When it comes to anabolic steroids, there is no free ride. A basic rule of pharmacology or the study of how drugs function is that unless a drug produces side effects, it won't work. If the benefits provided by any particular drug outweigh the potential side effects, it's deemed safe for use. Another adage related to drugs is that "Only the dose determines the poison," and this is particularly true for anabolic steroid drugs, including testosterone or T. Most people think that anabolic steroids have no redeeming value because of all the adverse publicity that steroids have engendered over the years, mostly related to the abuse of the drugs by athletes and others. But their primary purpose was never to promote muscular growth in athletes and bodybuilders, but rather to treat various illnesses marked by catabolic effects in muscle or the excessive loss of muscle mass. They have also been used in the past to treat breast cancer in women and for treating a rare type of anemia associated with kidney failure.
But there is no doubt that anabolic steroids are, well, anabolic. That means they have potent effects in promoting gains in muscular size and strength. The first suggestion that they could be used for that purpose came with the publication of a book around 1942, not long after testosterone was first isolated in 1935. The early medical use for testosterone or T was to treat depression in men since back then there weren't any anti-depressant drugs. But no one thought of T as a muscle builder, despite its association with muscle function. That seminal 1942 book suggested that one day in the future T would be a favored drug by athletes and would allow athletes to set new standards and records in athletic competition. Of course, that prescient prediction came true. But it didn't occur till about 10 years later when Soviet or Russian weightlifters began injecting themselves with testosterone. The 60s were the golden era of anabolic steroid development, with thousands of compounds developed, and most of them never marketed. Some of them turned up 40 years later as "prohormone supplements." Anabolic steroids are merely forms of testosterone that have been structurally altered to resist premature breakdown in the liver. Regular testosterone if consumed orally would be degraded in the liver about 40 minutes after ingestion. However, the first usable oral anabolic steroid, methyltestosterone, was structurally altered to prevent that premature breakdown in the liver. The problem with it, however, was that it tended to accumulate in the liver, causing liver inflammation that could lead to the destruction of liver cells.
The steroids developed in the 6os generally avoided excessive liver stress, but many of the oral versions still did tend to cause liver problems and they were never released on the commercial market for that reason. But again, some showed up as prohormone supplements and sure enough, they often caused . . .
Join today and get access to this article and all past and present Newsletters, since September 2014. Each month you’ll get a new issue sent to your inbox. Subscribe today for only $10/month!