DOESN'T OUR BODY PRODUCE STEROIDS NATURALLY? WHAT EXACTLY IS A STEROID?
A steroid is a type of lipid, characterized by a carbon skeleton with four fused rings. Hundreds of distinct steroids have been identified in plants and animals. Their most important role in most living systems is as hormones. In human physiology and medicine, the most important steroids are cholesterol, the steroid hormones, and their precursors and metabolites. Within the medical field, the term "steroids" usually refers to corticosteroids and glucocorticoids. Within the context of this investigation, anabolic steroids are being discussed. Anabolic steroids are a class of natural and synthetic steroid hormones that promote cell growth and division, resulting in growth of muscle tissue and sometimes bone size and strength. Testosterone is the best known natural anabolic steroid, as well as the best known natural androgen.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MG AND MCG? AND WHAT IS AN IU?
It is important to understand and be able to convert certain units of measure, especially when taking anabolic steroids. If an athlete confuses a mg with a mcg, the results could be fatal.
The microgram (mcg) is an SI (International System of Units) unit of mass. This is used to measure the weight of oral tablets and is 1/1,000,000 of a gram. It is 10 times smaller than a milligram, which is 0.001 grams (g), and 10 times bigger than a nanogram (ng). Other important units of weight are as follows:
- 1 nanogram = 0.00001
- 1 microgram = 0.0001
- 1 milligram = 0.001 gram
- 1 centigram = 0.01 gram
- 1 decigram = 0.1 gram
- 1 kilogram = 1000 grams
- An IU is also sometimes used. This is a pharmacological unit of measurement based on the biological activity of the compound.
AREN'T ANABOLIC STEROIDS USED IN MEDICAL SETTINGS TO TREAT DISEASE?
Indeed, anabolic steroids have been used in clinical settings since the 1940' s with varying success. Disadvantages outweighed benefits for most purposes, and in recent decades medical use in North America and Europe has been restricted to a few conditions. For decades, anabolic steroids were the mainstay of therapy for hypoplastic anemias not due to nutrient deficiency, especially aplastic anemia. Anabolic steroids are slowly being replaced by synthetic protein hormones that selectively stimulate growth of blood cell precursors. Anabolic steroids were used heavily by pediatric endocrinologists for children with growth failure from the 1960s through the 1980s. Availability of synthetic growth hormone and increasing social stigmatization of anabolic steroids led to discontinuation of this use. Anabolic steroids have been given to people with chronic wasting conditions such as cancer and AIDS, due to their ability to preserve muscle and bone mass while stimulating appetite. Androgens are given to many boys distressed about extreme delay of puberty. Testosterone is now nearly the only androgen used for this purpose but synthetic anabolic steroids were often used prior to the 1980s. Different classes of steroids are used in other medications and to treat other illnesses and diseases. However, within the context of this book, the anabolic class of steroids will remain the emphasis.
WHAT ARE STEROIDAL SUPPLEMENTS?
Steroidal supplements, also called prohormones, are supplements that are converted into testosterone or a similar compound in the body. This is suggested to promote muscle growth in the user, but without being labeled an anabolic steroid. However, little is known about their effectiveness, although some evidence suggests that the use of these supplements will actually hinder endogenous testosterone production.
ARE ANABOLIC STEROIDS ADDICTIVE?
There are an undetermined percentage of steroid users who have become psychologically addicted to the drugs, but there is no evidence to suggest that the drugs are physically addictive. An addicted user may be evidenced by their continued use of the drug in spite of physical problems, negative effects on social relations, or nervousness and irritability. Addicts may also experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and the desire to take more steroids. The most serious withdrawal symptom is depression, which has led some young athletes to commit suicide. Wood (2004) studied the psychological addiction of anabolic steroids. Testosterone appears to act through the mesolimbic dopamine system, a common substrate for drugs of abuse, which may be responsible for addiction and depression.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO "CYCLE?"
As with most practices, anabolic steroid use has its own terminology. Besides using the term steroids, athletes may refer to them as "juice," "juicing," or "gear." Another popular name is "roids." The practice of alternating periods of use with non-use is called a "cycle" or "cycling." This term does not just apply to steroids, but any supplement or compound that is used in alternating periods, such as creatine. The purpose of cycling, in terms of steroid use, is to allow the body's depressed natural hormones to return to normal. Cycling is also necessary to limit the chance of developing damaging side effects. The longer a user is on steroids, the greater the chance of developing damaging side effects. That is why most users, especially beginners, use very short cycles. When an individual uses more than one compound at a time (not only steroids, but other supplements as well), this is called a "stack." Taking numerous, sometimes excessive, numbers of drugs, compounds and supplements at a time is called "shot gunning." Stacking steroids is dangerous; drug interactions can cause serious side effects greater than the side effects of the individual drugs.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ACTIVE LIFE OR HALF-LIFE OF A DRUG?
The active life and half-life of a drug is important in order to understand dosage amounts and dose frequency. It is also important to understand this concept if the athlete is subject to drug testing so he/ she will know how long before a test they need to stop the drugs in order for them not to test positive. By knowing the half-lives of drugs can help determine how much of the drug is still active in the body. For example, say an athlete ingests 2.5 mg of Femara, which has an active life of 2 to 4 days. After 2 days, the amount of active drug still present in the blood stream should be approximately 1.25 mg. On this day, 2.5 more mg is ingested, making the total blood level of the drug as high as 3.75 mg. Therefore, understanding half-lives is also important in terms of toxicity and strength of the drug in vivo. It is important to note, however, that half-lives are not always constant, but are dependent on a number of factors. The more body mass an athlete has, the shorter the half-life is likely to be.
IS THERE A SAFE WAY TO TAKE STEROIDS?
While there are "safer" ways to take steroids, there is no totally "safe" way to go about taking these drugs. The damaging effects that steroids have on the human body outweigh the positive effects that they produce. Therefore it would behoove any serious athlete considering taking these drugs to reconsider, and focus on proper diet and safe supplementation techniques as an alternative to achieving their desired results.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HUMAN-GRADE AND A VETERINARY-GRADE STEROID?
Most steroids sold on the black market are veterinary-grade steroids. This is because vet-grade drugs are equally as potent as human-grade, but are generally less expensive. If the drug is dosed correctly, there should be no difference in the action between the two versions. However, the user should consider that some of these drugs may be under-dosed or even unsterile. There is little doubt that the veterinary drug companies are fully aware that their products are not just being used on animals, but on human athletes as well. In fact, their sales depend on it. Therefore, most reputable companies will take extra precautions to ensure the quality of their product so that it is acceptable for human use. However, there are no guarantees on the black market. Counterfeit and fake drugs are common, and are extremely dangerous.