MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: How do drugs enhance an athletes performance/

Date: Fri Sep 25 22:52:16 1998
Posted By: Gabriel Vargas, Post-doc/Fellow, Neurosciences/Psychiatry, UCSF
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 904889386.Me

The following is adapted from an excellent piece written by Scott Lovitch, his URL is listed at the bottom if you want to see the full article.

What are anabolic steroids? All anabolic steroids are synthetic compounds whose molecular structure is similar to that of the natural male sex hormone testosterone. Testosterone affects development of the male body in two important ways: it has an anabolic effect - increased growth, especially of muscular and skeletal tissue and an androgenic effect - increased development of male sexual characteristics. Once taken into the bloodstream, anabolic steroids bind to hormone receptors on skeletal muscle and other cells and stimulate the synthesis of certain specific enzymes. These enzymes promote two important biochemical reactions: creatine phosphate synthesis and protein synthesis. Creatine phosphate is a molecule that can be metabolized in the absence of sufficient oxygen as a short-term source of energy. Increased creatine phosphate synthesis thus allows athletes to train harder and for longer periods of time, and therefore build more muscle. Protein synthesis is essential for the long-term development of increased muscle mass or “bulk”. In addition, anabolic steroids promote nitrogen retention by the body. By allowing for better utilization of the nitrogen in ingested protein, anabolic steroids help athletes to build body mass. However, this effect is offset by the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, which are designed to maintain a stable environment; therefore, in order to increase body mass by using anabolic steroids, athletes must also adhere to a diet with sufficient protein and calories - up to 10,000 calories daily.

Side effects of anabolic steroids
One of the deadliest side effects of anabolic steroids is liver toxicity. Specifically, steroids taken orally are extremely toxic to the liver, since they are broken down all at once. Prolonged use of oral steroids, therefore, can lead to jaundice, hepatic cholestasis, liver tumors, or fatal liver failure. Injectable steroids, since they bypass the liver and enter the bloodstream directly, are not as hepatotoxic. Prolonged steroid use can also lead to changes in the mechanism of blood clotting, glucose metabolism, and the ratio of “good” (HDL) to “bad” Cholesterol (LDL).

Steroids also cause severe adverse effects in the brain. By dramatically increasing the level ofcortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, anabolic steroids can cause high blood pressure,stress, and more serious neurological problems Many longtime steroid users, describe how anabolic steroids make them more aggressive and periodically cause them to fly into uncontrollable “’roid rages”. Steroid users also may develop psychological problems such as delusions and paranoia, referred to as “bodybuilder’s psychosis.” The cumulative effect of steroids on the brain can lead to brain cancer. Anabolic steroids also affect the reproductive and endocrine systems. When a user takes large amounts of an anabolic steroid, the body responds through a homeostatic mechanism by decreasing testosterone production, which can alter libido and sex drive In addition, although steroids are designed to minimize androgenic effect, androgenic side effects often develop when steroids are used over a long period of time. Such side effects, common to both sexes, may include acne, increased facial and body hair, and impotence. In addition, men may experience priapism (persistent and painful erection) or prostate enlargement, and since another homeostatic response to steroid use is to convert testosterone to the female hormone estrogen, gynecomastia (development of breastlike tissue) may occur in males. Finally, steroids have been shown to be quite addictive. Surveys taken in 1992 showed that up to half of anabolic steroid users eventually experience dependency symptoms.

Original article from, "Cheating Through Chemistry" by Scott Lovitch. Link defunct as of 7/19/2006.

Additional References:
Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic Steroids

Hope this helps,

ga vargas

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