muscle mass. However, research has not shown that steroids improve skill, agility, or athletic performance.

Problems

Steroids can also have serious psychological side effects. Some users may become aggressive or combative, believe things that aren’t true (delusions), or have extreme feelings of mistrust or fear (paranoia). And people who use steroids also appear to be at higher risk for using other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine, often to counteract some of the negative effects of steroids.

Steroid users who inject the drugs with a needle are at risk for infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS, if they share needles with other users. People who use dirty needles are also at risk for contracting hepatitis, a liver disease, or bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart.

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