Nearly 7% of all male high school students have reported consuming anabolic steroids. Pharmacists, therefore, have to step in and caution users about their possible dangers, urged Brian Isetts, Ph.D.
Isetts, director of continuing education at the Minnesota Pharmacists Association, addressed the members of the American Pharmaceutical Association at the APhA annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif, With the continuing growth of the use of steroids, he said, pharmacists need to be part of the “team” that addresses the matter. “We need to provide accurate, reliable information.”
Pharmacists, he added, should work in conjunction with local high schools to arrange to give talks to the students. The talks can be followed up by letters to parents. This can also result in the pharmacist’s becoming more visible in the community and can bring more customers into his store, he noted.
Isetts encouraged pharmacists to work with high school educators, as well, in incorporating courses about anabolic steroids into the school curriculum. “We have courses in drug abuse now,” he said. And misuse of anabolic steroids by students could eventually become just as widespread.
Pharmacists, he continued, can serve as advisers in athletic settings, such as gymnasiums, as well. Pharmacists have been asked to serve on the training crews of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, an organization that ensures the integrity of drug testing.
Warning young people about anabolic steroids, said Isetts, is part of the whole science called sports medicine, He defined sports medicine as the “science and practice of dispensing drug information, medication, and durable medical equipment as an aid to individuals trained to compete in exercise, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” He also noted that muscle failure, unlike, as an example a hard drive failure, is something that athletes cope with readily on a daily basis.
In looking at the history of anabolic steroids, Isetts pointed out that in the 1960s, there were case reports of their side effects, such as peliosis hepatis. In the 1970s, there was much debate about whether or not anabolic steroids improved strength and enhanced the performance of individuals. The metabolic effects and biochemical mechanism of actions were also scrutinized. In the 1980s, the debate spread to other performance-enhancing drugs, specifically androgens.
Isetts said these drugs are taken by some for no other reason than to “improve one’s appearance and look good. In life, we’re rewarded for having a muscular body and looking good. Somehow, we’ve lost the true purpose of sports-that is, to provide a means of recreation.”
These drugs do have therapeutic value, he said. However, all the recent “media hype” has left a “credibility gap” about their medical effectiveness.
Steroids, he continued, basically stimulate protein synthesis. Androgens, one type of steroid, are used in males to stimulate puberty in cases where it is delayed. They are also used as replacement therapy for hypogonadism. In females, said Isetts, androgens are used for treatment in some forms of metastatic cancer.
Anabolic steroids are used to treat anemia, to promote weight gain following surgery, and as an antidote to hereditary angioedema he added.
But, Isetts cautioned, individuals build up an addiction to these drugs. Some of the adverse side effects can include liver damage and tumors, peliosis hepatis, blood lipid changes, mood swings, and clinical depression.
In men, misuse of drugs can cause infertility, impotence, breast enlargement, and testicular atrophy. In women, the drugs can result in menstrual irregularities, facial hairs, and decreased breast size. In men and women, the drugs can result in baldness and acne.
Isetts noted that four states: Alabama, California, Florida, and North Carolina-currently have laws that classify anabolic steroids as controlled substances. Eight other states have legislation on the books to increase the penalties against their illegal use, he added.
The lure of the drugs, concluded Isetts, is that they provide a shortcut to achieving dramatic changes in stature.” He pointed out, however, that in trying to speed up Mother Nature, the “natural growth process is affected.” treatment for cancer in the neck or mouth, also often have difficulty swallowing.