anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the primary male hormone, testosterone. They affect many parts of the body, including the muscles, bones, hair follicles, liver, kidneys, blood, immune system, reproductive system and the central nervous system.
During puberty, increases in testosterone levels enable the development of characteristics such as facial and body hair growth, increased height and muscle mass, a deepening voice, and the sex drive.
Testosterone can also contribute to competitiveness, self-esteem, and aggressiveness.
How do people use them?
Continuous use of AASs can lead to problems such as tolerance. They may even cause the body to stop producing its own testosterone.
Some people use AASs continuously, but others try to minimize their possible adverse effects through different patterns of use.
Cycling: The person takes AASs in cycles of 6 to 12 weeks (known as the “on” period), followed by 4 weeks to several months off.
Stacking: Users combine several different types of steroids or incorporate other supplements in an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of the steroids. This is called “stacking.”
Pyramiding: Some users gradually increase the dose to a peak, then reduce the amount.
However, there is no evidence that these methods reduce the risks.
There are up to 32 types of anabolic steroid listed on commercial websites.
Some have only medicinal uses, such as Nebido. Anadrol is an example of a steroid with both medicinal and performance uses.
Others, such as anadur, have no therapeutic use, but athletes use them.
People choose different types for different purposes:
bulking steroids for building muscle
performance steroids for strength and endurance
cutting steroids for burning fat
Other reasons for use include healing and recovery and enhancement of metabolism.
For both medical and illegal purposes, AASs can be taken:
as pellets implanted under the skin
through the skin as a cream or gel
Oral forms are taken by mouth. They include:
Fluoxymesterone (Halotestin), or “Halo”
Methandienone (Dianabol), or “Dbol”
Oxandrolone (Anavar, Oxandrin), or “Var”
Oxymetholone (Anadrol), or “Drol”
Stanozolol (Winstrol), or “Winny”
Injectable forms include:
Boldenone undecylenate (Equipoise), or “EQ”
Methenolone enanthate (Primobolan), or “Primo”
Nandrolone decanoate (Deca Durabolin), or “Deca”
Nandrolone phenpropionate (Durabolin), or “NPP”
Testosterone cypionate (Depotest)
Testosterone enanthate (Andro-Estro)
Testosterone propionate (Testex)
Trenbolone acetate (Finajet), or “Tren”
AASs travel through the bloodstream to the muscle tissue, where they bind to an androgen receptor. The drug can subsequently interact with the cell’s DNA and stimulate the protein synthesis process that promotes cell growth.
W-18 is largely being misinterpreted–or overblown, perhaps–because it’s being lumped in with morphine and fentanyl, opioid drugs that produce feelings of well-being but that can also become addictive.
At first, that’s understandable because it was first found in a drug seizure that authorities thought was fentanyl, a medically useful opioid that’s become a drug of abuse and misuse because it can be transported and shipped in smaller quantities than heroin.
When you’re hearing that W-18 is 10,000 times more potent than morphine or 100 times more potent than fentanyl, these descriptions are referring only to 35-year-old animal experiments showing that W-18 suppresses a mouse's response to painful stimuli.
At present, we do not know if W-18 is itself an opioid or whether it poses addictive or lethal risks like those of an opioid.
Unconscious, but still breathing
The graduate student working on the project, who told me this week that he doesn’t want to be named or contacted by other journalists, remembers that when they first injected some of these chemicals into the animals at a dose similar to aspirin, the mice stood up for about a minute and fell over unconscious. They remained unconscious–for five days.
But they weren’t dead. They were still breathing.
And when they woke, they seemed fine, other than being really hungry and thirsty.
The University of Alberta group did test one of the W compounds (W-3) to see if its analgesic effects could be reversed by the opioid blocker and emergency antidote, naloxone. While there was partial reversal of its painkilling effects, it wasn’t complete.
The graduate student told me that they performed some molecular modeling studies in the 1980s that showed W-18 shared some chemical qualities of other opioids. However, no direct evidence exists to show that W-18 even binds to the opioid receptors that we and other mammals have in our brain and spinal cord.
To summarize, fentanyl is a more potent opioid than morphine and has caused hundreds of deaths in Alberta alone. W-18 was first found in a shipment of what was thought to be fentanyl. But we do not know if W-18 is an opioid or whether it has poses the same human health risks as fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone or other opioid drugs.