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Steroid Myths – Fact or Fiction

Myth #1 – Steroids are safe.
FALSE! The side effects are significant and are more likely to be serious the younger the person taking anabolic steroids. They include liver cancers, hepatitis, heart disease, cholesterol elevation, blood sugar elevation, epileptic fits, fluid retention, and ultimately heart-attack and stroke as well as cosmetic effects such as virilization (early or excess growth of male characteristics) in males, early fusion of growing bones (stops growth) in teenagers, androgenization (loss of feminine sexual characteristics) in females and growth of breasts in males. See Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Abuse.

Myth#2 – Steroids won’t really stunt your growth.
FALSE! Teenagers and adolescents who abuse anabolic/androgenic steroids are at risk to remain short their entire lives, never reaching their body’s intended natural height. In females, estrogen is responsible for determining their generally shorter height than men, and estrogenic steroids can affect growth platelets in the long bones by speeding up the natural growth process. The synthetic steroids convince the platelets to seal off much earlier than usual, leaving the youth permanently stunted. Some steroid supporters claim only a few steroids convert estrogen and cause stunted growth. In actuality, over 30 different steroids including Equipoise, Dianabol and Nandrolone have been determined to convert into estrogen.

Myth #3 – All steroids are pretty much the same.

FALSE! Anabolic/androgenic steroids, made popular by bodybuilders, professional athletes and the local muscle guys at your gym, are basically synthetic male testosterone. The anabolic component deals with muscle and skeletal tissue growth. The androgenic component deals with secondary male sex traits such as hair growth, sex drive and sperm health. Anabolic/androgenic steroids can also convert a third component, an estrogenic component, which regulates numerous functions in both male and female.  Anabolics differ from other steroids such as corticosteroids, which are used to treat inflammation in diseases. The body produces corticosteroids naturally in the cortex region of the adrenal gland, though the actual medications are manufactured synthetically. Corticosteroids are often used to battle asthma and extreme cases of allergies. Though anabolic steroids can also have legitimate medical use, they are often acquired illegally and used in massive, uncontrolled doses for maximum muscle gain.

Myth #4 – Steroid abuse isn’t really a big problem in the U.S.
FALSE!  More and more people abuse steroids each year. With professional athletes inadvertently promoting steroids in the news, bodybuilding magazines overtly promoting steroids in their ads and so-called steroid experts preaching “safe” steroid use on the internet, many young people are caught up in the hype, wanting a better body, a higher batting average, or a faster quarter mile. A recent study at Penn State revealed among 9th to 12th graders, nearly 7% of males and 5% of females reported abusing steroids at least once. The American Heart Association has estimated that at least half of all Division I college football players have used steroids over substantial periods of time. Unfortunately, common sense tells us not everybody is talking. The numbers are almost certainly higher.

Myth #5 – Only a certain kind of person uses steroids.
FALSE! Many types of people abuse steroids. The reasons people are getting involved with steroids are varied. Many teenage abusers fear not making the team or getting noticed by the coaches and colleges. Some people think their gym peers will not accept them unless they take the challenge or dare to do steroids. Some guys fear they won’t get noticed by the right women without steroids. Some gym-goers believe that they won't be able to compete since all the other guys are using steroids.  Some abusers are afraid their appearance or performance isn’t as good as it could be, and that their self-esteem will be diminished as a result. It is an inherent problem of human nature to seek acceptance and approval. Steroid abuse allows a false sense of accomplishment as strength improves, muscles grow, and mentally, a sense of power is introduced. All the while, potentially devastating damage is being done to the body. It is a poor trade-off and because of this false mental sense, it often becomes an addiction.

Myth #6 – Steroids aren’t addictive.
FALSE! In spite of the prohibitive cost, negative physical side effects and numerous warnings from a host of sources (print media, internet, television), an undetermined number of steroid abusers continue taking massive amounts of these synthetic hormones. What can be determined about the addictiveness of anabolic steroids when abusers experience withdrawal symptoms ranging from fatigue, mood swings, reduced sex drive, restlessness and insomnia, and a desire to take more steroids? Is it possible that a previously healthy minded individual would attempt suicide after quitting steroids? The quick loss of muscle size, physical strength, and the diminished psychological sense of power provided by steroids can cause mild to severe depression. Untreated symptoms of depression in individuals experiencing anabolic steroid withdrawal has been shown to persist for a year or more after quitting, depending on the amount of steroids used.

Myth #7 – Steroids aren’t as illegal as other drugs.
FALSE! The United States government considers steroids as Schedule III controlled substances, which are medically accepted substances having a low or moderate physical dependence and a high psychological dependence. Steroids are in the same legal class as barbiturates, veterinary tranquilizers and narcotic painkillers. Steroid crimes are both federal and state offenses according to the law. Simple possession is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000.00. Even if you aren’t given jail time, the consequences of an arrest include being taken before a judge in open court. Legal expenses and seized assets are usually a given result. Offenses of possession with intent to distribute, meaning large quantities of steroids are found in your possession, carry the potential of up to five years in jail for a first steroid-trafficking offense. The penalty for a second offense is a maximum of 10 years in prison. With the recent headlines about steroid abuse in professional sports, these sentences could get tougher very quickly. New legislation has been proposed for 2007 that carries harsher penalties for steroid abusers and traffickers.

Myth #8 – It’s hard to get caught buying steroids over the internet.
FALSE! The newest and fastest growing way to get caught buying illegal steroids is by ordering them through the mail. Those who order steroids over the Internet run the risk of the delivery being intercepted by U.S. Customs or postal authorities, causing an investigation and potentially an arrest. Many otherwise law-abiding adults have been arrested based on their receipt of anabolic steroids through the mail.

Myth #9 - Steroids will make your penis smaller.
FALSE! Steroid abuse among males usually carries the stigma of a shrinking sex organ, however, it’s the testicles that actually atrophy. The testicles stop production of natural testosterone while anabolic steroids are being used. They can shrivel from disuse and cause temporary sterility. Permanent sterility from prolonged steroid abuse has not been determined. The penis is generally unaffected, discounting the potential for more frequent and often embarrassing erections due to the increased sex drive from the large amount of artificial testosterone. Conversely, in women, anabolic steroid abuse can cause the clitoris to grow in length due to the introduction of synthetic male hormones.

Myth#10 – Women don’t use steroids.
FALSE! Studies show four times as many men abuse steroids as women, but the number of women is still significant. The reasons women abuse steroids range from dysmorphia (skewed body image) to self defense. Some women who compete in bodybuilding or other athletic competition also abuse anabolic drugs. In a recent study, 10 out of 75 women interviewed, admitted to being raped, stating the experience as the chief reason for taking steroids. They felt steroids allowed them to increase muscle size and strength to protect themselves in the future and to cultivate a sense of security, often replacing male relationships with bodybuilding activities. Women abusers have also shown willingness and desire to compete alongside male counterparts. However, feeling a natural predisposition towards weakness, they turn to steroids to level the playing field.

Myth #11 – Roid rage isn’t real.

FALSE! Medical research’s answer to whether steroids cause aggressive tendencies and adverse psychological effects has generally been "no.” But that's a misconception resulting from the fact that medical experimenters cannot ethically give large doses of steroids. Disregarding the lack of conclusive medical testing, the legal community tells a very different story.  Legal psychologist Harrison Pope of McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, who sometimes serves as an expert witness in court, says he's been "involved in a dozen murder cases where someone went on steroids and killed somebody without a history of violence or crime beforehand." In one case, a 16-year-old boy was charged with killing his 14-year-old girlfriend. Pope says, "We have no evidence of any criminal or violent activity before he started taking steroids. At that point, he had a series of run-ins with the police, which culminated in the murder. He was convicted and sent up for life." As the example shows, wives and girlfriends are often the victims of men who are abusing steroids. In a study of 88 athletes who used steroids, Pope found 23 percent of current users reporting "major mood disturbances" including mania and major depression. Steroid users also reported aggressive or violent incidents. “...one user, using his fists and a metal bar, seriously damaged three cars, all with their drivers cowering inside, because he had become annoyed by a traffic delay. Another was arrested for causing $1,000 of property damage during a fit of anger at a sporting event; another was arrested for assaulting a motorist; another rammed his head through a wooden door.... Several users reported that they were expelled from their homes by parents, wives, or girlfriends because they became intolerably aggressive,” according to Dr. Pope.

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