Most people have many misconceptions when it comes to anabolic steroids. They see these huge muscly men, juice heads, call it what you will, and instantly think that these guys are taking performance enhancers. This, for whatever reason, causes many people to look down on them. But why is this? What is this stigma that has been attached to steroids and steroid users?

The majority of people who use anabolic steroids do so for recreational purposes. They go to the gym, lift weights and may eventually start using steroids to increase their performance levels with the aim of increasing their strength or muscle mass. Many of these people are teenagers; young image-conscious men fresh out of high school looking for a confidence boost or to gain popularity with the opposite sex. They hit the gym with a lot of determination, lifting weights until they drop. They want instant results. So after a few weeks of living as a gym rat, they become impatient and look to others in the gym; the guy in the weights section who looks like all he has to do is sneeze for his muscles to get bigger. This guy then tells the young man about a special product that he takes, and agrees to sell him a few bottles. This is where it starts. This is how the underground steroid market has become a multi-million pound industry and has in turn generated a lot of shady press.

The selling of steroids in the UK is prohibited; however the possession of such substances remains legal for personal use. And many people do use the drugs for their own personal use. The use of these drugs can be described and compared to a type of cosmetic surgery. Women get collagen put into their lips, Botox to reduce wrinkles, enhance their breasts with silicone implants. So why can’t people use steroids to get muscles if it makes them feel better about themselves?

Now for the competitive aspect of weightlifting. There has been a lot of bad press associated with bodybuilding and weightlifting competitions. For many years now, it has been a known fact that the majority of professional bodybuilders take steroids, even if the various bodybuilding federations try to deny it.

Whilst in preparation for Mr Olympia, the most prestigious show in the bodybuilding calendar, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a seven-time winner of the event, has openly stated that he was taking steroids. He has stated in his autobiography that he was taking them at 15/16 years old. Is this considered cheating? Well nowadays, bodybuilding shows are either classed as natural or open competitions. In natural competitions, all competitors are tested for any banned substances. In open shows, they are not. So in reality, this permits and in a way, actually encourages people to take steroids if they want to reach the top level in open competitions.

Bodybuilding federations still claim that they are looking to stamp out the use of steroids in their sport, and claim that in open shows they do random drug testing. Yeah, right. I’ll let you make your own assumptions about this, but all you need to do is look at the guys standing on the Mr Olympia stage on the 28th September 2014 to know that something’s going on.

It does not help that the press constantly write articles with unsupported claims about how steroids are addictive and can cause heart disease and strokes. The fact is and the fact remains that there has been no substantial evidence to suggest that steroids are actually bad for you in this respect. There have been small studies carried out, that have led to such statements being made, however the results from these investigations often prove to be inconclusive. Unless a long-term study is carried out, and I’m talking about a study that will take decades to complete, such claims cannot be made definitively.

There are however problems associated with steroid use, which have been proven. One of the main concerns for users is the effect that coming off the drugs has on their body, mainly on their testis. Testis often shrivel up and stop producing the normal amount of testosterone the body requires. This is because steroids act as synthetic versions of testosterone, so when injecting them, your body stops producing any more of its own natural form of the hormone.

However this claim that writers constantly make about steroids being addictive really annoys me. People read this and instantly put steroids in the same category as heroin and other hard core drugs. Steroids are not addictive in the same way as these drugs. People may become addicted to steroids because of the effects that they see the drugs are having on their body. This is a form of psychological addiction, but they are by no means addicted to the actual taking of the drug. People take steroids and over time, see increased muscle mass or strength levels and want more and more of this effect.

‘Roid rage’ is another term that is frequently used by reporters. The fact is that roid rage is a myth. It does not exist in the way that it is often spoken about. Again, what people are referring to is the psychological aspect of taking the drug. If someone has an aggressive personality before they take the drug, this is often enhanced when they begin taking steroids. This is because people walk around with a little bit more muscle thinking they’re like Superman. In this way, it is very similar to the effects of alcohol; if an aggressive argumentative person has a few drinks, the likelihood is that the alcohol will serve to enhance the aggression, but if you’re a normal well-grounded person, then it’s unlikely to have such an effect.

When you see a man with rippling muscles, don’t be so quick to judge and dismiss him as a steroid junkie. Yes, some of them are steroid users, but the majority of people achieve their ideal body image through sheer hard work and determination. Steroids do help take the muscle building process to the next level, which is why the number of users in the UK has rocketed over the last decade, and will most probably continue to rise whilst people go in pursuit of their vision of a perfect physique.

The government needs to handle the steroid issue in a much smarter way; you can’t have steroid users sitting in drug rehabilitation programmes with crack heads and drug abusers. They are not the same. Rather, conduct more research and educate people about the possible dangers when it comes to their usage so that people can make an informed choice whether or not to take steroids. Contrary to what people say, steroid users do not harm those around them and are not a menace to society like other drug users. You will not see a steroid user stoned out in a back alley with a needle hanging out of his arm. People who use steroids often have well-paid jobs, a decent life and are using the drugs as a form of cosmetic enhancement procedure.

Now I am by no means encouraging anybody to take steroids or condoning the needs of those who do so. I am merely looking to bring to attention some of the misconceptions that people have of steroids and steroid users. If you are someone considering taking steroids, don’t just buy a product from someone at your gym and start sticking that stuff in your body; there is plenty of information online, warning you and giving you guidance on all the possible risks and side effects associated with their use.