Types of Steroids
Linn Goldberg, MD
Anabolic steroids are illegal without a prescription in the United States. They can, however, be imported illegally or created in illegal labs. Certain "designer steroids" have been produced that are difficult to detect with standard testing procedures. Sometimes veterinary steroids are abused as well, because they are cheaper and easier to get. A study by the International Olympic Committee found that nearly one in five of the 240 “athletic supplements” studied contained anabolic steroids or substances that could be converted by the body to steroids. Despite being illegal in the United State, the FDA has recently found that over-the-counter body building products and those marketed online contain anabolic steroids. A few of the more commonly used oral and injectable anabolic steroids are listed below.
In the past, steroid precursors—substances that turn into anabolic steroids in the body—were sold as "dietary supplements." Because of an October 2004 law, the sale of most of these substances was banned in the United States. However, one steroid precursor, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is still sold legally. DHEA can result in masculine traits when it is converted into testosterone.
Creatine is not a hormone. Instead, it is a combination of three amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein that occurs naturally in the body. Creatine is contained in meats. When taken as a dietary supplement, it is believed to boost energy recovery, although some studies do not confirm this effect. Muscle cramps and nausea are side effects. There have been no medically useful studies of long-term effects, and no studies have involved children or adolescents.
Amphetamines ("speed"), ephedrine (Ma Huang), synephrine, and pseudoephedrine also are being abused. These substances are related to the natural hormone epinephrine, which is adrenalin. These drugs keep people from sleeping when they are tired, creating a sense of energy and well-being. Ephedrine, now illegal, was often used as a weight loss supplement. Abusing these drugs—especially using large quantities—harms the brain, as well as the nervous and cardiovascular systems. In a review of dietary supplements conducted by the CDC, ephedrine products made up less than 1% of the sales of dietary supplements. They were responsible, however, for a stunning 64% of all serious side effects of supplements reported to the CDC.
In February, 2004, ephedrine products were removed from supplement shelves in the United States because of their link to at least 100 deaths, heart attacks, and strokes. Today other stimulants have taken the place of ephedrine, including "Bitter Orange" also known as Citrus aurantium, which contains the stimulant synephrine and the drug theobromine. It's important to know that drugs marketed as being "ephedra free" are not stimulant free and may have significant risks, including the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.