Steroids, also known as corticosteroids or glucocorticoids, are a class of synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of hormones produced naturally in the body called corticosteroids. These hormones are involved in various bodily functions, including regulating inflammation, metabolism, immune response, and salt and water balance.
Corticosteroids have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties, making them valuable in the treatment of inflammatory conditions like asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain types of cancer. They work by binding to specific receptors in cells and altering gene expression, ultimately reducing inflammation and suppressing immune responses. However, the use of corticosteroids is not without risks, as long-term or improper use can lead to a range of side effects.
- Steroids suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation by inhibiting the production of inflammatory substances. This can help alleviate symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions, such as pain, swelling, and redness.
- Steroids suppress the immune system, which can be beneficial in certain medical situations, such as preventing organ rejection in transplant recipients. However, it also increases the risk of infections and impairs the body’s ability to fight off pathogens.
- Steroids can affect metabolism, leading to increased appetite, weight gain, redistribution of body fat (particularly in the face, neck, and abdomen), and an increased risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and osteoporosis.
- Steroids can cause fluid retention and sodium retention, leading to increased blood pressure and swelling in some individuals.
- Steroids can affect mood and behavior, causing irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and even depression or psychiatric disorders in susceptible individuals.
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids can suppress the production of natural steroid hormones by the adrenal glands, which can lead to adrenal insufficiency when the drug is discontinued suddenly.
- Steroids can cause thinning of the skin, easy bruising, and delayed wound healing.
Abuse of Anabolic Steroids
Testosterone, trenbolone, oxymetholone, methandrostenolone, nandrolone, stanozolol, boldenone, and oxandrolone are some of the anabolic steroids that are most commonly encountered by United States law enforcement. They are known by street names such as Arnolds, Gear, Gym Candy, Juice, Pumpers, Roids, Stackers, and Weight Gainers.
Steroids are ingested orally, injected intramuscularly, or applied to the skin. The doses abused are often 10 to 100 times higher than the approved therapeutic and medical treatment dosages. Users typically take two or more anabolic steroids at the same time in a cyclic manner, believing that this will improve their effectiveness and minimize the adverse effects.
Most illicit steroids are smuggled into the U.S. from abroad. Steroids are also illegally diverted from legitimate
sources (theft or inappropriate prescribing). The Internet is the most widely used means of buying and selling
anabolic steroids. Steroids are also bought and sold at gyms, bodybuilding competitions, and schools by teammates, coaches, and trainers.
Steroids are available in tablets and capsules, sublingual tablets, liquid drops, gels, creams, transdermal patches, subdermal implant pellets, and water-based and oil-based injectable solutions. Case studies and scientific research indicate that high doses of anabolic steroids may cause mood and behavioral effects.
In some individuals, anabolic steroid use can cause dramatic mood swings, increased feelings of hostility, impaired judgment, and increased levels of aggression (often referred to as “roid rage”). When users stop taking steroids, they may
experience depression that may be severe enough to lead them to commit suicide. Anabolic steroid use may also cause psychological
dependence and addiction.
The abuse of anabolic steroids, synthetic variations of testosterone, can lead to a range of adverse effects on the body. These side effects can include liver damage, cardiovascular complications (such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke), hormonal imbalances, infertility, psychiatric effects (such as mood swings, aggression, and depression), gynecomastia (enlargement of male breast tissue),
acne, male pattern baldness, stunted growth in adolescents, and an increased risk of tendon and ligament injuries. Prolonged abuse of anabolic steroids can have serious consequences on overall health and well-being. It is crucial to understand the potential risks and consult medical professionals for proper guidance and monitoring.
- Methandrostenolone (Dianabol)
Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and there are other types of steroids and variations within each category. The use of any steroid should always be done under proper medical guidance and supervision.
Health conditions that doctors often treat with corticosteroids include:
- hay fever
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- inflammatory bowel disease
- multiple sclerosis
Corticosteroids can come with serious side effects, including high blood pressure, weight gain, and increased risk of infections. This risk increases if you use them long-term. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of corticosteroids. Communicate any preexisting conditions you have, and any medications you take, to your healthcare team in order to minimize the risk of side effects.
- Synthetic drugs are chemical substances that are intentionally created in laboratories or through chemical synthesis to mimic the effects of naturally occurring substances or to produce new compounds with specific properties. These drugs are designed to have similar or enhanced effects compared to their natural counterparts. Synthetic drugs can encompass a wide range of substances, including synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., “Spice” or “K2”), synthetic cathinones (e.g., “bath salts”), synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl analogs), and synthetic stimulants (e.g., “designer drugs” like MDMA analogs). They are often created by altering the chemical structure of existing drugs to produce new compounds that may have different pharmacological properties. Synthetic drugs can pose significant health risks due to their potent effects, unknown chemical compositions, and varying potency. It is important to be cautious and aware of the potential dangers associated with these substances. [Back]
- Immunosuppressive properties refer to the ability of certain substances or medications to suppress or dampen the immune system’s activity. Immunosuppression is often desirable in specific medical situations, such as preventing organ rejection after transplantation or managing autoimmune disorders where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. Immunosuppressive agents, such as corticosteroids, calcineurin inhibitors (e.g., cyclosporine), and antimetabolites (e.g., methotrexate), work by inhibiting different components of the immune system, including immune cell activation, cytokine production, and antibody responses. By suppressing immune responses, these substances help reduce inflammation and prevent immune-mediated damage. However, immunosuppression also increases the risk of infections and necessitates close monitoring and balancing of benefits and risks by healthcare professionals. [Back]
- “Steroids” https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2023-04/Steroids%202022%20Drug%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf
- “Corticosteroids: Uses, Types, Side Effects, and Interactions” (Updated on April 24, 2023) https://www.healthline.com/health/corticosteroids-what-are-they
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Corticosteroids: Uses and side effects. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/steroids/art-20045692
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (2017). Corticosteroids. Retrieved from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/corticosteroids
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Synthetic Cathinones (“Bath Salts”). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cathinones-bath-salts
- Wekerle, T., & Sykes, M. (2017). Immuno-suppressive agents in transplantation. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, 7(7), a025148. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a025148
- Papadimitriou, J. C. (2016). Immunosuppressive agents. In Meyler’s Side Effects of Drugs (pp. 493-504). Elsevier.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Synthetic Cannabinoids (“Spice” or “K2”). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/synthetic-cannabinoids-spice-or-k2
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Fentanyl. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/fentanyl