Steroids are a big no-no in many athletic competitions because these substances give unfair advantage to those who use them compared to those who do not use any form of steroids at all. However, it is very important to understand that steroids actually are a big class of substances that can have medical benefits. So answering the question “are steroids illegal in the USA” requires a much deeper understanding of what steroids really are.
What are Steroids?
Steroids are a group of compounds that can be classified into a variety of ways. Steroids are organic compounds that always contain 4 rings arranged in various molecular configurations depending on the type of the steroid. Naturally-occurring steroids are important cell membrane components that serve to allow or prevent the net movement of fluids and substances across the membrane. Steroids also play a role in cell signaling, often related to the activation of steroid hormone receptors.
Steroids can be classified into two very important groups according to function. These include the corticosteroids and the sex steroids. Almost everyone is familiar with corticosteroids especially cortisol which is involved in the suppression of the immune system. Cortisol is also a stress hormone and is primarily implicated in many physiologic processes. The other corticosteroid, aldosterone, is important in the regulation of blood pressure.
The sex steroids include progesterone, testosterone, and estradiol. The former is involved in the regulation of menstruation as well as the maintenance of pregnancy. The latter two – testosterone and estradiol – are largely regarded for the development and maintenance of the male and female secondary sex characteristics, respectively.
Are All Steroids Illegal in the USA?
Given that there are a variety of steroids, labeling all of them as illegal will be grossly unjust. One should understand that there are steroids that are specifically indicated in the management of certain conditions such as severe allergies, hypersensitivities, and autoimmune disorders whereby suppression of the immune system is a desired effect. The same is true for individuals who are undergoing organ transplant procedures. They will also need steroids to help them prevent organ transplant rejection. Individuals suffering from a variety of inflammatory conditions can also benefit from steroids since these substances have excellent anti-inflammatory properties.
It is thus, important to recognize that not all steroids are illegal. Steroids that are primarily intended for the management of certain types of conditions are considered legal insofar as there is a medical need for them and this is supported by a valid prescription from a licensed medical practitioner.
Now, even prescription steroids can be deemed illegal if they are used not according to how they are initially intended to work. As such any use of steroids beyond what the doctor has prescribed it for is considered illegal.
Why are Certain Steroids Considered Illegal in the USA?
We now know that steroids that are indicated for the treatment of a medical condition are considered legal. We also know that these should come with a prescription and that its use should only be limited to the use indicated in the prescription. If the steroids are to be used in any other way aside from what it is prescribed for, then it is considered illegal.
This brings us to the question of anabolic steroids, known in the medical community as anabolic-androgenic steroids. These substances are designed to stimulate tremendous muscle growth with concomitant increase in muscle strength especially when combined with high-intensity exercises as well as proper diet.
In the medical community, AAS are used in the management of chronic wasting conditions such as those found in patients with AIDS and cancer. If anabolic steroids are used in such conditions, then these substances are not considered illegal. If used in other ways, then it is considered illegal.
The illegal status of anabolic steroids in the USA is not only related to the unfair advantage that it gives to athletes who use them solely to improve overall athletic performance. Anabolic steroids are considered illegal because of the many serious adverse effects that they pose to individuals who use these substances. It should be understood that non-medical use of anabolic steroids is mostly without the supervision of a medical professional.
Anabolic steroids mimic the action of testosterone in the body. One of its effects is more aggressive behavior. When anabolic steroids are abused, there is a loss of control of aggressive tendencies, making the individual more prone to violence or rage. This can be dangerous not only to the steroid user but also to the individuals around him.
Aside from the psychosocial implications of anabolic steroid abuse, there are also physical side effects that the user has to contend with. These can include gynecomastia or the development of man-boobs, baldness, the appearance of severe acne that can lead to serious scarring, and shrinking of the testicles which can ultimately lead to problems in the ability to procreate.
More serious side effects have also been noted with steroid abuse. They include abnormally high blood pressure, the development of tumors in the liver, and jaundice. High blood pressure can lead to a host of cardiovascular problems as the delivery of blood to the cells can be significantly reduced.
Women who abuse anabolic steroids usually experience masculinization including the deepening of the voice, the development of more facial and body hair, and even the loss of menstruation as well as infertility.
These are the reasons why the US government put anabolic steroids under strict control in 1991. It is also for this reason that the use of anabolic steroids for purposes other than medical are deemed illegal. And even in its medical use, anabolic steroids are strictly controlled, often subject to very tight regulations. Its administration to patients can only be allowed with the strict supervision and guidance of a medical professional holding a valid license.
While it is true that anabolic steroids give unfair advantage to those who use them in competitive environments, this is not the only reason why steroids are illegal in the USA. The harm they bring to the otherwise healthy human body far outweighs any improvements in athletic performance. This is the main reason why steroids are illegal in many countries and not only in the US.
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