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Anabolic Androgenic Steroids
Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) are a class of natural and synthetic steroid hormones that promote cell growth and division, resulting in growth of several types of tissues, especially muscle and bone. Different anabolic androgenic steroids have varying combinations of androgenic (development of male characteristics) and anabolic (building up) properties, and are often referred to in medical texts as AAS (anabolic/androgenic steroids).
Anabolic steroids were first discovered in the early 1930s and have since been used for numerous medical purposes including stimulation of bone growth, appetite, puberty, and muscle growth. The most widespread use of anabolic steroids is their use for chronic wasting conditions including cancer and AIDS. Anabolic steroids can produce numerous physiological effects including increased protein synthesis, muscle mass, strength, appetite and bone growth. Anabolic steroids have also been associated with numerous side effects when administered in excessive doses and these include elevated cholesterol (increase in LDL, decreased HDL levels), acne, elevated blood pressure, hepatotoxicity, and alterations in left ventricle morphology.
Possible unwanted side effects Many androgens are capable of being metabolized to compounds which can interact with other steroid hormone receptors including the estrogen, progesterone, and glucocorticoid receptors, producing additional (usually) unwanted effects: Possible elevated blood pressure, Cholesterol levels –Some steroids can cause a increase in LDL, and decreased HDL levels. This can cause a increase in risk of cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease in men with high risk of bad cholesterol. Acne– Due to the stimulation of sebaceous gland, Conversion to DHT (Dihydrotestosterone). This can accelerate or cause premature baldness and prostate cancer. Altered left ventricle morphology – AAS can induce an unfavourable enlargement and thickening of the left ventricle, which loses its diastolic properties with the mass increase. However the negative relation of left ventricle morphology to decreased cardiac function has been disputed. Hepatotoxicity – Caused particularly by oral anabolic steroid compounds which are 17-alpha-alkylated in order to not be destroyed by the digestive system.Gingival overgrowth - AAS is closely associated with significant levels of gingival enlargement.
Male-specific side effects - Gynecomastia – Breast development in males. It is usually due to high levels of circulating estrogen. These high levels are the result of the increased level of conversion of testosterone to estrogen via the aromatase enzyme. Reduced sexual function and temporary infertility, Testicular atrophy – Temporary side effect that is due to decreases in natural testosterone levels inhibiting spermatogenesis. As most of the mass of the testes is developing sperm, the size of the testicles usually returns to normal within a few weeks of discontinuing anabolic steroid use when spermatogenesis resumes.
Female-specific side effects - Body hair increase, Deepening of the voice, Enlarged clitoris (clitoral hypertrophy)
and Temporary decrease in menstrual cycles.
Adolescent-specific side effects - Stunted growth – Abuse of the agents may prematurely stop the lengthening of bones (premature epiphyseal fusion through increased levels of estrogen metabolites), Accelerated bone maturation, Increased frequency and duration of erections, Precocious sexual development and development of extreme secondary sexual characteristics (hypervirilization), Phallic enlargement (hypergonadism or megalophallus) and Increased body and pubic hair.