Health concerns over anabolic steroid use

Anabolic steroids, commonly known as AAS (androgenic anabolic steroids) are drugs used by many people in the UK and the world alike for cosmetic reasons, to increase muscle mass and gain weight.

AAS are synthetic derivatives of the body’s endogenous testosterone and effectively mimics the effect of testosterone to cause muscle hypertrophy. They can cause skeletal muscle hypertrophy in a number of different ways; Testosterone can directly stimulate pluripotent cells to undergo myogenic lineage and forming muscle cells and inhibits them from the adipogenic lineage and from them becoming fat cells. This is why many AAS users experience huge gains in muscle mass combined with very low levels of body fat.  Testosterone can also interact with the androgen receptor to either stimulate the myonucleus, or by stimulating the proliferation of satellite cells (skeletal muscle precursor cells), leading to myonuclear accretion, the formation of new myotubes which ultimately leads to muscle hypertrophy.

AAS use has been on the rise in recent years, particularly amongst men and young adolescents looking for a quick way to gain muscle. Although many users do so for cosmetic reasons, many also abuse the drugs, taking dosages far higher than the body’s endogenous productions levels (7-12mg per day), and consequently, many health problems arise.

AAS use may cause a negative feedback loop leading to a reduction or a total stoppage of the body’s endogenous testosterone from the testis. Both the production and secretion of Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone may be inhibited from the anterior pituitary gland, or Gonadotropin Releasing hormone may be suppressed due to direct inhibition at the hypothalamus. This is one of the reasons why many AAS user may need to go on testosterone replacement therapy when they cease using the drugs, or why many users may also experience infertility.

There are a number of other problems associated with AAS use which may include cardiac muscle hypertrophy, increased blood pressure, infections due to improper use of needles etc. The drugs can also cause the user a number of psychological problems that have been described by some as euphoria or a sense of well being, due to the user’s increased feeling of self worth due to having more muscle. On the flip side, this may also cause what is sometimes known as roid rage.

Many users feel that the side effects can be managed by taking AAS in cycles at appropriate dosages. Although these users may be able to reduce the side effects of the drugs, it is yet to be definitively proven if AAS will cause health problems later in life. This is another reason why many young users ignore the health risks, because a teenager looking to gain muscle in a couple of months is rarely going to consider any health risks that may or may not become apparent many years down the line.

AAS use has become increasingly widespread over the recent years and is unlikely to die down in the near future despite the efforts of various government agencies warning the public of its danger.

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