The proper name for anabolic steroids is anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). Anabolic steroids are a pharmaceutical compound of synthetic hormones that mimic testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, the male sex hormones. Anabolic describes the process of constructive metabolism caused by the steroidal compound, whereby the drug increases protein synthesis. This results in cell tissue build-up, particularly in the muscular system. Steroids are commonly used in sports and body building circles even though they are commonly considered a method of cheating for the unfair advantage it may offer to users.
The medical profession developed anabolic steroids to treat patients who could not create enough testosterone of their own, leading to a variety of disorders. Anabolic steroids were created to treat both endocrine disorders and hormone disorders. Taking anabolic steroids can enhance the masculine characteristics, a deeper voice for example. It is still prescribed for a variety of reasons. Teenage boys who have particular concerns regarding a late start in puberty may be given it as a 'jump start' technique. Men in a higher age bracket may also be given it to increase libido. Gender Identity Disorder patients who wish to transition from female to male will be given it to encourage more masculine tendencies, such as increased bone density, increased muscle mass, a higher red blood cell count, an enlarged clitoris, a deeper voice, and facial hair.
Anabolic steroids are fat-soluble hormones, and as such can permeate the cell membrane to directly target the nucleus. Anabolic steroids work in two ways, both increasing protein production, as well as blocking cortisol from affecting muscle tissue. Cortisol is a stress hormone, so if one can prevent it from attacking the muscle tissue the rate of recovery can be greatly reduced.
Anabolic steroids can be taken by one of three methods; a pill or capsule taken by mouth, a patch on the skin, or via injection. Although the oral dose is most convenient, it must be modified to prevent the liver breaking it down before the compound is effectively absorbed by the system. Injectable steroids must be administered intra-muscularly rather than intra-veinously, in order prevent sudden adjustment of the hormone in the blood stream. This is the most common method for non-prescription users. The patch releases the hormone through the skin at a steady rate.
In 2004, the US Government established the Anabolic Steroid Control act to regulate the use of anabolic steroids. The drug is only available as a doctor prescribed medication for treatment of a variety conditions not limited to those mentioned above. The legal policies around the world vary in how strictly anabolic steroids are controlled. Where a substance is controlled, there becomes an opening on the black market. Raw ingredients are often illegally imported and manufactured in underground home laboratories, then smuggled across international border and sold in the same way as most restricted substances. There are many negative side affects associated with taking anabolic steroids as a non prescription drug, including greater risk of heart disease and liver failure. Despite the growing awareness of these side effects, black market sales are increasing.