When Does Steroid Use Become Abuse?


by Josh Hodnik

In 1936 the film titled “Reefer Madness” was released. This film showed marijuana users committing crimes while high such as rape, suicide, and homicide. “Reefer Madness” was intended to scare the public and curb the use of marijuana. Obviously, watching this film by a non-marijuana user would probably cause a concern. But a person that already uses marijuana would know that becoming a maniac after smoking some reefer is highly doubtful. The film “Reefer Madness” is not too different from the propaganda that is released regarding anabolic steroids.

The twisted information that the public has seen says that Lyle Alzado died from steroid use when his own doctor said that was not the case, and that Chris Benoit murdered his family and committed suicide because of steroid use instead of the documented mental health problems. There are too many examples of misinformation involving steroids to name here, but you get the point.

Many people feel that steroid use in general is abuse when the user doesn’t have a medical condition to warrant its use. The majority of people that feel any use is abuse are people that have not used steroids or haven’t been around many people that use anabolic steroids. Now, there are some former steroid users that have had bad experiences with these drugs when they did use, due to lack of any education with what they were taking, and these former users will often feel the same way that non-users feel. I don’t feel that its normal by any means, but it is very common for people to make judgments on subjects that they have little to zero knowledge about. This is often the case when it comes to the public’s view on anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. The public is quick to conclude that anabolic steroids are completely bad and will kill you. They hear every horror story that may somehow be connected to anabolic steroids, because that is what the media prints. Rarely does the public see the studies that show the benefits of testosterone and the health risks associated with low-testosterone levels, and if they do, they rarely pay attention.

A positive light to testosterone or anabolic steroids would contradict everything they have always thought about these drugs, and not many people like to admit their view has always been completely wrong. 
We know that most of the public views anabolic steroids in a negative way. This is no revelation by any means. The misinformation commonly associated with anabolic steroids has been thrown around for so long by uneducated people, which has actually caused many users to take the real side effects of these drugs with little to no regard. With this I mean that people have used scare tactics regarding all illegal drugs to try to curb the use with younger people. This is no different with anabolic steroids. Adverse side effects can occur and often do (temporary and permanent) with young adults and children that use anabolic steroids. On the other hand, healthy male adults have used anabolic steroids with little to no side effects when used at low to moderate doses. This is the side of steroids that is never talked about.

Steroid users and people that have contemplated steroid use at some point have all heard the horror stories that the media has portrayed about steroid use. Someone that has used anabolic steroids responsibly will usually state that most of what the media has portrayed about steroids is just propaganda, but they still realize that high doses of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs can cause serious health problems. On the other hand, there are people who believe what the media says but will still take the plunge to add more muscle mass and strength. Once someone from this group has taken a cycle of steroids at a low dose and experienced little to no side effects, they feel the media has completely cried wolf, and this can lead to a person taking higher and higher doses with no fear of health problems. This is where abuse often occurs. So, in a sense the scare tactics with steroids causes more harm than good.

I remember the fear I had about anabolic steroids before I had done much research. I decided to try them anyway with my first cycle consisting of just 200mg of testosterone enanthate a week. After just 8 weeks, I had gained a solid 20 pounds. I felt that everything I heard about the dangers with these drugs were completely wrong. I would eventually go onto increase doses and the amount of drugs I would use. After a lot of research, I would come to realize that the media was still wrong, but there were still dangers present when steroids were abused. My 200 mg weekly dose of testosterone enanthate would eventually turn into 2000 mg along with several other steroids and other drugs such as growth hormone, igf-1, and insulin. During the short time that I abused steroids at these doses I experienced extremely high blood pressure, water retention, insomnia, moodiness, and I developed sleep apnea. Luckily, everything returned to normal once I stopped, but this might not have been the case if I had continued this over a very long period of time.

Professional athletes put their bodies on the line to train and compete, and this is especially true with bodybuilders. The training is intense, the diet has to be precise, and high amounts of drugs have to be taken to compete at today’s level.

With the deaths of Nasser El Sonbaty, Matt Duvall, and Andreas Munzer, it’s apparent that steroid abuse is nothing new. Bodybuilders have gotten bigger and leaner every year, and while they have grown, so have their drug regimens. As this continues I predict that bodybuilding deaths will continue to become more frequent. When steroids are used responsibly and not abused this is something that can be avoided.