There are two types of steroids present within the body. Corticosteroids are produced in the adrenal gland located above the kidney. These hormones include aldosterone, which helps regulate sodium concentration in the body, and cortisol, which plays many roles in the body, including serving as part of the body's stress response system to decrease inflammation. Commonly prescribed corticosteroid medications, like prednisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone are available to be taken by mouth, intravenously, or by intramuscular injection and may be used to treat diseases like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus, as well as many others, in which inflammation is part of the disease process. The use of steroid ointments and creams on the skin, like triamcinolone and betamethasone, is common in the treatment of dermatitis (derm=skin + itis=inflammation).
The second group of steroids, the androgenic/anabolic steroids, are hormones made in the body to regulate the manufacture of testosterone in the testicles and ovaries. The androgenic part of testosterone is involved in developing the male sex characteristics, while the anabolic part is involved in increasing the amount of body tissue by increasing protein production. The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, helps regulate testosterone production and hormone secretion. Growth hormone and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are among the hormones that stimulate testis and ovary function and are two of the many hormones secreted by the pituitary.
Anabolic and androgenic steroids are available as prescription medications to be used in cases in which the body does not make enough hormone and supplementation may be required. Some hormone supplements in this pathway include growth hormone and testosterone itself. These medications are legally prescribed by health-care providers, but this group of drugs is often used illegally and abused to help increase athletic performance and improve body appearance. When used in a well-nourished body, anabolic steroids will cause weight gain primarily due to an increase in muscle mass.
While anabolic steroids may have beneficial effects when taken under medical supervision, they have many serious and sometimes irreversible side effects. These side effects are due to abnormally high levels of testosterone in the body and may include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, liver damage, heart failure, acne, baldness, as well as aggressive and violent behavior.
There are a variety of common anabolic steroids. Some mimic the actions of testosterone directly, while others cause the body to produce excess testosterone by interfering with the normal hormone regulation system in the body. The end result is the same. Excess testosterone is available to affect cell and organ function in the body.
Aside from the chemical name, these steroids may also have a trade name and street name. For example, the chemical stanozol is manufactured under the name Winstrol but is also known on the street as "Winny." Genotropin is the manufacturer's name for human growth hormone (HGH).
There are numerous names for steroids, and each country may have its own variations on these names. Steroids may be chemically similar to testosterone, like methyl testosterone or oxymetholone. They can also be so-called "designer" steroids that are manufactured to pass drug tests, like norbolethone and desoxymethyltestosterone.
A few common examples of anabolic steroids include
Depending upon the type, anabolic steroids may either be injected into the body or taken by pill. Because of the way these medications are metabolized, the need to have recovery time, and to prevent detection, steroids are often taken in cycles in which they are used for a few days at a time, then stopped and the cycle repeated again days or weeks later.
Initial signs that anabolic steroids are being abused may include rapid weight gain and unusual mood swings. Emotions may include increased aggressiveness. Acne is almost always seen.
The side effects of steroids can be explained by the excess androgen and anabolic drug levels present in the body.
The use of steroids suppresses the naturally occurring testosterone in the body and, in males, may lead to a decrease in testicle size (atrophy), decreased sperm production, infertility, and baldness. As well, the excess steroid can be converted to estrogen in males and may lead to enlarged breasts (known as gynecomastia). In females, the excess testosterone production may lead to a deeper voice, changes in the menstrual cycle, and increased hair production. Baldness may also be seen in women.