DR ELLIE CANNON: How can I tell if my son's abusing steroids



21:07 GMT, 23 June 2012

Steroids have made the news with a politician’s son taking up full-time body-building.

Jonny Spelman, 17, the son of Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, has already been banned from rugby for steroid use. So what do steroids do

Muscle mass: Steroids enhance body shape - but have side effects

Muscle mass: Steroids enhance body shape – but have side effects

How would I know if my son were using steroids

Anyone working out regularly will build muscle, but anabolic steroids are taken by body-builders to enhance this dramatically.

They are similar to the male sex hormone testosterone, which builds muscle bulk. Side effects to watch out for include bad acne, aggressive behaviour and even the development of breast tissue.

Is taking steroids in this way harmful in the long term

Unnecessarily taking any medicine is a bad idea.

Steroid-users are prone to raised blood pressure, high cholesterol and kidney damage, putting them at risk of cardiovascular disease. Steroid use can also cause impotence, reduced fertility and liver disease.

Do steroids occur naturally in the body

Yes, in many forms. The sex hormones – testosterone and oestrogen – are steroids made in the body. Other natural steroids are vital in our response to stress and regulating salt levels.

Anabolic steroids are most closely related to the male hormone testosterone. Doses taken are often more than ten times the natural level found in the male body.

How are anabolic steroids different from the steroids a doctor prescribes

The steroids we use as medicine are a synthetic version of natural hormones, corticosteroids.

Steroids prescribed by your doctor have side effects but are given in a controlled situation for medical benefit. Doctors also use the lowest doses possible.

Can medical steroids cause the same side effects

High doses of steroid, which are prescribed only for those with severe medical problems, cause different side effects.