Anabolic steroids work in a very unique way to increase muscle mass and enhance performance. In effect, they simulate the effects of testosterone in the human body, synthesizing greater amounts of protein than normal in a cell, creating more cellular muscle tissue. They also increase secondary sexual characteristics, like testicular growth, body hair growth and vocal cord growth (Hartgens & Kuipers, 2004). By increasing protein synthesis, muscles can be either rebuilt or enhanced, making them both bigger and stronger than they were before. Steroids have been used by doctors and patients since the 1930s to provide muscle growth in those that needed it; it has had the benefit of decades of research and development(Freeman et al., 2001).
When steroids are used properly, they can legitimately benefit athletes without being perceived as a way to cheat the system. There are those who consider the use of anabolic steroids in sports 'cheating'; they think that, since they gained that physical prowess without the benefits of their own exercise regimen and their own commitment, that it is a false strength. It is unearned, and therefore should not be celebrated or rewarded. However, there are other advantages to anabolic steroids, especially in noncompetitive fields. What's more, steroids are often used by athletes to help recover from injuries, as it can allow them to get back into their previous playing condition with little time lost between injury and getting back on the field (Hickson et al., 1990).
While it may be an unfair advantage to let someone who artificially enhances their physicality through steroids compete in sports, it should not preclude them from taking it for their own personal athletic enhancement. Studies have shown that lean muscle mass can increase in the upper body, and body weight can increase in a short term regimen of anabolic steroid use, by a period of nearl y5 kilograms (Hartgens & Kuipers, 2004). When people wish to have that particular benefit, and it is not being used in a way that provides an unfair advantage to those that they are competing against, it is entirely ethical to use anabolic steroids, and should be more culturally acceptable.
There are many people who wish to put on muscle in order to look better; steroids can be safely used for that as well. There is a great emphasis on appearance and physical fitness in our culture; however, despite how hard some may try, it is impossible to reach their own fitness goals. They may wish to add muscle to their frame, or enhance their own physical performance. With this in mind, anabolic steroids in these cases are roughly equivalent to using cosmetic surgery - it is a procedure and artificial regimen used to make oneself look better for the sake of vanity. In this way, it can increase confidence, self-esteem, and overall quality of life, with a reasonable lack of risk of addiction or adverse side effects.
Elderly men and senior citizens often require hormone therapy in order to restore their strength and virility; anabolic steroids can do that for them. As we age, we also waste away in relatively the same manner that those with AIDS and cancer do; there is a gradual, but marked, decrease in lean body mass and bone density. However, some studies indicate that anabolic steroids can have the effect of stimulating growth on these factors (Berger et al., 1996). With the help of an anabolic steroid regimen, mobility and strength can increase and sustain itself dramatically, allowing the elderly to maintain their youth. Given the benefits and the minute risks involved in their situation, it should make sense for the elderly to be allowed anabolic steroid use.
One of the most important benefits to anabolic steroids is their use and application in patients with wasting diseases, such as AIDS and various cancers. Those diseases ravage the body and contribute to marked decreases in strength, mobility and quality of life. The use of anabolic steroids, however, can help to diminish the decreases in muscle mass, instead staving off these conditions and allowing the patient a higher quality of life. In this way, anabolic steroids help people to live longer, fuller lives. Steroids can also increase testosterone levels in a wide swath of the population, from the elderly to female-to-male transgenders; the drug can be used to simulate secondary male characteristics in order to better facilitate the transition between genders (Baum & Crespi, 2007).
Steroids are also used to address other conditions that involve deteriorating muscle tissue, including Bell's palsy. With this condition, facial nerves are paralyzed, and the victim is left unable to move their face. Studies have shown that steroids have the effect of recovering that muscle control, to at least a limited degree, in these patients (Quant et al., 2009). Given the benefit of anabolic steroids in many medical applications, the stigma regarding its use in tamer, performance-enhancing pursuits should not be as strict as it is.
There are those who cite the negative side effects of anabolic steroids as though they are the norm, rather than the exception, for steroid use. It is true that, if abused and mistreated, anabolic steroid use can lead to high cholesterol and blood pressure and liver damage. Testicular atrophy is also associated with anabolic steroids; this causes the testicles to shrink up and an overall lack of testosterone in the male body. What's more, structure changes that occur in the heart's left ventricle do occur in some cases (De Piccoli et al., 1991). However, these side effects only occur with substantially large doses, or recurring doses over a long period of time (Barrett-Connor, 1995).
A great deal of the negative research about anabolic steroids gets overly hyped, demonizing the practice to a greater degree than is really necessary. Because of the lascivious stories and high-profile sports scandals, a blanket judgment has been raised against anabolic steroids as something to be demonized and avoided at all costs. When steroids are discussed in American discourse, the debate always comes back to those few cases of juicing that were heavily publicized by the media, which brought up those studies that pointed out the adverse side effects of its abuse. However, when weighing the true benefits and advantages of anabolic steroids, they can contribute real, lasting and beneficial results for a great number of people. With that in mind, these drugs must be considered life-enhancing and life-saving medicines, instead of the dangerous narcotics that popular culture has labeled them.
In conclusion, anabolic steroids provides a plethora of benefits to those seeking both medical and non-medical applications. Its ability to regenerate muscle tissue is unprecedented, and can be done in a very safe way, without significantly adverse side effects. Provided that doses are used as a means to an end, that doses are meted out appropriately without overdose, and a regimen is not performed to the point of addiction, there are significant advantages to using anabolic steroids. Those who desire cosmetic upgrades to their muscle mass can use it to supplement proper diet and exercise, and those with wasting diseases or muscle degeneration resulting from old age can use it to maintain a higher quality of life. The exaggerated risks of anabolic steroids in the media are due mainly to the attitude of competitive dishonesty that surrounds those isolated cases; the entire culture of anabolic steroids should not be vilified on that basis alone.
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