Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Upside and Downside of Steroid Use

Sports culture has changed in the 21st century. Gone are the days where hard work and training brings an athlete to victory. Today, more and more athletes are indulging in many substances to improve their athletic performance and stamina. News about athletes and performance enhancing drugs, primarily steroids, seem to become regular items in the news. It is no secret that a number of professional wrestlers and some hard core body builders are steroid users. But now even runners, swimmers, baseball players, and cyclists are accused of abuse. In some cases, they have admitted to having used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. These individuals admitted that they took these substances to have an edge in competition.

Steroids, one of the most abused performance enhancers, are powerful drugs that work by increasing protein synthesis within the cells. By doing this, steroids may enable individuals to run faster, hit harder, lift heavier weights, have more endurance and stamina, react faster, and achieve better than peak performance. In addition to this, steroids may also increase the body's production of testosterone, a naturally occurring hormone in the body. Testosterone enhances male characteristics like muscle mass, facial hair growth, and deepening of the voice. Steroids are banned substances and specialists are still puzzled at how ordinary people get a hold of it. Reports say that one can actually purchase steroids over the Internet. Steroid users are rampant nowadays, such that people may not readily recognize them if they are not aware of what to look for as physical signs.

Steroids may improve one's physique and increase physical performance. However, in the long run, it can greatly damage one's health, especially if taken in large doses.

Steroids taken for an extended period of time can lead to the following health conditions:

  • stunted growth in teens (by causing bones to mature too fast and stop growing at an early age)
  • liver tumors
  • abnormal of the heart muscles
  • violent, aggressive behavior and mood swings
  • blood lipid abnormalities that contribute to heart disease
  • acne (or a worsening of acne)
  • increased breast growth in males, especially teens
  • irreversible stretch marks
  • a heightened tendency for hair loss and male-pattern baldness
  • muscle aches

Teen girls and women risk these additional side effects:

  • male-type facial and body hair growth and male-pattern baldness
  • deepening of the voice
  • enlargement of the clitoris

In addition to these effects, many steroid-users have died in the past; the causes being strongly connected with taking steroids. They are not good for one’s heart tissue, and may lead to the development of many health complications. Steroid users may also develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and tumors of the kidney or liver. Athletes who abuse steroids have been known to suffer heart attacks and strokes before they turn 30.

Clearly, the ill-effects of steroids outweigh its benefits. Individuals who want to improve their physical performance and stamina should bear in mind that the risks in taking these drugs are great and are not worth it. Hard work and dedication should be prioritized, rather than taking substances that may help one gain a temporary edge in the sports field.

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