Anabolic steroids, or simply steroids, were discovered in the 1930s to facilitate the growth of skeletal muscle in laboratory animals. Bodybuilders and weightlifters and then athletes in other sports eventually began using them to enhance their strength, often without admitting their use. When used as medication, steroids such as dexamethasone can impede the immune system of the body to fight off a virus; it was used to treat President Trump when he contracted COVID-19, perhaps to try to avoid the cytokine storm from the disease.
Anabolic steroids are taken orally, injected intramuscularly, or rubbed on the skin when in the form of gels or creams. Users will combine different types of steroids in a process known as stacking, to enhance the overall effect. In "pyramiding", users escalate steroid use. Steroid use for athletic performance is illegal, unfair, and causes medical harm to the athlete who puts his own ego over values.
Anabolic steroid abuse causes adverse side effects ranging from acne and breast development in men, to unattractive changes in appearance by women, to life-threatening conditions. The sooner one stops taking steroids, the less the harm. Anabolic steroids can also cause increased irritability and aggression.
Some of the health consequences that can occur in both males and females include liver cancer, heart attacks, and elevated cholesterol levels. In addition to this, steroid use among adolescents may prematurely stop the lengthening of bones resulting in stunted growth.
People who inject steroids also run the risk of contracting or transmitting hepatitis or HIV. Some steroid abusers experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. These withdrawal symptoms include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and depression. This depression can lead to suicide attempts, and if left untreated, can persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the drugs.
The 2006 Monitoring the Future Study, which surveyed students in eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades, found that 1.6% of eighth graders, 1.8% of tenth graders, and 2.7% of twelfth graders reported using steroids at least once in their lifetimes. 17.1% of eighth graders, 30.2% of tenth graders, and 41.1% of twelfth graders surveyed in 2006 reported that steroids were "fairly easy" or "very easy" to obtain. Furthermore, 60.2% of twelfth graders surveyed reported that using steroids was a "great risk” during 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also conducts a survey of high school students throughout the United States, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Nearly 5% of all high school students surveyed by CDC in 2005 reported lifetime use of steroid pills/shots without a doctor's prescription.
Illegal anabolic steroids are often sold at gyms, competitions, and through mail operations after being smuggled into this country. The most common sources for obtaining steroids for illegal use are Internet purchases and smuggling them into the U.S. from other countries such as Mexico and European countries. These countries do not require a prescription for the purchase of steroids, making it easier to smuggle them. In addition to this, steroids are also illegally diverted from U.S. pharmacies or synthesized in clandestine laboratories.
Concerns over a growing illicit market and prevalence of abuse combined with the possibility of harmful long-term effects of steroid use led Congress to place anabolic steroids into Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1991. It is therefore illegal to possess or sell anabolic steroids without a valid prescription. Some States have also implemented additional fines and penalties for illegal use of anabolic steroids.
The International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association and many professional sports leagues (including the Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, and National Hockey League), have banned the use of steroids by athletes due to their potentially dangerous side effects and because they give the user an unfair advantage. But testing in many of those sports is inadequate. The Olympics test most thoroughly for illegal drug use.