Sports have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. And it never made much difference whether I was playing club or intramurals or just messing around with friends. Playing was all that really mattered. And while winning was generally preferable to losing, the true satisfaction came from simply being in the mix. It was all about giving it your best shot, even if that sounds cliché. But it was also about playing fair; that was an inextricable part of the experience. Now, sadly, anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are threatening to destroy the very spirit of sports for an entire generation.
My first exposure to this topic came in medical school, where we learned what androgenic anabolic steroids were and how they interacted with the varied organs and hormones in the body. I also had a general awareness that steroids were being abused by athletes at the elite level. But it wasn’t till years later, after I’d given up the practice of medicine to pursue my dreams as a writer, that I realized just how extensive a problem anabolic steroids had become for today’s youth, affecting roughly half a million teens from the current crop of high school students.
Now, I’ve said it elsewhere but it bears repeating: anabolic steroids are not innocuous drugs. They put users at risk for a broad range of physical ailments, some cosmetic, others life-threatening. Steroids go after the brain as well, leaving a sizeable chunk of users depressed, enraged, and both physically and psychologically addicted.
There’s an important footnote to keep in mind, however, regarding the history of anabolic steroids. When these drugs first hit the mainstream, the medical community tried to discourage their use through a two-pronged approach. First, they said steroids were incredibly dangerous. And second, they said steroids didn’t do much to build muscles anyway. The problem is, steroids do work when taken at the ridiculously high doses that are commonplace in gyms, and anyone who’d added twenty pounds of lean muscle mass to their frames knew it. Further, although the side effects of anabolic steroids can indeed be catastrophic, they can also go undiagnosed for years, leading to the misperception by some that steroids aren’t so bad.
While that’s an oversimplification of matters, there was clearly a disconnect between what doctors were saying and reality as perceived on the street, and to this day, steroid users as a whole don’t have as much faith in the medical community as they should. A number of dedicated groups have tried to address this, and I’d like to do what I can as well to help restore the balance.
Unfortunately, black marketeers stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the sales of these illicit drugs. This gives them a vested interest in keeping things askew. Hence the distinction you’ll find on the web between ‘reckless abusers’ and ‘responsible users,’ the suggestion being that side effects are only a problem for those who get carried away. And please note, this faulty distinction has nothing to do with the treatment of hereditary angioedema, AIDS myopathy, or the handful of other conditions in which anabolic steroids might actually have a legitimate medical use. The drug peddlers are simply using smoke and mirrors in hopes you’ll take your eyes off the ball. Don’t fall for their tricks. For the sake of your family, your friends, and your own well-being, you need to be smarter than that.
Now, with that small bit of background, I’d like to move on to an obvious question: how does one begin to tackle a problem with such sweeping dimensions as steroids?
Well, the first step to solving an intractable problem often involves looking at that problem from different angles, and we’d do well to remember that not everyone turns to steroids just to ‘level the playing field’ or ‘get a leg up on the competition’. Many people use steroids because they want a better physique. Others do it because they’ve been bullied or molested, and they want to bolster their strength as a hedge against future violence. Fail to address the concerns of a given group, and they’ll be unlikely to respond to your message. So whether you’re a parent or teacher, coach or trainer, nurse, physician, student, or athlete of any level, I hope you’ll come by the forums to share your insights, experiences, and concerns with regard to steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.
In sum, we’re faced with a complicated issue. But by developing a better understanding of the critical elements that lie at its root, we’ll grow that much more effective in bringing our resources to bear. We all have unique perspectives. I invite you to become part of the solution. And a final word – if you or someone you care about is in trouble, always remember that you’re not in this alone. Steroids are a global problem, and whether you’re in a crisis situation or not, help is always available.
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