Generally, when people hear the word “steroid” they envision a muscle-building, performance-enhancing drug, illegally used by athletes to gain an unfair advantage in their respective sports. This not only destroys the integrity of the sport but also results in numerous, severe health conditions. However, in reality, things are a little different.
The word "steroid'' is a very broad term that refers to any compound with a specific molecular structure. Steroids are naturally found in our body, some of which are classified as Neurosteroids, corticosteroids, secosteroids, sex steroids, etc. Today, we will be talking about two of the main kinds, and the differences between them – Anabolic and Corticosteroids.
Testosterone, an anabolic steroid, is naturally produced within the body. Its deals with muscle mass and fat distribution, sex drive, and red blood cell production. However, there are synthetic versions of these steroids that, at times, serve as a legitimate medication and sometimes not.
Anabolic steroids are a perfect example of the man-made version of the hormone testosterone. It is prescribed by doctors to men with naturally low levels of testosterone or to people with conditions like AIDS or HIV, experiencing muscle loss. Their anabolic effects unfairly give an edge to the athletes, hence they are considered performance-enhancing drugs and thereby considered illegal in most parts of the world. Because they have long-term effects on the body, they cannot be used off-season either, and players are subject to the anti-doping rules.
Usually, anabolic steroids come in the form of injections, pills, or inhalers. They are also available as topical creams and patches.
Long-term abuse of steroids can lead to serious health risks. Some of its side effects include:
● Acne on the face, back, arms.
● Gynecomastia (development of breast in men)
● Liver damage
● Shrinking of testicles
● Heart conditions
● Increased aggressiveness, also known as “roid rage”
● Abnormal sexual behavior
For some users, these side effects may be irreversible while some might not experience them at all. The side effects and their severity vary from person to person, depending upon their physical and mental conditions.
It is the synthetic version of the hormone cortisol, a compound naturally produced by your adrenal glands, to fight inflammation in the body. Similarly, these drugs act on the immune system by blocking off the production of substances and components that cause inflammation. So, if you have a lot of inflammation or swelling in your body, using corticosteroids will lessen it. It is also used to treat symptoms of serious health conditions including :
● Rheumatoid arthritis
● Autoimmune disorders
● Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
● Skin conditions ie eczema
Corticosteroids can be taken orally, nasally, topically, or through injections.
Besides having some health benefits, corticosteroids have some health risks too. These include:
● Short term effects – Increased appetite, weight gain, water retention, and bloating.
● Mood changes like anxiety and irritability.
● Long-term use can result in loss of muscle/bone mass, thinning of skin due to topical use of creams, weakening or injured areas such as joints, muscles, ligaments.
● Withdrawal symptoms of quitting after long-term use include nausea, anxiety, fatigue, and abnormal weight loss.
Corticosteroids are mostly prescribed in low amounts for short periods to maximize their benefits. If they are used for a longer period, it needs to be tapered off gradually. This allows the adrenal gland to slowly restore its normal function. If not, the withdrawal symptoms can be very serious and may even cause a life-threatening crisis.
Basically, The term steroid includes both anabolic, and corticosteroids. However, anabolic steroids are related to the hormone testosterone, so they are illegally used by athletes to gain muscle, and shred fat fast while simultaneously increasing their strength and endurance. As far as the medical uses are concerned, they are completely legal and prescribed by doctors to essentially perform the functions which your natural testosterone should have been doing in the first place.
On the other hand, corticosteroids are related to the hormone cortisol. These are medically used to cure inflammation over almost any part of your body. This is why this particular steroid has so many uses. Besides the ones mentioned before, they are used to treat diseases such as lupus or Crohn's disease, or nervous system conditions like multiple sclerosis.