According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, professional and recreational athletes illegally use performance-enhancing drugs to enhance their abilities and improve their physique. These substances, called anabolic androgenic steroids, alter the body's testosterone system. The testes of men and the ovaries of women naturally produce the steroid testosterone, which is responsible for effects like muscle, bone, and hair growth. Synthetic forms of testosterone, including precursors and derivatives, are available on the black market despite causing numerous harmful side effects.
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Production of testosterone, a natural steroid, decreases with age, possibly producing a syndrome called testosterone deficiency. People with this syndrome often exhibit erectile dysfunction and reduced libido. A 2010 report published in the "Journal of Sexual Medicine" tested the effects of intramuscular and transdermal testosterone in men with testosterone deficiency. Within three months, 70 percent of the subjects reported increases in erections, libido, energy, or mood. The replacement therapy was, in general, well tolerated with few side effects noted. Yet one man developed prostrate cancer after one year of treatment.
Nandrolone, another steroid naturally produced by the body, is often synthesized and sold under the trade names Deca-Durabolin and Durbolin. Professional athletes like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens allegedly used nandrolone to illegally enhance their performance. Although it is a banned substance in supplement form, nandrolone continues to appear in supplements available at health food stores. When used properly, Durbolin increases muscle mass in a variety of populations. A 2007 clinical experiment, for example, described in "Nephron Clinical Practice," looked at steroid intake in chronic kidney disease. Such patients often have difficulty maintaining their appetite and sustaining their body weight. Nandrolone increased muscle mass, with larger doses causing greater growth. Men taking the steroid reported no side effects, but many women could not tolerate the larger dose. These female patients experienced masculinizing effects such as hair growth and voice deepening.
Stanozolol, a synthetic steroid, goes by the brand name Winstrol. This steroid is unusual in that it can be taken orally. Baseball players like Rafael Palmeiro have tested positive for illegal use of stanozolol and strength athletes often use it illegally to quickly get stronger. Yet Winstrol has legitimate medical uses as well. A 2007 study presented in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology" evaluated long-term use of the steroid in hereditary angioedema. This rare, but serious, disorder causes facial and airway swelling. Results indicated that 20 to 40 years of stanozolol treatment provided effective and safe relief from angioedema. Patients using Winstrol must receive constant monitoring.
Oxandrolone, a synthetic steroid, retails as the drug Anavar, which is approved for use in osteoporosis. Bodybuilders use this steroid illegally to create greater muscle definition, a technique called "cutting." Medically, Anavar helps burn patients recover. A 2008 experiment described in the "Annals of Pharmacology" described the positive effects of oxandrolone in severely burned children. Anavar increased total body weight, lean body mass, bone mineral content and muscle strength. Reversible side effects included minor liver and gonadal changes. Such reactions commonly appear in female bodybuilders who use oxandrolone as well.