This is the third and final installment in a three part series investigating our nation’s role models and their effects on the American male.
Since steroids are an inherent risk of muscle dysmorphia, it is important to understand exactly what steroids are. Steroids are synthetic versions of hormones produced naturally in the body. There are many different types of steroids used for a variety of reasons. For example, birth control pills are steroids. But steroids that build muscle are the focus of this essay, known as anabolic steroids, which are synthetic versions of the masculine hormone testosterone. There are legitimate uses of anabolic steroids, such as for AIDS patients, burn victims, and muscular dystrophy patients. This kind of steroid use, under doctor supervision, is generally very safe. The dangers come from unsupervised, non-medical steroid use. Specifically, there are approximately 500,000 Americans under age 18 abusing these drugs to improve their athletic performance, appearance, and self-image. Side-effects of steroid abuse can include: high blood pressure, cholesterol changes, joint damage, liver damage, hair loss, enlarged prostate, and gynecomastia (development of breast tissue in males).
The harsh reality is that anabolic steroids are as readily available to desperate, media-impressioned teens as ever. A black market exists for steroids just as it exists for any other drug, and asking around at the local gym could easily point a teen to a dealer, so long as they are willing to provide the capital. However, loopholes in current law allow for untested steroids to be sold online on websites such as eBay and Amazon. Since current laws ban only specific compounds, inventive chemists are able to slightly change the chemistry of existing, illegal compounds to create technically legal, new compounds. Unfortunately, when the long legal process is finally able to criminalize a certain compound, the industry is able to create many more like it that bypass the law. Since the entire supplement industry is not FDA regulated and these new steroids are technically “legal”, these new compounds can be freely sold online without fear of prosecution. Furthermore, the websites selling these dangerous compounds greatly misrepresent the dangers and side effects of their use. In fact, most websites advocated their safe use and less than 5% of these websites provided accurate information for potential buyers. These companies are clearly out just to make a profit and will sell to anyone with a valid credit card and mailing address. They pose a huge safety concern to society and more specifically to the adolescent males impressioned by the unrealistic male figures in movie media.
Hollywood spends millions of dollars every year producing movies, and even more advertising these movies. Their power and influence is a natural result of this. However, the movie industry must realize the adverse effects it is having on a large part of its consumer base. Adolescent males, influenced by the burly male figures they see on screen, are being driven to depression and muscle dysmorphia by feelings of inadequacy, and are ultimately abusing anabolic steroids in the hopes of becoming more like their male mentors. Hollywood must go back to using more realistic-looking actors such as Clint Eastwood, as a means of responsible role model presentation, and our government should find a way to remove dangerous designer steroids from the free market, or legalize the safer steroids.