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A baseball on baseball turf with a steroid injectionWhat are steroids, and why are they so bad for you?

These days, you constantly hear about some new sporting scandal involving the discovery that a popular athlete has been using steroids.

What’s the big deal, right?

What Are Steroids?

There are two different types of steroids: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids.

  • Anabolic steroids are used to build up muscle.
  • Corticosteroids are used to dampen overactive immune responses and reduce swelling.

The anabolic steroids abused by athletes are synthetic versions of testosterone, a male hormone. Both men and women naturally produce testosterone. Hormones help regulate many of the body’s basic functions, which is why, when they’re out of balance, either naturally or because of hormone drug use, it can cause a wide range of dangerous consequences.

What Are The Side Effects Of Steroids?

Anabolic steroids can affect the entire body. Some of the side effects are common to all users, while other are more related to gender and age.

Men who take anabolic steroids may:

  • Suffer from sex performance issues
  • Develop breasts
  • Get painful erections
  • Have their testicles shrink
  • Have decreased sperm count
  • Become impotent

Women who take anabolic steroids may:

  • Grow excessive face and body hair
  • Have their voices deepen
  • Experience menstrual irregularities
  • Have an enlarged clitoris
  • Have reduced breast size
  • Have a masculinized female fetus

Both men and women who take anabolic steroids may:

  • Get acne
  • Have an oily scalp and skin
  • Get yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
  • Become bald
  • Have tendon rupture
  • Have heart attacks
  • Have an enlarged heart
  • Develop significant risk of liver disease and liver cancer
  • Have high levels of “bad” cholesterol
  • Have mood swings

Since steroids are often taken by injections, there is also the risk of getting HIV or hepatitis infection from an unsterile needle or syringe.

Are Steroids Illegal?

Yes. Without a doctor’s prescription for a medical condition, it’s against the law to possess, sell, or distribute anabolic steroids.

Legal prosecution can be a serious side effect of illicit steroid use. Under federal law, first-time simple possession of anabolic steroids carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. For first-offense trafficking in steroids, the maximum penalty is five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Second offenses double this penalty. In addition to federal penalties, state laws also prohibit illegal anabolic steroid use.

Are Steroids Ever Okay?

Doctors prescribe anabolic steroids to treat certain specific medical conditions, such as muscle wasting in AIDS, or to treat delayed puberty. For example, they may be used to treat the muscle wasting seen in AIDS.

It is important to note that doctors are not allowed to prescribe steroids to enhance a person’s athletic performance.

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