Anabolic steroids are a trendy hot topic in popular culture, and its exposure
and popularity tends to come and go in waves, often led by breaking news of its
use in sports and sports scandals. Among the general public, the understanding
of anabolic steroids tends to be minimal at best, and many who are more
educated on the matter would even use the word ‘ignorant’. This is due in large
part to the negative sensationalism and stereotyping conveyed by the media and
driven by the government. Despite the negative portrayal of steroids in the
media and among the public, these drugs nevertheless continue to increase in
popularity and the amount of individuals seeking the use of these drugs
continues to increase as well (not just in the United States and the Western
world, but worldwide as well). Along these lines, it is interesting to notice
that the heaviest anti-steroid attitudes among the general public rest in the
United States, and decrease outwards in the world as we move farther and
farther away from said country.
Contrary to popular belief, anabolic steroids are not new ‘inventions’, and nor
are they even ‘inventions’ in and of themselves. These drugs are synthetic
derivatives of the male hormone Testosterone, making them androgens.
Specifically, all anabolic steroids are actually classified as
anabolic-androgenic steroids, and their use dates back thousands of years ago.
The first officially historical documentation of the use of these hormones was
in the ancient Greek Olympic Games circa 1700 BC. These ancient athletes would
consume the testicles of bull and sheep in large enough quantities to
assimilate the hormone
Testosterone contained within them. Of course, these
ancient Greeks were unaware of what they were actually consuming or how and why
they were so effective at enhancing performance. This practice continued
throughout the ancient times and was also utilized by the ancient Romans.
Eventually the modernization of anabolic steroids occurred in the early 20th
century in the 1930s when Testosterone was first officially discovered,
isolated, and synthesized by German scientists. After this point, it was
free-reign on the development of anabolic steroids, and between the 1950s –
1980s, literally thousands of anabolic steroid analogues and derivatives were
created via the modification of Testosterone’s chemical structure in various
ways. Although thousands of analogues were created, only about a dozen of these
anabolic hormones were officially used as medicines and by bodybuilders as
performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Use by Bodybuilders and Athletes
Bodybuilders and athletes are intensely attracted to the use of anabolic
steroids because Testosterone is the prime intercellular mediator of muscle
growth in the body. Being that anabolic steroids are all ultimately
modifications of Testosterone that in many cases provides greater anabolic
strength than Testosterone itself, we can see why athletes and bodybuilders are
very fond of these drugs. These drugs provide the body with the ability to
absorb and assimilate more consumed food and calories, and shuttle those
nutrients towards muscle growth provided it is facilitated by stimulation
(training) in the gym. It is through this process over time that increased
strength, speed, and especially muscle size is achieved.
The very first documented use of these anabolic drugs by modern athletes was in
the early 1950s by Russian Olympic athletes in the Olympic Games. They were
mostly employed by strength and speed athletes, such as Olympic lifting events.
Eventually its use spread to Olympic sprinters, swimmers, and other events in
the Olympics. However, it was in the late 1950s that the use of these drugs
quickly entered the bodybuilding world, shortly after the creation of
Dianabol (Methandrostenolone) in 1958. The use of these hormones spread like wildfire
into other sports afterwards, as the benefits of increased strength, muscle
size, speed, and especially recovery and healing from injuries was experienced
by athletes when these drugs are used in conjunction with a training program
and an adequate diet.
Today anabolic steroids continue to be utilized by athletes despite their use
being officially banned in almost every single major sporting organization.
However, the overwhelming majority of anabolic steroid users are
not athletes, as we will now see.
Use by Amateur Athletes and Gym Rats
Interestingly enough, although the main focus of the use of these drugs in the
media has centered on professional athletes, the cold and hard truth of the
matter is that the vast majority of anabolic steroid users are, in fact, not
professional athletes. Surveys and study data over the last two or three
decades have uncovered a surprising revelation: that the overwhelming majority
of anabolic steroid users (well over 85%) are comprised of young adult males in
the median age of 25 – 30 years of age, and are not professional or even
amateur athletes at any level. They are merely ‘gym rats’ and amateur trainees
merely attempting to achieve a better physique and to accomplish this goal
faster. As the previous sentence hints, these anabolic steroid users are not
even concerned with the use of these substances for performance reasons, but
primarily cosmetic purposes (physique enhancement).
The use of these drugs by the average gym goer seems to have begun in the
1980s, and has steadily and dramatically increased ever since. The worldwide
numbers of anabolic steroid users continues to increase every single day, and
currently rests at the highest number of users ever on record in history.
Despite the social stigma surrounding anabolic steroids, these are clearly very
popular and highly sought-after drugs by individuals merely to enhance and
speed up their personal physique goals in the gym.
One final misconception that must be clarified is the misconception by the
general public that all steroids are anabolic steroids. The truth is that the
vast majority of steroidal hormones have nothing at all to do with muscle
growth, strength building, or physique enhancement. Other steroids exist (and
are naturally produced by the human body as well) that have nothing to do with
the aforementioned effects. These include: cholesterol, Estrogen, Cortisol,
phytoestrogens, and even Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol). Furthermore, the vast
majority of prescribed steroids are of the corticosteroid type – steroids that
act to reduce inflammation in the body and do nothing to build muscle tissue.
In fact, corticosteroids (such as Prednisone or Mometasone Furoate) in adequate
enough dosages and chronic dosages can actually serve to break down and destroy
muscle tissue. Ironically, patients who are prescribed corticosteroids for
long-term use are also eventually and commonly prescribed anabolic steroids in
order to offset this effect.