Anabolic steroid use has been promoted and criticized by the media such an extent that the majority of the public is unaware of many of the critical facts associated with the drug. As with any chemical substance, a certain amount of caution should be exercised; however, with the proper precautions the benefits are innumerable.
A steroid is an artificial substance that alters the hormone levels of the body, particularly those of the male hormone testosterone. This increased hormone level stimulates the body’s cells to divide and grow at a greater rate of speed, causing increased tissue mass (i.e. the greater muscle mass associated with the use of steroids). With the proper diet and exercise, steroids can be a valuable asset in the quest for a lean, muscular physique which is often desired by bodybuilders.
Steroids have received the negative reputation they have because their systemic effects can cause a large range of side effects, including but not limited to the formation of cysts and tumors on the liver and kidneys, damage to the vessels of the heart, hypertension, uncontrollable episodes of rage, infertility and testicular shrinkage in men and the growth of facial hair and cessation of menstruation in women. These side effects are considered typical for steroid use, long term or otherwise; however, over time methods have been developed to decrease or eliminate these affects altogether.
The key to avoiding adverse effects with steroid use is to follow the directions. Steroids should be administered in cycles, with six to twelve weeks on and ten to twelve weeks off. This break is required to allow hormones to return to their normal levels, preventing both a majority of the side effects resulting from sustained elevation and the chance of the steroid no longer being effective due to a decreased sensitivity of cell receptor sites. Most professional athletes that use steroids on a regular basis restrict their number of cycles to two a year.
Many users also complete a self prescribed round of PCT, or post cycle therapy, where a SERM such as clomiphene citrate and/or tamoxifen citrate are taken in conjunction with an aromatase inhibitor; these decrease the sensitivity of the cells binding capabilities to the hormone, allowing hormone levels to return to normal much more quickly. Decreased caloric intake and supplemental potassium have been noted to decrease the severity of many of the other side effects associated with steroid use if done while the user is completing a cycle; however, caloric levels should still be sufficient to meet the body’s needs.
It should be noted that because of the possibility of severe adverse reactions anabolic steroids have been declared a controlled substance available only by prescription in some countries, such as the United States, Canada and Britain. In these countries steroids are sold on the black market by distributors who obtain the drugs from manufacturers in Eastern Europe; the potential for tampered, contaminated or synthetic drugs is great. Prior to purchasing steroids in any country, the source should be confirmed as reputable and the products safe and of a high quality.
There is no way to guarantee that steroid use will come without side effects; however, with the proper precautions steroids can facilitate a speedy, safe approach to a more muscular body.