Anabolic steroid

Anabolic–androgenic steroids
Drug class
Chemical structure of the natural AAS testosterone (androst-4-en-17β-ol-3-one).
Class identifiers
Synonyms Anabolic steroids; Androgens
Use Various
ATC code A14A
Biological target Androgen receptor
Chemical class Steroids; Androstanes; Estranes
Clinical data Drug Classes
External links
MeSH D045165
In Wikidata

Anabolic steroids, also known more properly as anabolic–androgenic steroids (AAS), [1] are steroidal androgens that include natural androgens like testosterone as well as synthetic androgens that are structurally related and have similar effects to testosterone. They are anabolic and increase protein within cells, especially in skeletal muscles, and also have varying degrees of androgenic and virilizing effects, including induction of the development and maintenance of masculine secondary sexual characteristics such as the growth of facial and body hair. The word anabolic, referring to anabolism, comes from the Greek ἀναβολή anabole, "that which is thrown up, mound". Androgens or AAS are one of three types of sex hormone agonists, the others being estrogens like estradiol and progestogens like progesterone.

AAS were synthesized in the 1930s, and are now used therapeutically in medicine to stimulate muscle growth and appetite, induce male puberty and treat chronic wasting conditions, such as cancer and AIDS. The American College of Sports Medicine acknowledges that AAS, in the presence of adequate diet, can contribute to increases in body weight, often as lean mass increases and that the gains in muscular strength achieved through high-intensity exercise and proper diet can be additionally increased by the use of AAS in some individuals. [2]

Health risks can be produced by long-term use or excessive doses of AAS. [3] [4] These effects include harmful changes in cholesterol levels (increased low-density lipoprotein and decreased high-density lipoprotein), acne, high blood pressure, liver damage (mainly with most oral AAS), and dangerous changes in the structure of the left ventricle of the heart. [5] Conditions pertaining to hormonal imbalances such as gynecomastia and testicular size reduction may also be caused by AAS. [6] In women and children, AAS can cause irreversible masculinization. [6]

Ergogenic uses for AAS in sports, racing, and bodybuilding as performance-enhancing drugs are controversial because of their adverse effects and the potential to gain unfair advantage in physical competitions. Their use is referred to as doping and banned by most major sporting bodies. For many years, AAS have been by far the most detected doping substances in IOC-accredited laboratories. [7] [8] In countries where AAS are controlled substances, there is often a black market in which smuggled, clandestinely manufactured or even counterfeit drugs are sold to users.



Various AAS and related compounds.

Since the discovery and synthesis of testosterone in the 1930s, AAS have been used by physicians for many purposes, with varying degrees of success. These can broadly be grouped into anabolic, androgenic, and other uses.




Enhancing performance

Numerous vials of injectable AAS

Most steroid users are not athletes. [41] Between 1 million and 3 million people (1% of the population) are thought to have used AAS in the United States. [42] Studies in the United States have shown that AAS users tend to be mostly middle-class heterosexual men with a median age of about 25 who are noncompetitive bodybuilders and non-athletes and use the drugs for cosmetic purposes. [43] "Among 12- to 17-year-old boys, use of steroids and similar drugs jumped 25 percent from 1999 to 2000, with 20 percent saying they use them for looks rather than sports, a study by insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield found."(Eisenhauer) Another study found that non-medical use of AAS among college students was at or less than 1%. [44] According to a recent survey, 78.4% of steroid users were noncompetitive bodybuilders and non-athletes, while about 13% reported unsafe injection practices such as reusing needles, sharing needles, and sharing multidose vials, [45] though a 2007 study found that sharing of needles was extremely uncommon among individuals using AAS for non-medical purposes, less than 1%. [46] Another 2007 study found that 74% of non-medical AAS users had post-secondary degrees and more had completed college and fewer had failed to complete high school than is expected from the general populace. [46] The same study found that individuals using AAS for non-medical purposes had a higher employment rate and a higher household income than the general population. [46] AAS users tend to research the drugs they are taking more than other controlled-substance users; however, the major sources consulted by steroid users include friends, non-medical handbooks, internet-based forums, blogs, and fitness magazines, which can provide questionable or inaccurate information. [47]

AAS users tend to be unhappy with the portrayal of AAS as deadly in the media and in politics. [48] According to one study, AAS users also distrust their physicians and in the sample 56% had not disclosed their AAS use to their physicians. [49] Another 2007 study had similar findings, showing that, while 66% of individuals using AAS for non-medical purposes were willing to seek medical supervision for their steroid use, 58% lacked trust in their physicians, 92% felt that the medical community's knowledge of non-medical AAS use was lacking, and 99% felt that the public has an exaggerated view of the side-effects of AAS use. [46] A recent study has also shown that long term AAS users were more likely to have symptoms of muscle dysmorphia and also showed stronger endorsement of more conventional male roles. [50] A recent study in the Journal of Health Psychology showed that many users believed that steroids used in moderation were safe. [51]

AAS have been used by men and women in many different kinds of professional sports to attain a competitive edge or to assist in recovery from injury. These sports include bodybuilding, weightlifting, shot put and other track and field, cycling, baseball, wrestling, mixed martial arts, boxing, football, and cricket. Such use is prohibited by the rules of the governing bodies of most sports. AAS use occurs among adolescents, especially by those participating in competitive sports. It has been suggested that the prevalence of use among high-school students in the U.S. may be as high as 2.7%. [52] Male students used AAS more frequently than female students and, on average, those that participated in sports used steroids more often than those that did not.

Available forms

A vial of injectable testosterone cypionate

There are four common forms in which AAS are administered: oral pills; injectable steroids; creams/gels for topical application; and skin patches. Oral administration is the most convenient. Testosterone administered by mouth is rapidly absorbed, but it is largely converted to inactive metabolites, and only about one-sixth is available in active form. In order to be sufficiently active when given by mouth, testosterone derivatives are alkylated at the 17α position, e.g. methyltestosterone and fluoxymesterone. This modification reduces the liver's ability to break down these compounds before they reach the systemic circulation.

Testosterone can be administered parenterally, but it has more irregular prolonged absorption time and greater activity in muscle in enanthate, undecanoate, or cypionate ester form. These derivatives are hydrolyzed to release free testosterone at the site of injection; absorption rate (and thus injection schedule) varies among different esters, but medical injections are normally done anywhere between semi-weekly to once every 12 weeks. A more frequent schedule may be desirable in order to maintain a more constant level of hormone in the system. [53] Injectable steroids are typically administered into the muscle, not into the vein, to avoid sudden changes in the amount of the drug in the bloodstream. In addition, because estered testosterone is dissolved in oil, intravenous injection has the potential to cause a dangerous embolism (clot) in the bloodstream.

Transdermal patches (adhesive patches placed on the skin) may also be used to deliver a steady dose through the skin and into the bloodstream. Testosterone-containing creams and gels that are applied daily to the skin are also available, but absorption is inefficient (roughly 10%, varying between individuals) and these treatments tend to be more expensive. Individuals who are especially physically active and/or bathe often may not be good candidates, since the medication can be washed off and may take up to six hours to be fully absorbed. There is also the risk that an intimate partner or child may come in contact with the application site and inadvertently dose himself or herself; children and women are highly sensitive to testosterone and can suffer unintended masculinization and health effects, even from small doses. Injection is the most common method used by individuals administering AAS for non-medical purposes. [46]

The traditional routes of administration do not have differential effects on the efficacy of the drug. Studies indicate that the anabolic properties of AAS are relatively similar despite the differences in pharmacokinetic principles such as first-pass metabolism. However, the orally available forms of AAS may cause liver damage in high doses. [8] [54]

Examples of AAS

Chemical structure of the synthetic steroid metandienone (Dianabol). 17α-Methylation (upper-right corner) enhances oral bioavailability.

The AAS that have been used most commonly in medicine are testosterone and its many esters (but most typically testosterone undecanoate, testosterone enanthate, testosterone cypionate, and testosterone propionate), [55] nandrolone esters (typically nandrolone decanoate and nandrolone phenylpropionate), stanozolol, and metandienone (methandrostenolone). [1] Others that have also been available and used commonly but to a lesser extent include methyltestosterone, oxandrolone, mesterolone, and oxymetholone, as well as drostanolone propionate (dromostanolone propionate), metenolone (methylandrostenolone) esters (specifically metenolone acetate and metenolone enanthate), and fluoxymesterone. [1] Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), known as androstanolone or stanolone when used medically, and its esters are also notable, although they are not widely used in medicine. [56] Boldenone undecylenate and trenbolone acetate are used in veterinary medicine. [1]

Designer steroids are AAS that have not been approved and marketed for medical use but have been distributed through the black market. [57] Examples of notable designer steroids include 1-testosterone (dihydroboldenone), methasterone, trenbolone enanthate, desoxymethyltestosterone, tetrahydrogestrinone, and methylstenbolone. [57]

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