Anabolic steroids , also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids or AAS are a group of powerful compounds that are closely related chemically to the male sex hormone testosterone. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the buildup of cellular tissue (anabolism), especially in muscles These artificial substances were developed in the 1930’s originally to help men whose bodies produced inadequate amounts of the natural hormone that is responsible for the development of masculine characteristics occurring at puberty, such as lowering of voice and growth of body hair.
The word anabolic comes from the Greek: anabole, “to build up”, and the word androgenic comes from the Greek: andros, “man” + genein, “to produce”.
Performance enhancing substances have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine by societies around the world, with the aim of promoting vitality and strength. In particular, the use of steroid hormones pre-dates their identification and isolation: medical use of testicle extract began in the late 19th century.
From the 1950s until the 1980s, there were doubts that anabolic steroids produced anything more than a placebo effect. In a 1972 study, participants were informed they would receive injections of anabolic steroids on a daily basis, but instead had actually been given a placebo. They reportedly could not tell the difference, and the perceived performance enhancement was similar to that of subjects taking the real anabolic compounds. According to Geraline Lin, a researcher for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these results remained unchallenged for 18 years, even though the study used inconsistent controls and insignificant doses. In a 2001 study, the effects of high doses of anabolic steroids were examined, by injecting variable doses (up to 600 mg/week) of testosterone enanthate into muscle tissue for 20 weeks. The results showed a clear increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat mass associated with the testosterone doses.
Anabolic steroids have been used by men and women in many different kinds of professional sports (cricket, track and field, weightlifting, bodybuilding, shot put, cycling, baseball, wrestling, mixed martial arts, boxing, football, etc.) to attain a competitive edge or to assist in recovery from injury. Such use is prohibited by the rules of the governing bodies of many sports.
There are three common forms in which anabolic steroids are administered:
1. oral pills
2. injectable steroids
3. skin patches
Oral administration is most convenient, but the steroid must be chemically modified so that the liver cannot break it down before it reaches the systemic circulation; these formulations can cause liver damage in high doses. Injectable steroids are typically administered into the muscle, not into the vein, to avoid sudden changes in the amount of the drug in the bloodstream. Transdermal patches (adhesive patches placed on the skin) may also be used to deliver a steady dose through the skin and into the bloodstream. Injection is the most common method used by individuals administering anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes.
Anabolic steroids, like other drugs, have been the subject of controversy. Although anabolic steroids have been frequently linked in the media to dangerous side effects and high mortality rates, they are used widely in medicine with an accepted side effect profile. Former assistant professor at the University of Toronto and World Wrestling Entertainment athletic physician Mauro Di Pasquale has stated, “As used by most people, including athletes, the adverse effects of anabolic steroids appear to be minimal.
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