Anabolic steroids are officially known as anabolic-androgen steroids (AAS). The primary anabolic steroid hormone that the body produces is testosterone. The two main effects of testosterone on the body are anabolic (promoting muscle building) and androgen (responsible for male traits such as facial hair and a deeper voice). AAS are a class of synthetic drugs that closely mimic male sex hormones such as testosterone. They can be taken orally, applied as a patch, spread on the skin in cream or gel form, or injected. They are medically prescribed to treat growth problems in children, anemia and chronic infections like HIV. They are also prescribed to treat individuals who have low levels of testosterone. The symptoms of low testosterone include fatigue, malaise, loss of sex drive, and loss of muscle tissue. Additionally, anabolic steroids (including testosterone) are taken to enhance muscle development, strength, or endurance. They do so directly by increasing the muscles' protein synthesis. As a result, muscle fibers become larger and repair faster.
Anabolic steroids are administered multiple ways: intramuscular or subcutaneous injection, orally, onto the skin (gels or patches) or by pellet implantation under the skin. Steroids can remain in the body for a period of from two days to over a year. AAS can cause potential long-term medical problems (heart and liver damage), short-term psychiatric symptoms (mania and aggression), and depression during withdrawal.
Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Abuse
Anabolic-androgenic steroid abuse is not confined to individuals with body dysmorphic disorder. Traditionally anabolic steroids have primarily been abused by bodybuilders and athletes to gain competitive advantage and/or improve their physical performance. Additionally, individuals who work in careers requiring enhanced physical strength, such as law enforcement, have been known to take these drugs.
Steroid abusers sometimes take up to 100 times the normal therapeutic doses of AAS. This frequently involves taking two or more steroids at a time; this practice is called stacking. Abusers will also alternate time periods for using high, low, or no doses of steroids; this practice is called cycling.
Extreme mood swings can occur as a result of taking AAS. This leads to irritability, rage, delusions, impaired judgment, suicide, aggression and violence.
In 1990 the Anabolic Steroids Control Act placed anabolic steroids into Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Under this legislation, anabolic steroids are defined as any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth. Other Schedule III drugs include: morphine, codeine, and barbiturates. The possession of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is illegal. Simple possession can be either a misdemeanor or felony (depending on the state). The sale of steroids is a felony in every state.
AAS Abuse in Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers face ongoing mentally and physically challenging situations. They also have excellent reasons to be concerned about the safety and lives, not only their own, but their partners and the people they are sworn to protect. While violent crime rates are reported to be falling, the bad guys have become increasingly more dangerous. For an officer, physical fitness is essential.
There are certainly officers in law enforcement who abuse anabolic-androgen steroids. Most of these officers do so for what they perceive as all the right reasons; to provide them a physical and psychological advantage while performing their jobs. These drugs allow the officer to increase muscle strength and size quickly and easily while increasing physical endurance.
Remember Officer Jackson? He eventually got caught up in the cycle of AAS abuse; he still maintains he was forced into using steroids. It happened after a suspect on meth fought Jackson and another officer to the ground and attempted to grab the officers' handguns. After talking to other cops and researching the subject, Jackson ultimately began injecting himself daily with a cocktail of Depo-Testosterone, Sustanon, Deca-Durabolin, and Anadrol. Within weeks he could bench an additional 100 pounds. He gained 30 pounds. He looked chiseled, ripped, formidable and imposing and walked around his beat with a definite command presence. His confidence grew, he felt more self-assured.
Jackson, like other officers who abuse AAS, eventually faced the end of his career and more due to his steroid abuse. One night Jackson jumped into a high speed pursuit across town. A family of four was killed when Jackson took unnecessary risks and hit their van. There had already been several reports of excessive use of force, including one complaint from an officer in a neighboring jurisdiction. Jackson was tested for AAS usage, fired, arrested, charged with felony possession, and is now awaiting his trial. Whether or not Jackson had suffered with body dysmorphic disorder or not was finally a moot point. The department settled out of court.