Recent newspaper articles have talked about a growing problem of steroid abuse in teenagers almost exclusively boys, and young men. Anabolic steroids are illegal to sell in the UK, but they aren’t illegal to buy, which means that people can get them over the Internet from other countries, or buy them in another country.
What Are Steroids?In a nutshell, they are hormones, and there are many different kinds. But when people talk about steroids in the field of sports and bodybuilding, they are usually talking about anabolic steroids. This is a synthetic product that resembles the natural male hormone testosterone, and taking it can help you develop more muscle tissue.
Why Are More Young People Taking Steroids?There seems to be two reasons why boys, and it is much more likely to be boys taking them than girls, are turning to steroids. The first is to try and get an advantage in sports, but research has never shown that there’s any increase in ability when people take steroids. In fact, they are more likely to damage your response times and agility, and sports officials are very strict on weeding them out. Steroids do give you more muscle bulk though, and that leads to the second reason.
Media PressureJust as girls have problems with anorexia and bulimia, as they are pounded every day with images of ‘perfect’ skinny women models and stars, boys are beginning to feel the pressure too. Sports stars, film stars and even male underwear models feature highly toned bodies, with glistening pecs, that essential ‘six-pack’ and washboard stomach. Men generally did not have bodies like this thirty or forty years ago, only bodybuilders and professional athletes. It’s all being created by the media’s obsession with image.
So What’s the Problem?The problem is that muscle bulk is not all that steroids can give you. Man boobs, for a start, bad acne, particularly on the back, premature baldness, mood swings, aggression and paranoia are all downsides of overdosing on testosterone. Although we talk of testosterone being a ‘male’ hormone, and oestrogen being a ‘female’ one, the truth is that they occur naturally, at different levels, in both men and women, and upsetting that balance causes problems.
The unexciting truth about improving your physique is that the only safe way to do it is controlled, targeted and regular exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep. Actually, regular exercise and a healthy diet will make you feel better and get you some decent sleep anyway.
Long Term DamageThe more long-term damage from steroid use is on the inside, to your body and your brain. Studies in America have shown that the damage to the brain involves the destruction of brain cells, which is the key factor in such illnesses as Huntingdon’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
The damage to your internal organs is mostly to the liver. Some of the compounds in these synthetic drugs can’t be processed easily so they cause the organs to overwork.
No DeterrentThe trouble is that the effects of this damage that may not be noticed for some years, even though it starts immediately. So these aren’t very effective deterrents, in much the same way that the dangers of smoking don’t work well as a deterrent. Lots of young people know the dangers of smoking, but they carry on because the effects aren’t immediate, and everyone knows smokers who are still alive and apparently healthy.
Many users of steroids take ‘cycles’ of steroids, alternating them with other drugs in the belief that the body will have a chance to recover from the damage, but this doesn’t seem to work. In fact, many people who are admitted to emergency wards with unexplained fits of trembling, dizziness, vomiting, and even comatose in extreme cases, turn out to be abusing a mix of steroids and other drugs in a rotation system.
What Can I Do?Boring as it may be, if you are being pressured into taking steroids, the best thing to do is say ‘no’. If you find that hard, remember it’s your body, and no-one tells you how to treat it. Just keep saying no, and just that – you don’t have to justify yourself. If you find this difficult (and it can be) then try calling one of the numbers below for help in doing this.
Confidential HelpIf you feel that steroids are the answer for you, find out more for yourself first. Here are some places you can go for further information or talk to someone, in confidence, who isn’t your parent or teacher, either on the phone or over the web:
- Talk to Frank
- Narcotics Anonymous
And What Else is in That Tablet?Finally, all steroids pills or creams (steroids can also be injected) are sold on the black market, which means that no-one can be exactly sure what’s in them. And don’t believe the person selling them to you either, he won’t know, and if they swear that they do, they’re still lying.
Real Life DeathsA recent example of this, although not about steroids, caused the deaths of hundreds of people in Panama who took cold medicine. The problem was that counterfeiters had substituted a dangerous poison, diethylene glycol, instead of the more expensive (and safe) glycerine used in cough syrups, just to make money.
Now if that can happen in legally available cold remedies, what do you think is going in to black market steroids?