Alarming trends among steroid users

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Major findings in a new survey of 500 steroid users reveal specific, alarming trends: most are non-athletes whose sole intention is to improve their physical appearance; users are taking larger doses than previously recorded; and even though nearly all admitted to adverse side effects, health concerns are not enough to deter their steroid use.

The results of the survey were released at the 52nd American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The survey was conducted to identify current trends in steroid-taking habits. Researchers posted an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire to several message boards on Web sites popular among steroid users. While it is known the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) among bodybuilders is widespread to increase muscle size and strength, information regarding self-administered AAS used non-medically to enhance athletic performance or improve physical appearance is sparse and poorly documented.

Of the 500 AAS users who participated in the survey, 78.4 percent (392/500) were non-competitive bodybuilders and non-athletes. Nearly 60 percent (298/500) reported using at least 1000mg of testosterone or its equivalent per week. The majority (99.2 percent or 496/500) of AAS users self-administer their injections, and up to 13 percent (65/500) report unsafe injection practices, such as re-using needles, sharing needles, and sharing multi-dose vials. In addition to using AAS, 25 percent of users admitted to also using growth hormone and insulin for anabolic effect. Finally, 99.2 percent (496/500) of users reported subjective side effects from AAS use.

“Clearly, the alarm is not ringing for the users who responded to our survey,” said Nick A. Evans, M.D., lead author for the study and physician at UCLA-Orthopaedic Hospital, Los Angeles. “They are not sensing or seeing the extremely dangerous game they are playing with these drugs. There are severe health risks associated with steroid use and abuse, but four out of five of our respondents report a greater desire to improve their physical appearance than to protect their health. Creating awareness among influencers like parents, coaches, trainers and health professionals may be a way to reach users and help them guide them back to safe health and fitness habits.”

Anabolic steroid use has been implicated in early heart disease, including sudden death, changes in blood cholesterol profile (increased LDL, lower HDL) resulting in increased risk of coronary artery disease, testicular atrophy, gynecomastia (abnormal enlargement of breasts in males), male pattern baldness, severe acne, premature closure of growth plates in adolescents, emotional disturbances, and other significant health risks.

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national, and regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education, and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health, and quality of life.

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