While there are many harmful effects associated with prolonged or overuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), there are as many beneficial effects of corticosteroids. The latter are synthetic alternatives of natural hormones produced in the adrenal gland. The AAS are broadly classified as testosterone based (such as boldenone and methyltetosterone), nor based (trenbolone and nandralone decanoate) and DHT based (mesterolone and oxymetholone).
The effect of AAS on the body is similar to that of testosterone. As such, they are very effective in increasing the muscle build. This is a result of increased protein synthesis (from amino acids) and a reduction in muscle breakdown (catabolism). They also promote the expression of masculine characteristics and their maintenance. These include increased penile and testicular size, deepening of the voice and increased body among others.
Their effects can be utilized clinically in a number of ways. They are frequently used to improve the appetite in persons suffering from anorexia. They also are given to boys who have delayed development of secondary sexual characteristics. Their ability to cause increased muscle bulk is beneficial to patients suffering from muscle wasting conditions such as cancer and HIV/AIDS.
AAS have for a long time been used in the treatment of bone marrow disorders. Conditions such as leukemia, hypoplastic and aplastic anaemia result in decreased formation of blood cells. Administration of AAS helps stimulate the bone marrow and improves the process. Their use has however reduced due to the advent of more effective agents such as epoietin alfa. AAS are also used to stimulate growth in children suffering from a deficiency of growth hormone.
Several side effects of AAS have been identified. These range from mild to severe and depend on the dosage and duration of use. The substances have a negative effect on cholesterol metabolism. They increase the levels of LDL (good) cholesterol and increase those of HDL (bad) cholesterol. This increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other adverse effects include liver disease, acne, development of gynecomastia (breast enlargement in males) and testicular hypertrophy.
The abuse of AAS results in a number of psychiatric conditions. There is strong evidence to show that the incidence of violence, psychosis, mania, suicidal tendencies and aggression among patients has a positive correlation to excessive use of AAS. Depression may either be relieved or precipitated by AAS according to a study conducted in 1992. Long term abusers are at a risk of suffering from dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
The use of steroids is governed by laws that vary from one country to another. While strictness varies between these countries, most of them have not completely outlawed the substances. In the United States AAS are in Schedule III of controlled substances. Their possession without a prescription could attract a jail term of up to one year. Due to their ability to increase muscle strength and endurance, they are outlawed in most professional sports as they would give users undue competitive advantage.