How are anabolics used by athletes?
Athletes take steroids in large amounts, and often take more than one type of steroid at the same time. This is called "stacking," or "stacking the pyramid."(1-3) Athletes do not usually take high doses of steroids all the time. Instead they take large amounts of steroids for 4 to 18 weeks, then stop taking them for 1 to 12 months. This is called "cycling."(2,4,5) Combinations of stacking and cycling vary greatly from one steroid abuser to the next. Methods of use are passed from one person to another by word of mouth instead of being based on scientific experiments. The doses taken by younger athletes today may be as much as 36% higher than the anabolic steroid doses taken by athletes in past years.(6) Formal scientific studies are lacking, and no one knows whether stacking and cycling cause more muscle growth than taking normal doses of steroids.(5) Most anabolic steroid abusers purchase these drugs on the black market. Because there are no controls over this activity, the identity and purity of the drugs are questionable. Athletes and others sometimes use veterinary steroids.(5,7) Since these were developed for use in animals, there have been no studies in humans to determine the dose or predict side effects.(5) Like other black market drugs, bootleg anabolics are being made in illegal laboratories.(7-9) They look like the actual drug, but may not have the same active ingredients or the right strength.(9) For example, methandrostenolone (Dianabol(R)) was a popular anabolic steroid. After being taken off the market by its legitimate manufacturers(5,9), it continues to be sold illicitly. A study recently analyzed three samples labeled "methandrostenolone." Instead of the steroid on the label, one contained methyltestosterone, another was caffeine, and the third had no active ingredients.(9) In addition, injectable drugs made in illicit laboratories may not be sterile. With any drug, the higher the dose, the more likely it is that side effects will appear. This holds true for anabolics as well. Anabolic abusers sometimes take other drugs to control the side effects caused by the steroids:(7) Estrogen blockers are taken to prevent breast enlargement (look under the question, "What effects do anabolic steroids have on adults?" to understand why this happens); Diuretics (fluid pills) are taken to treat fluid retention; Human Chorionic Gonadotropin is taken to prevent testicular atrophy; Human Growth Hormone is taken to increase muscle and body size.(7) Each of these drugs carries side effects of its own.
1. Knuth UA, Maniera H, Nieschlag E. Anabolic steroids and semen
parameters in bodybuilders. Fertility And Sterility 1989
2. Wagner JC. Abuse of drugs used to enhance athletic
performance. American Journal Of Hospital Pharmacy 1989
3. Kashkin KB, Kleber HD. Hooked on hormones - an anabolic
steroid addiction hypothesis. JAMA J Am Med Assoc 1989 Dec
4. Brower KJ, Eliopulos GA, Blow FC, Catlin DH, Beresford TP.
Evidence for physical and psychological dependence on anabolic
androgenic steroids in 8 weight lifters. American Journal Of
Psychiatry 1990 Apr;147(4):510-2.
5. Wilson JD. Androgen abuse by athletes. Endocrine Reviews
6. Oconnor JS, Baldini FD, Skinner JS, Einstein M. Blood
chemistry of current and previous anabolic steroid users.
Military Medicine 1990 Feb;155(2):72-5.
7. Brower KJ, Catlin DH, Blow FC, Eliopulos GA, Beresford TP.
Clinical assessment and urine testing for anabolic-androgenic
steroid abuse and dependence. American Journal Of Drug And
Alcohol Abuse 1991;17(2):161-71.
8. Johnson MD. Anabolic steroid use in adolescent athletes.
Pediatr Clin North Am 1990 Oct;37(5):1111-23.
9. Walters MJ, Ayers RJ, Brown DJ. Analysis of illegally
distributed anabolic steroid products by liquid chromatography
with identity confirmation by mass spectrometry or infrared
spectrophotometry. Journal Of The Association Of Official
Analytical Chemists 1990 Nov-Dec;73(6):904-26.
by Trent Tschirgi, R. Ph.
(c) 1992 University of Maryland Office of Substance Abuse Studies.
All Rights Reserved.
Disclaimer: Steroid use is illegal in a vast number of countries around the world. This is not without reason. Steroids should only be used when prescribed by your doctor and under close supervision. Steroid use is not to be taken lightly and we do not in any way endorse or approve of illegal drug use. The information is provided on the same basis as all the other information on this site, as informational/entertainment value.
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