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June 8, 2015
The use of drugs to enhance physical performance has been observed for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used hallucinogenic mushrooms, and Roman gladiators used stimulants to overcome fatigue.
Anabolic steroids first surfaced in the athletic world during the 50's with the Soviet Union and the Olympics. Athletes performed at levels thought unobtainable, body sizes grew exponentially, and abuses are now rampant. It is now a felony for individuals to distribute or possess with the intent to distribute without a valid prescription.
Synthetic testosterone derivatives have a capacity to slow down the breakdown process of overworked muscles. This allows a muscle, which has been worked and fatigued, to enlarge and become correspondingly stronger. This ability to slow the break-down process, called anticatabolism, reverses the effects of other hormones and limits the wasting of muscle during extreme fatigue inducing exercises.
These steroid effects increase protein synthesis in muscle cells, and also increase the release of growth hormone. Many effects are reversible once the drugs are discontinued. Psychological effects such as rage and aggression has been documented as bad side effects. These drugs can be taken with pills or injections, and their availability on the Internet is limitless. Many countries, including Mexico, Russia, Hungary and Spain are sources for illegally obtaining the drugs.
At the high school level football, wrestling, track and bodybuilding have the highest abuse levels. About 10% of these students are obtaining through prescription processes. One study found 7% of adolescent's users began using at the age of 10 or younger. About a third of these users do not play any sports.
The side effects can be disastrous: cardiac risks, benign and malignant tumors, and premature closing of growth plates in the bones of children has been documented. In males, some effects include baldness, deeper voices, and acne. Female effects can include increased masculinity, breast shrinkage, and facial hair and coarsening of the skin. Psychological dependence on their effects leads to withdrawal-type symptoms that can resemble severe depressions.
The easy availability of these drugs has allowed the illegal use of these drugs to permeate all communities. We have this problem in Fairbanks. Our best approach is early recognition of symptoms and education in our youth.