Street Names: ”roids, rocket fuel, juice.”
“Anabolic steroids” is the familiar name for synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones (e.g., testosterone). They promote the growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effects) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects) in both males and females.
Fast facts about anabolic steroid abuse in SA among secondary school learners:
A recent study by Dr A Basson of the Youth Research Unit at UNISA found the following among secondary school learners in South Africa:
- 1 out of 10 learners doing sport have used drugs to enhance performance
- 6.2% has used anabolic steroids (AAS)
- 87.5 % of learners who used said they were motivated by parents to use steroids.
At an anti-doping conference in Stockholm last ?year, International Olympic Committee Medical Commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist said that the use of performance-enhancing drugs was now a public health problem rather than just a sporting problem, because of the “trickle down” effect from elite sportsmen to recreational users and high school athletes.
A huge part of the problem with schoolboy steroid abuse is that they work so quickly – and so dramatically. “It was staggering how quickly he put on muscle,” says the mother of a matric boy who attended a prominent Joburg private school. “Within a matter of weeks he was noticeably bigger. And it’s not like he’s a small guy; all the men in our family are big men,” she says.
“We were very lucky though, to catch it early on. My son made the mistake of telling my daughter’s boyfriend about it, and that’s how I found out. I found a veterinary injectable drug and two lots of pills. The thing that worried me the most were the people who are selling the steroids. My son owed them money. In fact, that’s how I found out – he told a friend that he had to sell his X-Box to pay his dealer. I don’t know if these people sell drugs too.”
The high stakes of schoolboy rugby, where your size determines whether or not you can make it onto the first team, into provincial trials, Craven Week, and hopefully the notebooks of Super Rugby talent scouts, has made the ballooning use of steroids among teenage rugby players almost inevitable. And while a lot of the pressure to perform comes from the schoolboys themselves, coaches, doctors and parents seem happy to get involved.
A promising Limpopo schoolboy rugby player, who is currently serving a two-year ban after testing positive for Dianabol at last year’s Craven Week, told his father that steroid use was tacitly encouraged at his school. “One of the teachers at school showed them a video that apparently claimed steroids are less hazardous to you than coffee and cigarettes,” the father recalls.
The boy attended a prominent boarding school and said that he had received the steroids in his hostel, from schoolmates who were also dealers. “At this very same Craven Week tournament where he was tested positive, I was sitting on the stand next to some boys talking about steroids,” his father says. “The one guy asked the other if he wasn’t worried that he’d be caught. He answered that he wasn’t, because of his doctor’s guidance, he’d never test positive.”
And although schools are reluctant to discuss the problem with outsiders, the overwhelming buy-in the South African Institute of Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) has received for its random drug testing in schools effectively amounts to a tacit admission that something is very wrong. According to SAIDS CEO Khalid Galant, the institute received so many requests from schools to be involved in the programme that its initial budget will not be sufficient; they’ll have to raise more funding to complete the programme.
The primary medical use of steroids:
The primary medical uses of these compounds are to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases.
Anabolic steroids were found to facilitate the growth of skeletal muscle in laboratory animals, which led to abuse of the compounds first by bodybuilders and weightlifters and then by athletes in other sports. Steroid abuse has become so widespread in athletics that it can affect the outcome of sports contests.
Using steroids brings the same problems as using any other illegal substance. Most people say they’re just going to use one six-week course to get bigger. They get bigger, they go to gym, but next year they want to get a little bigger. Now it becomes a habit, and the more you use, the more likely you are to use stronger products for longer.
The most common steroids sold in South Africa, (and also the ones for which athletes are most commonly tested positive by the South African Institute of Drug Free Sport), are:
Methandienone (trade name Dianabol),
Deca-Durabolin (trade name Nandrolone),
Stanlozol (brand name Winstrol) and various types of synthetic testosterone.
Drostanolone (brand name Masteron) was developed for treating breast cancer in women.
Two veterinary steroids, mostly used on racehorses, are very popular among bodybuilders, namely
Boldenone (trade name Equipoise).
They are very popular because they enable extremely fast muscle growth, but their side effects are also very pronounced. These drugs are even illegal for use in horses in South Africa.
Why do people abuse anabolic steroids?
- To improve their athletic performance (Although testing procedures are now in place to deter steroid abuse among professional and Olympic athletes, new designer drugs constantly become available that can escape detection and put athletes willing to cheat one step ahead of testing efforts.)
- To increase their muscle size or to reduce their body fat (This group includes people suffering from the behavioral syndrome called muscle dysmorphia, which causes them to have a distorted image of their bodies).
How do people abuse steroids?
Anabolic steroids are usually either taken orally or injected into the muscles, although some are applied to the skin as a cream or gel. Doses taken by abusers may be 10 to 100 times higher than doses prescribed to treat medical conditions. Abuse of anabolic steroids may lead to aggression and other psychiatric problems.
Commons patterns for misusing steroids include:
- cycling—taking multiple doses for a period of time, stopping for a time, and then restarting
- stacking—combining two or more different steroids and mixing oral and/or injectable types
- pyramiding—slowly increasing the dose or frequency of steroid misuse, reaching a peak amount, and then gradually tapering off to zero
- plateauing—alternating, overlapping, or substituting with another steroid to avoid developing a tolerance
There is no scientific evidence that any of these practices reduce the harmful medical consequences of these drugs.
“You’re not supposed to take it for more than three months straight,” says Johann. “Three months on, three months off. But in practice, for me, it ended up being three months heavy use and three months light use, because I ended up getting very irritable and impatient when I wasn’t using it. So I’d inject lighter doses on the off months. It’s not like there’s anything that keeps you addicted to it, but once the first muscles start showing and you get bigger and bigger, you just want to use more.”
Legal Status: Steroids are a controlled substance under provisions of the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990. A related chemical, human growth hormone, is now also controlled.
It is illegal to use steroids for muscle building in South Africa. Anabolic steroids may only be used for medical conditions related to muscle wastage and hormone shortages.
It’s illegal for anyone besides a doctor, pharmacist or other health professional to sell anabolic steroids, or anything labelled as such.
It’s also illegal to have them in your possession without a prescription.
Article link – http://www.mh.co.za/health/are-steroids-illegal/
The negative effects of steroid use:
Although many users report feeling good about themselves while on steroids, extreme mood swings can also occur, including manic-like symptoms and anger (“roid rage”) that may lead to violence. Researchers have also observed that users may suffer from paranoid (extreme, unreasonable) jealousy, extreme irritability and aggression (“roid rage”), delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.
Some of the most dangerous consequences that have been linked to steroid abuse include kidney impairment or failure; damage to the liver; and cardiovascular problems including enlargement of the heart, high blood pressure, and changes in blood cholesterol leading to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack (even in young people).
Steroid use commonly causes severe acne and fluid retention, as well as several effects that are gender- and age-specific:
For men—shrinkage of the testicles (testicular atrophy), reduced sperm count or infertility, baldness, development of breasts (gynecomastia), increased risk for prostate cancer.
No steroid users we spoke to admitted to any adverse effects in the genital department, but it’s a well documented fact that anabolic steroids suppress the body’s natural testosterone manufacture, leading to shrunken testicles, low sperm count or even an absence of sperm.
Compounding this, anabolic steroids also cause the excess manufacture of estrogens in the male body, leading to the growth of “man-boobs” and other female physical characteristics. This is known as gynecomastia – or “gyno”, in steroid-speak.
Research from the University of Helsinki’s Laboratory of Substance Abuse shows that steroids interfere with the production of gonadotrophin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates the gonads and controls reproductive activity. Most adverse effects disappear when users stop taking steroids, but researchers are unsure of the long-term effects on the reproductive system.
One of the main reasons that steroid users alternate periods of juicing up with periods of non-use is to allow their body to recover from that feminising knock to the system. Post-cycle, you need to take a whole new batch of drugs to inhibit the estrogen in your system. These usually include Tamoxifen (trade name Nolvadex), a drug used in the chemotherapy of breast cancer, and Clomiphene (trade name Clomid), a drug used in fertility treatment that stimulates the manufacture of gonadotrophin.
For women—growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice
For adolescents—stunted growth due to premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes, and risk of not reaching expected height if steroid use precedes the typical adolescent growth spurt.
Is steroids addictive?
Steroids can become an addiction, although it differs from other drugs that cause a dopamine high. Studies has shown that animals will self-administer steroids when given the opportunity, just as they do with other addictive drugs. People may persist in abusing steroids despite physical problems and negative effects on social relationships, reflecting these drugs’ addictive potential. Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug—another indication of addiction.
Withdrawal symptoms will occur when a person stops using steriods for example mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings. One of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms is depression—when persistent, it can sometimes lead to suicide attempts. Research has found that some steroid abusers turn to other drugs such as opioids to counteract the negative effects of steroids
REFERENCES: www. drugabuse.gov /www.wikipedia.com