Steroids are synthetic versions of naturally occurring hormones, designed as such to tackle inflammation and its consequences. Although some of them are not the ultimate cure, they ease the symptoms.
Usually, when your body is infected with bacteria, it needs to fight back. It does so by producing excess fluid, as a result of which the area swells, heats up, and you feel discomfort in the form of inflammation. This inflammation can hit not only the muscle but also joints and bones. To manage such reactions, steroids are used.
Major Uses of Steroids
There are two major uses of steroids: Clinical or medical and in Sports.
Clinically, some steroids are used as a part of medical treatment. For example, to treat hypogonadism in men and other hormonal issues, Testosterone is prescribed. To treat asthma, corticosteroids are useful too.
Anabolic and Androgenic Steroids are used to treat delayed puberty, diseases related to Wasting syndrome, muscle loss, to recover bone density and relieve joint pain, to regain muscle mass in emaciated patients, etc. But the use of AAS is limited to the prescription of a physician.
By this, we mean the use of steroids in sports. The use of steroids for such purposes is considered illegal in the US; there is neither control on the quality nor on the safety of such drugs. Users mainly depend on the advice of previous users and trial and error to pick their best bet in such steroids.
Types of Steroids and Their Patterns of Use
There are 4 basic kinds of steroids:
- Tablets, dissolvable tablets or oral steroids and liquids
- Injectables: injected in the spine, muscles, joints or directly to blood
- Eyedrops or ointments
- Topical steroids that can be applied to the skin as a cream or gel
The most common patterns that we see with steroids and their uses include:
Cycling can be done in a period of 6 to 12 weeks. During this time, the patient is said to be “on” the cycle or the steroid. When they are in the “off” period, they aren’t taking the steroid. The off period can last about 4 weeks or so.
Stacking is the process where patients are combining more than one steroid. It can be a steroid of the similar type, a more potent one, a milder one or a different supplement altogether, taken to increase the effectiveness of the said steroid. Stacking comes from the effect of putting one on top of the other, as in putting steroids together.
Lastly, pyramiding is the process where patients are required to increase the dose continually. They can start at a small dosage, and when their bodies get used to the steroid, they can increase the dosage gradually, as prescribed to them, increasing the potency of the medicine. But instead of surprising their system, they slowly introduce the steroid, reaching a peak.
After that, they slowly reduce the intake of the steroid, again not giving the body the shock of abrupt withdrawal, but observing the changes as it gradually removes the effects of the steroid from the system. However, there is no strong evidence to support that this method offsets the risks.
How Should You Take Them?
You can use this basic chart to help you:
|Tablets and Liquids||Once in the day, preferably in the morningWith or after food intake|
|Drops and Ointments||Throughout the dayOnce in each eye/nostril|
|Creams and Gels||Once or twice a dayOnly in infected areas|
The Most Common Risks and Side Effects Associated with Steroids
The side effects usually depend on the user: his age, how long has he been taking it, in what dosage and under which physical state. It also has to do with their gender and immune system. The most common side effects include:
- Increased RBC count
- Increased bad cholesterol and decreased good cholesterol
- Difficulty urinating
- Unwanted hair growth or loss
- Water retention
- Lower/higher libido, etc.
- In women, it can cause changes in the menstrual cycle, too, temporary or permanent.
The associated risks due to uncontrolled or ill-usage may include:
- Psychological dependence, delusion, and paranoia
- Recklessness and impaired judgment
- Changes in mood (mood swings) and anger management issues
- Anxiety disorders
- Liver damage or sudden cardiac death
- Cardiovascular issues
- Tendon rupture
Even withdrawing the use all of a sudden can lead to fatigue, insomnia, depression, and some of the problems mentioned above.
Because the use of steroids can have positive and adverse effects, you must maintain what you are recommended to do. In all circumstances, stick to what you are prescribed instead of relying on misinformation and the experience of others who took similar steroids to judge the medication. Keep your appetite in check, make sensible food choices, and exercise regularly for best results.