Steroid Use

An Abstract View of the Trends in Steroid Use

Before delving into the components of general steroid use, it is very important to review and observe the state of anabolic steroid use in the world today (2013), and how it has progressed over the previous 23 years of prohibition, as well as prior to its prohibition. The very first original anabolic steroid, Testosterone, was first isolated and synthesized in the 1930s by German scientists and chemists, after which investigations into its properties and potential applications soon followed. By the 1940s, Testosterone held many valid useful medical applications, and by the 1950s, Testosterone found its way into professional sports first and foremost in the Olympics by the Soviet athletes. It was not long after before the Americans discovered the secret to the Soviet Union’s impressive performance increases in the Olympic games, and in 1955, the very first officially created synthetic derivative of Testosterone was released by the American Olympic scientific team: Dianabol (Methandrostenolone), and thus steroid use as we know it today in the realm of sports and physique enhancement began. Shortly after the synthesis and release of Dianabol, word quickly spread about the effectiveness of these compounds known as anabolic steroids. Following the Olympics, the use of these substances quickly spread to bodybuilding, football, baseball, and to almost every other major sport between the 1960s – 1980s and beyond.

The interesting thing about anabolic steroid use is that although its use first essentially began with athletes and professional/competitive bodybuilders, by the 1980s these user groups actually comprised a very small portion of the overall steroid use user group. It was eventually discovered through studies of statistical data in the 1990s that the average anabolic steroid user is in fact not an athlete or a teenager as the media and government would have everyone believe. Through the different studies that have been conducted over the previous 20 years, it has been determined that the average anabolic steroid user engaged in steroid use is that of a middle-class heterosexual male of the average median age of approximately 25 – 35 years, and not competitive bodybuilders at any level, nor are they athletes at any level either (nor professional or amateur), and that these anabolic steroid users are merely using anabolic steroids for solely for cosmetic improvement[1]. Furthermore, a study conducted in 2007 found that 74% of all non-medical anabolic steroid obtained post-secondary college or university degrees at some point, and far less had failed high school than the average person typically believed of anabolic steroid users[2]. This study also discovered that the average anabolic steroid user maintained a far higher employment rate as well as an overall higher household income compared to the rest of the average population.

From the data outlined above, it is very clear that the average concepts of steroid use as portrayed by the media and the government is indeed highly misleading, as we will continue to discover. The next point to cover is the rate of anabolic steroid use. Anabolic steroid prohibition, enacted with the Anabolic Steroid Control Act (ASCA) in 1990, was originally designed to curb and control rates of use, with the United States government’s goal being to reduce and eliminate the rate of anabolic steroid use. The exact opposite, however, is what has occurred. It must be understood that anabolic steroids are drugs with a very valid and very important medical purpose, available in all developed countries. It is for this reason that the widespread production of anabolic steroids is guaranteed. Furthermore, the United States is one of the only nations that prohibits the use, possession, manufacture, buying, and selling of these drugs while the vast majority of nations on earth do not possess these same laws criminalizing their possession or use. The concept of anabolic steroid prohibition and that steroid use is necessarily ‘bad’ is almost exclusively an American idea that has only spread into a very small amount of nations that are closely tied with the United States, and even countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada permit personal possession and use of anabolic steroids.

Prohibition laws have been attempted time and time again with different substances and activities, especially in the United States. History has proven time and time again that prohibition simply does not work. Prohibition has traditionally focused upon the recreational drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates and heroin, and hallucinogens. History and experience has demonstrated that prohibition tactics and laws have seldom made any difference in the reduction of supply or demand for these substances. Instead, prohibition laws push the market for these drugs further underground and results in the alteration in the manner in which these drugs are traded and used. The exact same can be said for steroid use, which, in a few Western countries, prohibition laws have expanded to include anabolic steroids as well. It is perhaps steroid use that, although it is not the largest drug user group, is the fastest growing illicit drug user group in the United States and the West in general. There are more anabolic steroid users today than ever before, and the rates of use only continue to skyrocket. Prohibition laws have not only failed with anabolic steroids and steroid use, but the prohibition policy is, ironically, a large culprit in the increasing prevalence of anabolic steroid use. This is echoed throughout history, notably with alcohol prohibition in 1920s America, which is regarded as one of the largest social failures ever.

Truths, Lies, and Misconceptions Concerning Anabolic Steroid Use

Anabolic steroids and steroid users are perhaps the most misunderstood drugs and drug user groups among all illicit drugs. Anabolic steroids are completely different drugs from the traditional illicit drugs that are commonly abused. Anabolic steroids are not utilized in order to achieve a euphoric ‘high’, but are instead utilized in order to maximize levels of hormones within the body in order to promote increased physique and athletic performance. Within this aspect of anabolic steroid use, there are many gross misconceptions and outright lies among the general public in regards to the average user, and the manner in which these drugs are used. As outlined earlier in this article, it is no surprise that the general public has been deceived and/or outright lied to concerning the data and reality of anabolic steroid use in the world (and especially in countries that enforce prohibition laws upon anabolic steroids, such as the United States).

The reality of anabolic steroid use involves meticulously and carefully planned phases or periods of use, known as cycles. These periods of use, known as cycles, are alternated with periods of non-use whereby the user abstains from the use of these drugs for a period of time in order to allow the body’s hormonal endocrine systems (and other subsystems affected by anabolic steroids) to normalize and/or recover from any possible harm. The public has been conditioned to believe that anabolic steroid users elect to popping pills and sticking needles into themselves without any foresight, thought, consideration, or planning. Such behavior is characteristic of chronic constant abuse of anabolic steroids, rather than responsible anabolic steroid use. Although clear abusers of anabolic steroids exist who do utilize these drugs in such a manner, most do not. The truth of the matter is that anabolic steroid users do not resemble in any way, shape, or form drug users of any other type. It would be considered even more far gone to label anabolic steroid users as ‘drug addicts’. Even outside the realm of immediate anabolic steroid use, anabolic steroid users are not behaviorally like traditional problem drug users. As previously outlined in this article, anabolic steroid users behave much like any other average non-drug using individual: they maintain a steady day job, pay their taxes and bills, and are not involved in any crimes outside of the inherent ‘crime’ of steroid use (even then, this is subjective depending on the country in question as anabolic steroid use is not considered a crime in the majority of the world’s nations).

Even the concept of the consequences of anabolic steroid use itself is shrouded in gross misconception and lies among the general public. To the average uninformed and uneducated individual, anabolic steroid use is considered an extremely high-risk endeavor that has been purported as such by the government and the mass media, and has been commonly labelled as the equivalent of “playing Russian roulette”. The fact of the matter is that even the medical establishment regards anabolic steroids as being low-risk drugs, and among anabolic steroid users themselves, there is a massive perceived lack of harm. Acutely, anabolic steroids are very safe drugs with almost no possibility of overdosing, and acute harm or injury is not very common. Additionally, the majority of anabolic steroid users tend to understand and know the ins and outs of anabolic steroids quite extensively, as evidenced by research that has demonstrated that anabolic steroid users tend to research the drugs they are using by a far greater degree than other drug users[3]. This is also very evident through the words of the medical establishment itself, which has admitted that the anabolic steroid users themselves hold greater knowledge and greater expertise on anabolic steroids than medical clinicians.

It has been stated in one particular study that “Athletes using anabolic steroids today have a sophisticated pharmacologic knowledge base for using these agents that surpasses that of the vast majority of physicians… Today, it appears that the experts on anabolic steroid use in athletic competition are not medical clinicians but the athletes [themselves]” [4].

Health risks seem to only become a concern with excessively high-dose use and/or chronic long-term abuse, with the most notable risk resulting from such abuse being an increased risk for the development of cardiovascular disease. In the midst of this, however, the risks to one’s health from anabolic steroid abuse are dramatically lower in comparison to smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol.

Despite the fact that statistical data on anabolic steroid usage rates in the form of studies is intermittent and incomplete, the rate of steroid use today, upon an abstract glance, seems to be notably higher today compared to pre-prohibition of anabolic steroids in 1990. In conclusion, anabolic steroid use is something that has never and will never become reduced in numbers, and that harm-reduction and proper-use policy is the best approach rather than criminalization of anabolic steroid use or prohibition laws.

Medical References:

[1] “Anabolic-androgenic steroid use in the United States”.Yesalis CE, Kennedy NJ, Kopstein AN, Bahrke MS (1993). JAMA 270 (10): 1217–21. doi:10.1001/jama.270.10.1217. PMID 8355384.”

[2] A league of their own: demographics, motivations and patterns of use of 1,955 male adult non-medical anabolic steroid users in the United States. Cohen, J.; Collins, R.; Darkes, J.; Gwartney, D. (2007). Feedback 4: 12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-12. PMC 2131752. PMID 17931410. //

[3] A study of 100 anabolic-androgenic steroid users. Copeland J, Peters R, Dillon P (March 1998). Med. J. Aust. 168 (6): 311–2. PMID 9549549.

[4] Illicit anabolic steroid use in athletes. Perry, P.J., Andersen, K.H., Yates, W.R. Am J Sports Med 18(4):422, 1990.