It’s almost misleading to refer to the many different drugs that exist by their classifications: stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. In some cases, a drug that’s classified in one category shares certain characteristics with drugs in another category, which is the case with ecstasy and MDMA; these drugs are classified as stimulants, but they share some important characteristics with hallucinogenic drugs like psilocybin. Similarly, we often consider pharmaceutical opioids and benzodiazepines as being depressants, but there are also pharmaceutical stimulants, including many ADHD medications like Ritalin and Adderall. Although it makes sense on paper, steroids are another type of drug that many people may not consider stimulants since they’re not the kind of substances that people abuse recreationally like cocaine and crystal meth. However, steroids are extremely dangerous stimulants that can certainly be addictive, and you’re about to find out why.
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What exactly are steroids?
The use of steroids might seem relatively modern, but the concept of ingesting a substance that would serve as a performance enhancer actually dates back thousands of years to ancient athletes and the earliest Olympic Games. At the time, athletes would ingest pure testosterone — the precursor to all modern steroids — by eating the testicles of animals, sometimes daily for an extended period of time before they were to perform. Of course, it’s likely that the value they placed on this rather unsavory act was more symbolic or spiritual since it’s unlikely they knew that they were actually ingesting pure testosterone, but whether it was intentional or unintentional, they had set a course that would remain to modern times.
During the mid-nineteenth century, German researcher Arnold Adolph Berthold found that the removal of the testes in a species of bird led the bird to abandon many of its masculine behaviors and, to a degree, even to a decrease in masculine physical characteristics. Further, when Berthold removed the testes and embedded them in the abdomen, a series of capillaries grew that connected to testes to the bloodstream, leaving the bird’s masculine and sexual behaviors largely unaffected. This led to the belief that the testes had some greater significance and attributed to the growth and development of masculine traits in men, which was further demonstrated by the fact that females — who obviously do not have testes — don’t exhibit masculine traits the way that males do. The seeds were planted.
By the 1930s, Berthold’s research had been widely accepted and inspired German chemist Adolf Butenandt to continue researching the effects of masculine hormones. Butenandt was able to extract and purify a hormone called androstenone from a few liters of a male’s urine, which was a major achievement at the time. Then another German chemist — Leopold Ruzicka — found a way to synthesize the hormone so that it would be safe for human consumption. Shortly thereafter, Butenandt and Ruzicka worked together to create the very first batch of synthetic testosterone, which is what we now call an anabolic steroid. This was a discovery of such profound proportions that the duo was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry.
The use of anabolic steroids quickly became commonplace. In the 1940s, the Soviet Union became a dominating force in athletics due to their use of steroids on athletes. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Olympians began using steroids when Dr. John Ziegler, the team’s physician, developed methandrostenolone, known today as Dianabol or ‘Dbol’ for short and which would become approved for human use by the F.D.A. in 1958. For thirty year, steroids remained in widespread use, even after the F.D.A. attempted to regulate them by making them prescription only. It wasn’t until 1988 that athletes’ love affair with steroids was brought to an end with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. But even though they’re now illegal, steroid use wages on, particularly among professional athletes.
Effects of Steroids
As you’re surely aware, the main reasons why a person would use steroids would be to gain muscle, improve athletic performance, and/or to expedite recovery from an injury. However, like other illicit substances, steroids aren’t without their side effects. In addition to the aforementioned “benefits”, steroids are also known to cause severe hair loss, acne, loss of appetite, mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, agitation and perhaps even aggression, difficulty sleeping, decreased sperm count, and impotence, among others. Since steroids are usually taken via intramuscular injection, there’s potential for inflammation, swelling, or even infection at the injection sites.
Steroid withdrawal symptoms
When a person uses steroids continuously over a period of time, the individual’s body’s natural hormone levels are significantly distorted. He or she will eventually reach the point of the body needing the steroids because it has grown accustomed to such high levels of testosterone or other substances, leading to withdrawal symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of steroid withdrawal include having little to no energy, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, lack of appetite, anxiety, and the feeling of being physically weak. The experience of steroid withdrawal is common for anyone who has taken steroids consistently over a period of time and is one of the main reasons why someone who only intended to use steroids for temporary muscle gains would continue to use steroids beyond his or her intended period.