are chemicals that are similar to the male sex hormone testosterone and are
used by an increasing number of young people to enhance their muscle size.
While anabolic steroids are quite successful at building muscle, they can
damage many body organs, including the liver, kidneys, and heart.
They may also trigger dependency in
users, particularly when taken in the large doses that have been known to be
used by many bodybuilders and athletes. Anabolic steroids are taken either
orally in pill form or by injection. After steroids enter the bloodstream,
they are distributed to organs (including muscle) throughout the body.
After reaching these organs, the
steroids surround individual cells in the organ and then pass through the
cell membranes to enter the cytoplasm of the cells. Once in the cytoplasm,
the steroids bind to specific receptors and then enter the nucleus of the
cells. The steroid-receptor complex is then able to alter the functioning of
the genetic material and stimulate the production of new proteins.
It is these proteins that carry out
the effects of the steroids. The types of proteins and the effects vary
depending on the specific organ involved. Steroids are able to alter the
functioning of many organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, and brain.
They can also have a profound effect on reproductive organs and hormones.
Many of the effects of steroids are
brought about through their actions in the brain. Once steroids enter the
brain, they are distributed to many regions, including the hypothalamus and
limbic system. When a person takes steroids, the functioning of neurons in
both of these areas is altered, resulting in a change in the types of
messages that are transmitted by the neurons.
Since the hypothalamus has a major
role in maintaining normal hormone levels, disrupting its normal functioning
also disrupts the body's hormones. This can result in many problems,
including a reduction in normal testosterone production in males and loss of
the monthly period in females.
Similarly, steroids can also
disrupt the functioning of neurons in the limbic system. The limbic system
is involved in many things, including learning, memory, and regulation of
moods. Studies in animals have shown that steroids can impair learning and
memory. They can also promote overly-aggressive behavior and mood swings.
People who take anabolic steroids can exhibit violent behavior, impairment
of judgment, and even psychotic symptoms.
There are other effects of taking
anabolic steroids including changes in male and female sexual
characteristics, stunted growth, and an increase in the amount of harmful
cholesterol in the body. Anabolic steroids can also influence the growth of
facial and chest hair and cause deepening of the voice.