noun, plural: anabolic steroids
Steroids in vertebrates, including humans, are exemplified by cholesterol and steroid hormones. Steroid hormones include sex hormones (sex steroids) (e.g. androgens, estrogens, and progesterones), corticosteroids (e.g. glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids), and anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids include all synthetic steroid hormones, especially the synthetic forms of androgens. The androgens are regarded as the male sex hormones as opposed to estrogens that are considered the female sex hormones. The androgens play a role in in the development and the maintenance of secondary male sexual characteristics when males reach puberty stage. The androgens are also involved in sperm induction and sexual differentiation during embryonic development. The androgens are naturally produced, e.g. in the form of androstenediol, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, dihydrotestosterone, androsterone, and testosterone. In males, they are produced in the testes and the adrenal glands. In females, they are produced in the ovaries. However, androsterone production is greater in males than in females. In both males and females, the androgens functions in libido, sexual arousal, increase in nitrogen and water retention, and the promotion of muscle and bone growth. They are synthetically produced for their medical value. They promote appetite and therefore are given to patients with chronic wasting conditions.
Anabolic steroids have been used illicitly by athletes because they promote virility. They are anabolic as they promote anabolism. They increase protein in cells, especially of the skeletal muscles, resulting in the growth of muscle size and strength. Possible routes of administration include oral, intravenous, topical, and skin patches. Long-term or excessive doses of anabolic steroids can lead to harmful cholesterol levels, acne, high blood pressure, liver damage, structural changes of the heart ventricle, gynecomastia, and testicular size reduction. In females, irreversible masculinization could occur.
- anabolic–androgenic steroid (AAS)