Using Steroids to Get Fit Faster Has Serious Health Consquences

Illustration by Nikki Nelsen / el Don

There she was – cold, empty and lifeless. Nancy Benoit lay with a bible by her side, tied and strangled with a cord on the night of June 22, 2007. The next morning, her seven-year-old son, Daniel, would also be found lying on his bed, littered with bruises around his neck and arms. He was strangled in his sleep, caught in a “crippler crossface” wrestling hold and surrounded by posters of his murderer – his father, professional wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment, Chris Benoit.

Although ten years have passed since the Benoit double murder-suicide. It exemplifies the radical effects of anabolic steroids, one of the most controversial drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Steroids are medical treatments that come in two varieties: anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. Both are synthetic versions of hormones produced naturally in the body; however, they perform two different tasks. Corticosteroids are used by doctors to decrease inflammation, while anabolic steroids are the synthetic version of the male sex hormone, testosterone. In the United States, individuals need a prescription to acquire any anabolic steroid. Illegal anabolic steroids are those that people get without a doctor’s prescription.

Anabolic steroids are currently banned in every major sporting organization. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “Anabolic steroids are Schedule III substances under the Controlled Substances Act”. Schedule III substances have a high potential for physical and mental dependence.

Athletes that take anabolic steroids in order to increase muscle mass and decrease fat, and they push the physiological limits of their body’s muscle, making it grow bigger and stronger than it would naturally.

“Anabolic steroids, in addition to being illegal, have important health consequences,” said Aaron L.Baggish, M.D., lead author of the study and instructor in the Department of Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Despite the potential to increase muscle performance, steroid use also incurs side effects ranging from unhealthy skin to delusional behavior and death.

According to the Science Daily News, long-term anabolic steroid use may weaken the heart and increase the risk of heart failure. In a study conducted by Baggish, the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, was significantly weaker during contraction in participants who had taken steroids compared to non-steroid users. Baggish also found that the left ventricle pumps out 55 to 70 percent of the blood that fills the heart. Baggish said that 83 percent of all steroid users in a 12-person study had a low pumping capacity that previous studies have linked to increased risk of heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

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Use of anabolic steroids may also increase the motivation to fight and impulsive behavior. “Roid rage,” aggressive behavior induced by anabolic steroid use, is caused by using steroids to a point where the brain is damaged and causes loss of self-control. Along with the physical effects, the mental reactions associated with steroid use destroy the mind from within. The mental reactions associated cause violent episodes which an athlete can claim a legal insanity defense to. Research has also found that steroids cause psychotic side effects associated with aggression. Along with these there is wild, aggressive, combative behavior, depression, and delusions during physical activity and exercise.

Steroids can cause a lot of damage to your skin and even further spread all across the body if used repetitively. According to the (Indian Journal Of Dermatology) you will experience rashes and would have to go under a lot of medical treatment to get rid of them.

According to the Iron Man Magazine, “short term effects of steroids can cause acne, stretch marks in the skin, and a radical change in the body.” They surveyed powerlifters, revealing 53 percent of anabolic steroid users had developed acne over time, while 27 percent had a higher incidence of oily skin. Facial puffiness is also a side effect of steroid use, which is also unhealthy for skin and your facial complexion. According to to the New York State Department of Health, athletes who continue to use steroids while undergoing treatment for acne and facial puffiness often show a delayed healing response, that is because, it suggests that steroids play a potent role in causing acne and face puffing all at once.

Overall, steroids have a great impact on one’s body but, no two people will have the same effect while using the drug. While they may help the body put on muscle and add strength short term, steroids have numerous negative effects on the body that can even lead to death. To get in shape and improve both looks and strength, health officials encourage people to have a proper diet and adequate training time to achieve their goals.