So the night’s finally drawing to a close, and that cute twink with the big blue eyes plants one last kiss on you before whispering in your ear, “so your place or mine?”. Your confidence is through the roof. That last cycle of juice really helped chisel out your shoulders and chest. You’re a little concerned about the black scars on your neck and back from the acne, but your boy will too drunk to notice them right?

Finally, you close the door to your apartment and push blue eyes up against the wall. You can feel the surge of hormones rushing through your body that must be from that extra set of bicep curls you hammered out at the gym today. As things get hotter, you tighten your grip and kiss him harder, but he tenses up and asks you stop. Stop? Forget that! You worked damn hard for this and you KNOW he wants it. Next thing you know, blue eyes is leaving, and you’re horny, fired up and pissed off…

As a personal trainer I often get asked… “what do you think of steroids?” , and my first response is usually to sigh and shake my head. Ever since Arnold graced American screens in Conan the Barbarian, the image of what a man is has gone from the idea of the athletic football or tennis player to the muscle bound god endlessly pushing stacks of weight on the bench press or lat pulldown machine. In the year 2010 health and fitness seems to be equated to how close you are achieving Taylor Lautner’s 8 pack. The fastest route to these “ideal” athletic bodies is also the most dangerous.

So what are steroids exactly? The term steroid often encompasses a large family of chemical substances, but some of the more commonly used and abused go by the names Anadrol, Dianabol, Deca-Durabolin, Winstrol and Sustanon 250. Steroids are a drug that mimic the effect of the male sex hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. They increase protein synthesis within the cells, which results in the build up of celluar tissue especially in muscle. Commonly taken orally or injected, the motivation for taking steroids is most often a significant increase in lean mass (particularly in the upper body) and a significant decrease in fat mass. Furthermore, steroid use has been shown to increase baseline strength 5-20 %. Sounds great right? A more muscular stronger you? You just have to check out the Trojan Condom boys on pride weekend to see that our community loves muscles. So why wouldn’t you use steroids? Well lets look at some of the not so positive effects.

You can no doubt deduce from the opening paragraph that some of the effects of recreational steroid use are less than ideal. The joke about shrinking testes (including infertility) and “bitch tits” are well known and definitely based in fact. But these prominent physical side effects are just the tip of the iceberg. Lets explore some of the lesser known effects of steroids. While it’s not always at the forefront of some of our more youthful minds, anabolic steroids have the capacity to greatly alter cholesterol levels, increasing low density lipo-protein (bad cholesterol) and decreasing high density lipo-protein (good cholesterol). What does this mean for you? Nothing too terrifying. Just the early onset of angina, heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Severe cases of overuse have shown to lead to irregular growth in the heart’s left ventricle, resulting in full cardiac arrest. Another major ‘beneath the surface’ effect of steroid use is changes in personality, most studies report severe mood swings, severe aggression, and in some cases depression to the point of attempted suicide. Perhaps you think sacrificing your heart and personality are worth the risk of a fast-track to an Adonis body? A closer look at some of the physical side effects start to show the cracks in your chiselled, rippling muscles.

The increase in testosterone leads to over production of the subaceous glands which control the secretion of oil onto the skin, in turn leading to acne, and not the kind of pimples that disappear overnight. Seeing first hand a steroid user’s craterous black scars covering his back and shoulders was enough to make my (usually strong) stomach turn. Conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (regularly produced in the prostate gland and testes) can accelerate the rate of premature baldness for males who are genetically predisposed, and testosterone itself can produce baldness in females. And of course there is the increase in breast tissue in males (known as gyneocomastia). One past steroid user I was speaking with required surgery to have this removed. His health plan was willing to cover the cost of the surgery, but not the extra $3000 it then cost to have his chest reconstructed.

I wish I could say, like the muscles built from using steroids, that not all the side effects are permanent. Given time your body will begin to return to normal, that testicles will return to normal size, and on a long enough timeline your liver can recover from the damage; one case I read about from a heavy user, resulted in his liver virtually exploding. However, coming off steroids can leave you with grinding pain and debilitating muscle spasms, a ravaged immune system, and severe bursitis.

The second question is usually get asked is “… what if I just do one cycle?”. And after that cycle is done and the results shrink away? One more? Maybe just enough to maintain? When does it end? If you are still seriously considering recreational steroid use for aesthetics after reading the above I urge you, before you take the plunge to speak with your GP or a psychiatrist about muscle dysmorphia and your perspective of yourself and your body. Exercise should be about maximizing our natural potential not gambling with our bodies.

*While the above article focuses primarily on recreational steroid use, it should be noted that used in a medically controlled environment, steroids (or anabolic steroids) can be used to stimulate bone growth and appetite, and treat chronic wasting conditions such as HIV and Cancer.

Submitted by: Timothy Simpson
B.C.R.P.A. Certified Fitness Leader

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