Steroids are often used in patterns called "cycling. Another common mode of steroid misuse is referred to as "pyramiding," which typically involves taking them in a cycle of six to 12 weeks, tapering gradually rather than starting and finishing a cycle abruptly. At the beginning of a cycle, the person starts with low doses of the drugs being stacked and then slowly increases the doses. In the second half of the cycle, the doses are slowly decreased to zero.
This is sometimes followed by a second cycle in which the person continues to train but without drugs. Steroid users believe that pyramiding allows the body time to adjust to the high doses, and the drug-free cycle allows the body's hormonal system time to recuperate. National Institutes of Health. Drug Topics. However, research has not shown that steroids improve skill, agility, or athletic performance.
Steroids can also have serious psychological side effects. Some users may become aggressive or combative, believe things that aren't true delusions , or have extreme feelings of mistrust or fear paranoia. And people who use steroids also appear to be at higher risk for using other drugs, such as alcohol or cocaine, often to counteract some of the negative effects of steroids. Steroid users who inject the drugs with a needle are at risk for infection with HIV human immunodeficiency virus , the virus that causes AIDS, if they share needles with other users.
People who use dirty needles are also at risk for contracting hepatitis , a liver disease, or bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Some people "cycle" their steroid doses. This means they take multiple doses of steroids over a period of time, stop for a period, then start up again. Other steroid users may "pyramid" their steroids, starting with a low dose and gradually increasing the dose, frequency, or number of anabolic steroids taken, then tapering off to complete a cycle.
Users believe that stacking enhances the effects of each individual drug, pyramiding allows the body to get used to high doses of steroids, and steroid-free periods help the body recuperate from the drugs. There is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims. A lot of people tell themselves they'll only use steroids for a season or a school year. Unfortunately, steroids can be addictive, making it hard to stop taking them. And once users stop taking steroids, they can have withdrawal symptoms such as loss of appetite, tiredness, restlessness, insomnia, mood swings, and depression.
Anabolic steroid use is illegal and banned by professional sports organizations and medical associations. In spite of this, some athletes continue to take steroids because they think it gives them a competitive advantage. As seen in high-profile cases, if an athlete is caught using steroids, his or her career can be destroyed.
And there are serious health consequences. When it comes right down to it, harming your body or getting disqualified aren't smart ways to try to improve your athletic performance. Being a star athlete means working hard and training the healthy way: eating the right foods , practicing, and strength training without the use of drugs.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD. Larger text size Large text size Regular text size. What Are Steroids? Athletes sometimes take anabolic steroids because of their testosterone-like effects.
This page is about steroids that can be taken as tablets, liquids, creams and eye drops and ointments. Information about steroid injections is covered on a different page. You might not be able to start steroids if you have an infection, or if you have any wounds on your body, as steroids might delay these getting better or cover up some of your symptoms. Steroids might affect some medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart or blood pressure problems, or mental health issues.
If you have systemic sclerosis , prednisolone could cause problems with your kidneys at certain doses, so you might not be able to take this type of steroid. Some other skin problems, such as rosacea, acne and ulcers, can be made worse by steroid creams so you might not be able to take them if you have any of these conditions. If you normally wear contact lenses, you might need to avoid wearing these while having treatment with steroid eye drops. Steroids are taken in different ways, and the dosage may vary depending on the condition you have.
The table below gives an idea of how often you might need to take steroids. You will be given the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time, to reduce the risk of side effects. Your dose will probably be reduced gradually as your symptoms improve, or your doctor might suggest a weaker medication. As with all medicines, some people will have side effects. You might also be given a drug called a proton pump inhibitor or another medicine to protect your stomach.
Treatment with steroids may cause changes in mood — you may feel very high or very low. This may be more common in people with a previous history of mood disturbance. Taking steroid tablets for a long time can make you more likely to get infections. See your doctor or the person treating you straight away if you develop chickenpox, shingles or measles, or if you come into contact with someone who has any of these illnesses. Sometimes these diseases can be severe in people who are taking steroids, and you might need to have other treatment before you start to get better.
Steroids taken for a long time can also cause your muscles to become weaker, and they might occasionally affect periods in women. If you're taking high doses of steroids, or if you're on them for more than three weeks, you'll need to carry a steroid card. This will have information on your dose and how long you've been taking them for. Your doctor, rheumatology nurse or pharmacist should give you a steroid card if you need one.
Make sure any change to your dose of steroid is updated on the card. Steroid treatment can stop the body producing natural hormones, which can be dangerous if you get ill, have an accident or need an operation. Keeping the card with you will help any other doctor who treats you to manage your care correctly.
If you have any questions or concerns about this, talk to the healthcare professional who prescribed your steroids. The person treating you might change the dose of your medications if needed. Steroids can affect the eyes, for example by making glaucoma worse or causing cataracts. They can also cause a problem with your eyes known as serous chorioretinopathy see-russ core-ee-oh-ret-in-op-ath-ee , which happens when fluid collects in part of the eye.
If you notice any changes in your eyesight, such as your vision becoming blurry, be sure to let your doctor know as soon as possible. This can cause thinning of the skin, stretch marks, and the face to become rounder, but it usually clears up once steroids are stopped. If growth is slowed, they might be referred to a specialist doctor for advice. Making sensible food choices and including some physical activity in your daily routine should help you avoid putting on weight.
Steroids can weaken bones, which can lead to a condition known as osteoporosis. Your doctor may advise you to take drugs called bisphosphonates , or calcium and vitamin D supplements , along with the steroids to help prevent this. Regular exercise , especially things that involve your bones carrying the weight of your body, such as walking, can also help to reduce the risk of getting osteoporosis.
You should also make sure you get enough calcium in your diet , and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol. Steroids can be taken along with other drugs. Both alcohol and steroid tablets could upset your stomach. If you have indigestion or other stomach problems after starting steroids, then alcohol is likely to add to the problem, so you may want to cut back on how much alcohol you drink.
You can find out more about units of alcohol at www. Current guidelines say that some steroid tablets, including prednisolone, can be taken during pregnancy. You should discuss the risks with your doctor if you have any concerns. If the discomfort persists or gets worse, talk to your doctor. You are also more likely to get stomach ulcers if you take prednisone in combination with anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or diclofenac or aspirin.
If you are prescribed these medicines, ask your doctor about protective agents that can reduce this risk. If you take prednisone on a daily basis, for a long period of time, it can cause adrenal gland suppression. This is when your body stops producing cortisol by itself. If you are on daily prednisone, experts recommend taking the dose in the morning, to reduce this risk. Taking prednisone too late in the evening can cause sleeplessness and insomnia, too. Make sure you also take your dose of prednisone with food, and just FYI, grapefruit juice has no effect on prednisone.
Prednisone has long-lasting effects and is usually prescribed once daily. Occasionally, people on higher dosages are instructed to take it twice a day for short periods of time before dropping down to just a single dose. Rather it means that it can just take a while to kick start your body back into producing cortisol again, if you have been on prednisone for longer than two weeks.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from severe fatigue to weakness, body aches, joint pain, and difficulty sleeping. Talk to your doctor about slowly stopping prednisone over a period of several weeks if you need to discontinue its use. Infections are more common in people taking prednisone because it suppresses your immune system.
This makes it harder for your body to fight off infection. In some circumstances, prednisone can help pre-existing infections, particularly those caused by yeasts or fungi, to spread. Symptoms of an infection may also not be as obvious or typical while you are on prednisone. While you are taking prednisone, you should take common-sense precautions to reduce your risk of infection - such as washing your hands often and avoiding people who are sick, especially those with viral illnesses such as chickenpox or measles.
Tell your doctor straight away if you develop any sort of infection, including eye infections or candida infections, while you are taking prednisone. Long-term use of prednisone may lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. It can cause changes in the distribution of body fat which together with fluid retention and weight gain may give your face a moon-like appearance.
Stretch marks, skin thinning, and excessive facial hair growth are also not uncommon. Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should let their doctor know before they take prednisone. Prednisone may be given in low doses to women who are breastfeeding a baby for the treatment of certain conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or for an allergic reaction. Children are particularly susceptible to prednisone's side effects.
Prednisone may suppress growth and development, an unfortunate effect that may be helped by alternate day treatment or growth hormone therapy. Prednisone may also cause sleeplessness and affect your moods. People with diabetes may find their blood glucose control is not as good as it usually is while they are taking prednisone. It is a good idea to wear a medical alert tag or carry a Steroid Card if you need to take prednisone long-term. Prednisone makes you hungry and weight gain is a common side effect.
Fat deposits may occur around your abdomen, face or back of your neck. Fluid retention can also occur and may manifest as leg swelling and a sudden jump in your weight on the scales. The higher the dose and the longer the treatment, the more likely you are to put on weight. You can control fluid retention by eating a diet low in sodium and eating more foods that contain potassium such as bananas, apricots, and dates.
A diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates may make you feel fuller for longer, making you less likely to overeat. Both prednisone and prednisolone are man-made glucocorticoids. They are used to treat similar conditions and are generally considered equally effective. However, in people with liver disease, prednisolone is usually preferred. This is because prednisone needs to be converted by liver enzymes into prednisolone before it can work. Prednisone can interact with a number of different drugs, including OTC medicines and some herbal preparations.
Let your doctor know about all the medications you take. If you are worried that some of your medicines may be interacting, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Alternatively, you can use our drug interaction checker.
Medications for mood disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure and seizures can all add on unwanted weight, but many of these medications are vital, so what can we do? Society tends to treat menopause as a disease; something to be avoided at all costs. But menopause can be positive.
However, it's illegal to possess, import or export anabolic steroids if it's believed you're supplying or selling them. This includes giving them to friends. The penalty is an unlimited fine, or even a prison sentence of up to 14 years. In professional sport, most organisations ban anabolic steroid use and test competitors for banned steroids. Anabolic steroids can be used as performance-enhancing drugs that increase muscle mass and decrease fat, as well as causing many undesirable effects.
Some athletes, weightlifters and bodybuilders take them regularly to improve their physical performance and build up their bodies. However, people of all ages have been known to misuse these drugs, including adolescent boys who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder.
This is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others. Boys and men who have body dysmorphic disorder may take anabolic steroids because they don't see themselves as being physically big enough or strong enough. Some people believe taking anabolic steroids will help them become fit and healthy. This isn't true: taking anabolic steroids is a dangerous drug habit.
Anabolic steroids are usually injected into the muscle or taken by mouth as tablets, but they also come as creams or gels that are applied to the skin. Many people who use anabolic steroids are aware of the dangers of taking them, and believe that by taking the drugs in certain ways they can avoid side effects.
But there is no evidence that any of these methods actually reduce side effects from taking anabolic steroids. Users tend to exercise more when they're taking high doses to make the most of their improved performance during this time. Regularly taking anabolic steroids can lead to physical and psychological changes in both men and women, as well as potentially dangerous medical conditions. In addition, both men and women who take anabolic steroids can develop any of the following medical conditions:.
Misusing anabolic steroids can also cause the following psychological or emotional effects:. Anabolic steroids accelerate bone growth, so if they're misused by adolescents who haven't yet had the growth spurt associated with puberty , the drugs can cause premature ageing of the bones and restricted growth.
As anabolic steroids are often injected, there are risks associated with sharing needles. These are the same risks associated with recreational drug use, and include:. Like many other substances, anabolic steroids are addictive. This means you can crave the drug, require more to get the same effect, and have withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking them. A person who is addicted to anabolic steroids will want to keep using them despite experiencing unpleasant physical side effects.
When doctors prescribe steroid medication, they always advise coming off the medication slowly by gradually reducing the dose. Coming off anabolic steroids suddenly can result in withdrawal symptoms that include:. You should see your GP if you think you're addicted to anabolic steroids. Steroids were first developed in the s to treat a male growth problem that affected physical development and sexual functioning. Today they are still prescribed for certain health conditions. Steroids are also used for non-medical reasons.
Some bodybuilders use steroids to increase their muscle mass and strength, and some athletes use the drugs believing they will improve their physical performance. Some people use steroids because they want to improve their appearance by becoming bigger. And others use the drugs to feel confident and energetic. But like any drug, steroids can be harmful. Many people choose not to use steroids or to use the drugs in moderation, because being less in control of their behaviour increases the likelihood of over-reacting when relating with others.
Using steroids may help us feel more confident about our appearance, but repeatedly using the drugs to address difficulties with body satisfaction may lead to harms to our health and relationships. When swallowed, steroids are absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine and stomach. When the route is injection, the drug is commonly injected into muscle mass where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Steroids function in different ways.
The primary way is by promoting the production of proteins. This results in an increase in muscle. In more than moderate doses, steroids also affect how we think and behave. The effects can be different for different people.
Instead of feeling energetic and happy, some of us may feel irritated. Factors that can influence how steroids will affect us include our. When we think about steroids, it is important to keep in mind that there can be health benefits.
For instance, steroids have positive effects for people suffering from hormone deficiency and diseases that result in loss of muscle mass. But buying non-prescription steroids is always risky because the drugs are distributed in uncontrolled conditions and the diversion of veterinary steroids is common.
The substance a person picks up at a gym may look legitimate but could be diluted or mixed with toxic material. Steroid use can also affect our social lives. While using steroids may help us feel strong and assured about our appearance, using more than moderate amounts may lead to feeling irritable and agitated, potentially affecting our relationships.
And while using steroids to develop a muscular body may make us feel more attractive, frequent use may lead to sexual difficulties. Steroid use can lead to acne. And frequent use of more than moderate amounts may result in temporary aggressive behaviour research suggests some people may be more vulnerable to this negative effect than others.
Regular use of more than moderate amounts is also linked to heart and liver disease. Using steroids is a problem when it negatively affects our life or the lives of others. Many of us may think this refers only to people who regularly use large amounts, but even a single occasion of use can lead to a problem. For instance, if we share needles, we are at risk of infection.
Steroid use, especially regular use, by young people has particular risks. Like other psychoactive drugs, steroids may interfere with normal brain development. Early use can also interfere with developing a positive perception of body image and have a negative impact on well-being. While most people who use steroids do not become dependent on the drug, those who use steroids frequently over a period of time may begin to feel like they need the drug to function and feel normal.
The reasons people use steroids influence their risk of developing problems. For instance, if a person uses steroids to experiment, only occasional use may follow. But when a person uses steroids to cope with a long-term problem such as negative body image, then more long-lasting and intense use may follow. People who develop a dependence on steroids may experience signs of withdrawal, including depression, fatigue, sleep difficulties, lack of appetite, and muscle and joint pain.
People sometimes mix steroids with other substances without realizing there is the potential for harmful consequences. The following are some common combinations and possible results. Both steroids and alcohol are processed by the liver and can independently lead to liver damage. Using them at the same time can increase the risk of negative impacts on the liver.
These are substances such as cocaine that increase our heart rate. Using steroids with stimulants may increase the stress on our cardiovascular system and put us at risk for experiencing heart disease. When prescription or over-the-counter medications are used with steroids, there is the potential for side effects or for the medicinal benefits to cancel out.
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