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The effects of steroids

Published:Monday | May 27, 2019 | 12:17 AMJessica Harrison - Lifestyle Writer With summer around the corner, the pressure is on to have the perfect beach body – rock-hard abs, killer guns, and fire glutes. Everyone is suddenly married to the gym, and eating clean has taken priority over Friday-night rituals consisting of endless beer and fried foods cradled in the arms of secular hit tunes. Others, however, choose to add performance enhancers, also known as steroids, to give them that extra kick as a more desired result.

For as long as there has been sports, health, and fitness, there have also been participants seeking an advantage, and as such they turn to ‘doping’. These enhancers have proven to help their consumers achieve their goals but are they 100 per cent safe? What are they? What are the risks involved, and are they worth it? We got in touch with Craig McNeish, a pharmacist who has been practising sports pharmacology in Canada for the past nine years, to get all the details on three of the most popular performance enhancers.

Anabolic steroids

The most popular enhancer used is known as ‘anabolic steroids’. Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone, testosterone. It is used by fitness junkies and athletes to increase muscle mass and strength. These hormones are approved for medical uses, but improving athletic performance or just speeding up your summer ‘buffness’ is not how it was designed to be used. This particular drug is sought after because besides making one’s muscles bigger, it may reduce the muscle damage acquired after a vigorous workout. At the end of the day, users have the ability to work out longer and harder. Long term, the risks involved when misusing anabolic steroids are quite unfavourable. One can develop severe acne, prostate cancer, testicle shrinkage, kidney failure, and so much more.

Human growth hormone

This is a popular enhancer because it is hard to trace as this hormone is already in the body. In essence, McNeish explains that the hormone has an anabolic effect. Its is only available by prescription and has to be administered by injection. While strength and endurance may be the goal, one can also end up with an enlarged heart (cardiomegaly), carpal tunnel syndrome, fluid retention, and vision problems.


McNeish describes erythropoietin as type of hormone used to treat anaemia in people with severe kidney disease because it multiplies the production of red blood cells and the protein that carries oxygen to the blood, haemoglobin. Since this synthetic hormone is used to improve the movement of oxygen to the muscles, it is commonly used by endurance competitors. In the 1990s, this hormone contributed to at least 18 deaths in Canada among competitive cyclists due to ailments such as stroke, heart attack, and pulmonary embolism.

Bottom line, McNeish advises that the long-term effects of performance-enhancing drugs are not worth the immediate or short-term effects. “The long-term effects have not been studied with great detail and doping is prohibited. Work out and eat healthy live foods and you will see the results you want.”