Monday, September 5, 2011

Medical Mondays: 'Roid Reactions


Happy Labor Day!

So Stina Lindenblatt asked me: What's the turnaround time for tests to prove illegal steroids were being used? The answer was probably a 1-2 weeks, as it isn't a common test doctors have in their labs. But the subject got me thinking about illegal steroid use.

Anabolic (tissue-building) Androgenic (male growth) steroids are hormones that mimic natural male hormones. People can take them via pills, patches, creams, and injections.

Obvious effects include:
  • increase in muscle mass
  • lowered voice
  • increased red blood cell production
  • increased libido
  • increased hair growth (chest, limbs, pubic area)
But there are a lot of downsides. Did you know it could also cause the following?
  • gynecomastia (breast development--caused by excess testosterone being shuttled into estrogen production)
  • low sperm counts (again, due to hormone imbalances) and infertility
  • acne
  • shrinking testicles
  • accelerated baldness
  • worsened cholesterol
  • abnormal buildup of heart muscle, which could lead to arrhythmia and sudden death
  • coronary artery disease and heart attacks
  • psychiatric effects, such as mania, violence, aggression ('roid rage), depression, suicide
  • liver damage (if taking steroid pills)
And interestingly, in adolescents, it can cause growth plates to close early, leading to stunted growth.

Steroids are dangerous stuff. If your characters are using steroids, remember some of those less-commonly known effects as well!

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
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Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary

38 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

It's one of those lesser know side effects of steriods (not listed here) that became the premise of my WIP. :D

One of my ex's used the stuff (not while I was dating him, though). He just couldn't get it into his thick head how dangerous the drug is. Some people just don't want to see the truth.

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, I never had a character use this type of drug but I guess there are a lot of men out there (and even women) who do.

It's scary because there are steroids used as medications (like acne medicine and as cancer treatment). My niece is taking steroids for her cancer. She gains a lot of weight on the drug and becomes very moody (angry).

Lynn said...

Often I see the side-effects list of a drug is longer than the its list of benefits! And steroids are obviously not exempt. Great question Stinal and thanks for the answer L!

Matthew MacNish said...

Interesting stuff!

B.E. Sanderson said...

:shakes head: What people won't do... Reminds me of a bit Robin Williams used to do about cocaine... "anything that make you paranoid and impotent - gimme more of that".

Thanks for the info, Lydia. I knew about the 'roid rage and the shrinkage, but the rest of it was news to me.

salarsenッ said...

Thanks for sharing this information. I've never had a character use steroids or any other drug, but it's definitely important to be aware of any and all side effects while writing.

Suze said...

Didn't know that about the lowered voice.

Carol Kilgore said...

Like others, I knew some of these effects but not all. You never know when info like this will come in handy. Thanks.

cherie said...

*looking at list of BAD side effects...Ewww!

Seems like the risks far outweigh the benefits LOL.

I don't have steroid use in my WIP, but this was interesting info, nevertheless. ;)

Em said...

Steroids make me think of Cushing's Syndrome which someone close to me had. So I'm overly familiar with steroids and with corticosteriods.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I didn't know about the stunted growth. All steroids are illegal in sports, so is there such a thing as legal steroids?

Old Kitty said...

Oh lordy, my work colleague just finished a course of steroids and by golly he was not well when he was on them - bloated, pale and weak!!! And these were legally prescribed ones! Yikes!

Take care
x

jbchicoine said...

I just love how disturbingly informative your Medical Mondays are. YIKES!

Heather said...

Yikes, with those side effects I can't figure out why anyone would chance using them! *shudders* Kind of counter productive if you know what I mean.

Chris Phillips said...

Is waking up in a meadow, without a stitch of clothing, clutching a half eaten raccoon a normal side effect? My.. uh... friend wanted to know.

Ciara said...

Steroids were a big problem back at my high school. We had a lot of athletes and I've seen some violent outbursts from the wrestlers and football players who took them. It was sad but common. Dangerous stuff.

Olga said...

I love your drawings, and the text that accompanies them. I am going to forward this article to my husband; he will find it useful :)

Carrie Butler said...

Very informative, Lydia! I always love the illustrative doodles that go along with these posts. :)

Giles Hash said...

I knew they were dangerous, but that whole list makes them sound like suicide! Yikes :P

Alleged Author said...

The shrinking of...um...bits...always made me wonder why a man would ever want to use steroids.

lbdiamond said...

Scary stuff. You'd think just mentioning shrinking testicles would keep the guys away. Oh well. Sometimes bigger muscles outweigh...oh never mind. You get the picture.

Connie Keller said...

Euw! When I saw baseball players who were obviously taking them, I figured if they're gaining somewhere, they're losing somewhere else.

Linda Gray said...

Great info as always, Lydia. That last side effect--stunted growth in adolescents, is great to know. If anything can prevent an adolescent boy from trying something, it's stunting their growth. Thanks for the insights.

Jennifer Hillier said...

I never had any characters use steroids, but I had a friends who did, and the results weren't pretty.

Great post! As usual. :)

Emy Shin said...

I didn't know about the downsides of steroids before. Pretty terrifying!

BECKY said...

Lydia, I love your Medical Mondays!!

Slamdunk said...

Good topic as always Lydia. I think #3 and #4 are the most common downsides that coaches and others use to discourage their young players from using--those things obviously are big on a guy's list to avoid.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Loved the picture and the post. Medical Mondays did not make me uneasy this week.

LTM said...

ew! And you forgot about 'roid rage!!! :D

Steroids are gross. Now I'm thinking of that Jim Carrey character. Remember? The female taking steroids? ew. :p

Love these--thanks, Lydia! <3

Samantha Vérant said...

Good question, Stina! I might have dated a few ROIDS, although they were more like another word with "roid" in it!

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! yikes! i didnt ever know bout those sterioids. for sure i gotta tell my brother who plays football at high school. for sure i couldnt want him to use that stuff. ack!
...hugs from lenny

Peggy Eddleman said...

Wow! That's a huge amount of bad side effects! They should list those on the bottle. :) Maybe it'd keep them from being abused.

Theresa Milstein said...

Yikes. It's amazing that anyone would do it.

Krispy said...

I love your doodle! I totally thought "Roid rage!!!" when I saw it.

Kari Marie said...

I knew about some of the side effects, but that list is truly frightening. Seriously - why do people do this to themselves?

Kelly said...

Crazy stuff.
And when I first read the post title, I thought it was going to be about a different type of 'roids. :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Nasty business, but interesting--from a distance.

J.L. Campbell said...

Whoa! I didn't know steroid use had all those negative effects. I wonder if the people who use them do this level of research so they know what they're getting into.

 
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