"I just wanted to boost my performance." These are the words spoken by
numerous athletes who have been captured using steroids. The continuous stress
and pressure on athletes to perform well has caused some to breakdown and take
steroids as an easy way to bulk up. Steroids amongst athletes is not the only
problem. Other reasons for taking steroids may be to heal injury, improve
appearance, or for various social factors. High School is definitely tough on
self-esteem for teenagers who look to fit in. Many simply desire to improve
their physical appearance, but they are too lazy, or do not have enough time to
work out. What do they do? They resort to the use of anabolic steroids.
Everyone has heard of steroids, but many people do not know exactly
what they are. Natural steroids play a key role in the body processes of living
things. They are naturally produced by plants and animals, and are used for
various reasons. Steroids include sterols, such as cholesterol, bile acids from
the liver, adrenal hormones, sex hormones, and poisons in certain toads. Sex
steroids in humans give men and women the characteristics that make up the sex,
such as the type of voice, and the physical build. Adrenal steroids, produced
in the cortex of the adrenal gland in humans, regulate protein and carbohydrate
metabolism. Aldosterone, another steroid produced in the adrenal cortex, plays
a role in the mineral and water balance of the body.
Anabolic steroids are commercially produced by chemical methods from the
male hormone testosterone. Artificial steroids were first developed for medical
purposes during World War II (1939-1945) by the German army. The Germans gave
it to their soldiers to make them more aggressive in combat. After the war,
doctors in Europe and the U.S. used steroids to treat anemia, malnutrition, and
to help patients recover faster from surgery. Then, in the 1940s, artificial
steroids began to enter the athletic world. Body builders in Eastern Europe
were taking testosterone in various forms. In the 1950s, athletes used the
anabolic steroids to improve their performance in international competition.
With the government\'s approval, coaches in the Soviet Union gave the lab-
produced steroids to their athletes, mainly of whom were weight-lifters and
shot-putters. When other athletes around the world noticed the Soviets\' winning
records (Soviet weight-lifters won seven medals at the 1952 Olympics), athletes
in many countries began to experiment with steroid use.
In 1956, American doctor John B. Ziegler worked with a drug company to
produce anabolic steroids in the United States. Soon after, American athletes,
particularly football players, began using steroids as early as the 1960s. The
health dangers of steroids were not yet recognized, and athletes obtained
steroids legally from their team doctors. When state laws against steroid use
were passed in the 1960s, a black market for the artificial testosterone quickly
developed. Steroids eventually found their way into school athletics, at both
the college and high school levels. During the 1980s, steroid use spread
outside the athletic world. Recently the use of steroids has been increasing
amongst non-athletes for various reasons. (See Chart)
Due to the harmful effects of anabolic steroids, the Federal and State
governments have established laws and regulations against the use of them. In
1988, Congress passed what is known as the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. This act made
the distribution or possession of anabolic steroid for non-medical reasons a
Federal offense. The penalty for distribution to minors is a prison offense.
In 1990, Congress made the laws even stricter, and classified anabolic steroids
as a controlled substance. The law also increased penalties for steroids use
and shipping. To stop the selling of steroids on the black market, the law
requires pharmaceutical firms to be strict with their production and record-
So far, over 25 states have passed laws and regulations to control
steroid abuse, and many other sates are considering similar legislation.
Steroids are beneficial in many ways, but along with the good there is
always a negative side. Some side effects in males include shrinking of the
testicles, reduced sperm count, impotence, baldness, breast development,
difficulty or pain urinating, and an enlarged prostate. In females some
complications are growth of facial hair, deepened voice, breast reduction, male
patterned baldness, enlargement of the clitoris, and irregular or cessation of
the menstrual cycle. Growth can also be prematurely halted in adolescents,
which may prove to be disastrous to their social development in later years.
For more serious side effects, and how often they occur, see the graph above.


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