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How do anabolic steroids work?
In general, steroids are chemical compounds that share a common structure. There are many types of steroids; anabolic steroids are only one of several that have roles to play in your body.
When you take anabolic steroids, your body breaks the drug down into molecules that can pass into your cells. There, the steroid molecules bind to structures called androgen receptors. This is where anabolic steroids really take on the role of testosterone, because androgen receptors are shaped very specifically to bind with the body’s natural testosterone. Anabolic steroids, however, can also bind with the receptors.
Once this synthetic steroid is in place, the androgen receptor is activated. Depending on the type of cell the steroids are in, this activation can change how certain genes behave — especially the ones that control the changes that happen during puberty.
Steroids affect your normal metabolism in two basic ways, and together they result in greater muscle mass. Once those androgen receptors are activated, some cells increase their production of proteins, which your body uses to build more cells. This is the phase of your metabolic cycle known as anabolism, where small molecules build up into more complex ones and energy is stored. Anabolism is also when your body builds up muscles — so now you know why they’re called anabolic steroids. During anabolims, the cells in your skeletal muscles, or the powerful muscles attached to your bones, begin to replicate and grow. Soon, you’re building up strength and agility.
Side effects of anabolic steroid misuse
Effects of anabolic steroids in men can include:
reduced sperm count
increased risk of prostate cancer
In women, anabolic steroids can cause:
facial hair growth and body hair
loss of breasts
swelling of the clitoris
a deepened voice
an increased sex drive
problems with periods
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