Increase in Steroid Use Leads to Health Concerns – British Cardiovascular Society

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Wednesday 1st August 2018

Doctors have warned that tens of thousands of people risk early death from misusing anabolic steroids, after reports that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK take steroids. Experts have claimed that men in their teens and 20s are ones behind the rise, primarily after cosmetic changes.

The law on anabolic steroids is different from a number of controlled substances, in that they are illegal to supply for anyone who isn’t a doctor, but legal to use for personal use.

Anabolic steroids are a mix of natural and synthetic hormones that work like testosterone in the human body. There are a number of medical uses, including inducing bone growth, improving appetite, starting male puberty and as part of treatments of chronic wasting diseases, particularly AIDS and some forms of cancer.

Steroids have also been commonly taken in bodybuilding and athletic communities since the mid-1950s, as they provided a very rapid way to gain a competitive advantage in sports that rely on physical strength, such as baseball, American football, cycling, weightlifting, boxing and mixed martial arts.

Unfair competitive advantages led to a number of organisations banning steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, although attempts to get around drug testing policies continue to this day.

Due to causing an imbalance of hormones in the body, anabolic steroids are known to cause heart and brain damage that can lead to strokes and heart attacks, but also can cause issues with fertility and mood swings, a condition known colloquially as “roid rage”.

Many steroid users and misusers take them for cosmetic purposes, with a range of ages taking them up. Some are not aware of the risks, but others are aware and will take them, mitigating it in their own minds by cutting back on other health risks such as smoking or drinking. This behaviour is unlikely to stop the negative effects of steroid use

The change towards more cosmetic use could be attributed to the reality televisions shows such as Love Island, which regularly has advertisements for cosmetic surgery and products, as well as advertising and social media leading to the proliferation and promotion of more defined physiques than previously.

There are well publicised cases of people dying due to misuse of anabolic steroids. The sudden and evident effects lead to dependency and addiction to the drug, believing it is the only way to improve their physique, which leads to more danger, more drugs and more bizarre behaviour. It causes issues with the heart, which can lead to it enlarging, the walls of the heart thickening and leading to difficulties later in life.

Steroids are not a universally negative thing, and are used under strict medical supervision in a variety of contexts to stimulate growth, combat wasting diseases and foster healing of some injuries. However when misused, as is often the case when the drug is self-medicated, it can cause a number of potentially very dangerous side effects.