Anabolic steroids are a group of steroid hormones capable of increasing cell growth and division in the body. Since all steroids have anabolic and androgenic properties they are scientifically known as AAS – Anabolic Androgenic Steroids. The most commonly known natural anabolic steroid is testosterone.
The anabolic part of the metabolism is responsible for building larger molecules from smaller parts. In the body, anabolism is combined with catabolism, a process where larger molecules are parted into smaller units. The anabolic processes will build up tissues and organs in the body, including muscles. Anabolic steroids are therefore sometimes used by athletes, body builders, wrestlers and others with similar occupations to aid muscle growth. Since anabolic steroids affect a wide range of bodily functions and come with severe side effects their use is restricted in many countries and the use of anabolic steroids are also forbidden for participants of most international competitions, regardless of the rules in the home country of the participant. As mentioned earlier, anabolic steroids also have androgenic properties, which mean that they will affect the development and maintenance of masculine features in the body.
Allegedly, anabolic steroids were unintentionally discovered by German scientists during the early years of the 1930’s. They did not realize the future potential of their discovery and the study was not continued. In 1938, anabolic steroids are mentioned in a US magazine for weightlifters and bodybuilders. During the 1940’s and 1950’s physicians began to use anabolic steroids to treat a wide range of health problems. The side effects were soon discovered, but for some conditions the benefit of anabolic steroid treatment were still considered larger than the down sides. Anabolic steroids are for instance very potent when male puberty needs to be artificially stimulated in a patient. Today, testosterone is by far the most common treatment for extremely delayed puberty, but before the 1980’s synthetic anabolic steroids were used as well. Anabolic steroids will also stimulate growth in children suffering from growth failure. Today, synthetic growth hormones are used, but until the end of the 1980’s anabolic steroids were commonly prescribed. The anabolic steroids have also been replaced in the treatment of various anemic conditions, since more selective synthetic protein hormones are now available. Anabolic steroids are still used to treat patients suffering from extreme loss of muscle mass and devastating lack of appetite due to AIDS or cancer.
There are several more or less successful ways of trying to counter act the side effects of anabolic steroids. Athletes who use anabolic steroids will typically engage in vigorous cardiovascular exercise in order to work against the effects of left ventricle hypertrophy. The risk of developing gynecomastia – large breasts in men – can be lowered by the use of certain other drugs known as aromatase inhibitors and SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators). Since anabolic steroids can cause premature hair loss, some users combine the steroids with a prescription drug called Finasteride. In the body, testosterone can be converted into DHT, a compound known to play a vital role in male hair loss. Finasteride will inhibit the conversion of testosterone into DHT, thus lowering the risk of hair loss.