The word steroids are always accompanied by negative comments and inquisitive looks. People have been wary because of its involvement in many controversies and issues throughout the years; and almost always, it involves the sports industry.
As we enter the 21st century, the abuse of anabolic steroids not only escalated, it also became prevalent outside the sports profession. It spread from bodybuilders and fitness instructors to image-conscious teenagers (read more). The youngest to be apprehended was a bunch of 8th graders, ages 15 to 17.
Many are familiar with its potential for misuse, but most are unaware of its medical use in treating several conditions. Anabolic steroids have been the savior of many patients. It helped relieve the symptoms of chronic diseases such as AIDS, myelofibrosis, and lupus. It aided patients suffering from muscle wasting like those undergoing chemotherapy and dialysis.
The appearance and performance-enhancing drug (APED) has many forms and derivatives. One of them is called oxymetholone.
What is oxymetholone?
Oxymetholone is an alkylated synthetic derivative of testosterone. It is one of the few steroids that earned the FDA’s approval to be labeled as a prescribed drug, instead of a controlled substance. It is primarily used to treat muscle wasting and several kinds of anemia such as chemo-induced and aplastic anemia.
Like most steroids, oxymetholone has an anabolic-androgenic effect on the human body. The drug is available in the market with the trade names Anadrol 50 and Anapolon. You can only buy Anadrol by getting a medical prescription from your doctor or pharmacist.
How does it work?
Oxymetholone’s mechanism of action is unlike most anabolic steroids. Once orally ingested, it activates the androgen receptor-mediated signaling in our brain. This binding will start the stimulation of red blood cell production and protein synthesis. This will then promote hemoglobin production and formation of other blood cells. It will also increase the body’s bone density.
Oxymetholone does not bind well to the muscle cell’s receptor sites. This explains why muscle building and enhancement is only a secondary effect of the drug. But it still brings out the synthetic hormone’s androgenic effects like increased libido, muscle mass, hirsutism, and voice maturation.
What are its medical uses?
Before the discovery of immunosuppressive drugs, oxymetholone has been at the frontline of managing several chronic anemia cases. Some of its therapeutic benefits are as follows:
- Aplastic anemia
Aplastic anemia is a rare and chronic blood disorder that occurs due to stem cell damage inside the bone marrow. This prevents your bone marrow from producing the normal amount of blood cells to sustain your body’s needs. It is characterized as an autoimmune disorder, which means that your own body is producing antibodies to attack and destroy your own bone marrow.
Without treatment, patients will suffer from developing arrhythmia and eventually die from heart failure. Treatments that exist only suppresses the immune system to prevent further production of antibodies. Blood transfusion and the use of oxymetholone are also used to manage aplastic anemia.
The anabolic drug improved the patient’s hematopoietic development. It increases their RBC production as well as the number of reticulocytes inside the bone marrow.
- Antithrombin III deficiency
Another case of blood disorder is the antithrombin deficiency. It is characterized by the production of abnormal blood clots, specifically in the deep veins of the legs.
Clotting should only happen if there is an injury or trauma in the blood vessels. Clots form a stopper-like device inside our body to prevent blood from exiting its vessels. The protein called anti-thrombin prevents our body from forming unnecessary and excessive clots during an injury.
Without it or at low levels, our body would not have a stop signal during clot formation. Thus, creating excessive clots throughout the body that can block the normal blood circulation.
Oxymetholone, in combination with warfarin, is used as a thrombolytic therapy for patients with ATIII deficiency. It augments the body’s fibrinolytic activity and anticoagulant properties.
- Hereditary angioedema
Hereditary angioedema is a genetic disease characterized by severe swelling in the face, limbs, gastrointestinal tract, and airways. It is a fatal disease due to its common symptom of laryngeal edema. This edema involves the formation of airway and intestinal obstruction that disrupts the normal air delivery to the lungs.
Angioedema is caused by C1 inhibitor deficiency. This protein is found and produced in the blood’s plasma or serum. With the use of oxymetholone therapy, a significant increase in the plasma levels of C1 inhibitors is observed. It also improves the level of C4 protein and prevents it from dropping to below normal levels.
The drug is administered to patients in an alternate-day manner. Managing the drug administration prevents side effects like mild virilization and insomnia from occurring.
Chronic weight loss is prevalent in patients undergoing antiretroviral therapy. It can be the medication’s side effect or from different metabolism alterations. The involuntary loss of weight makes HIV-infected individuals susceptible to opportunistic infections.
To combat this, doctors administered oxymetholone with the antagonist ketotifen to promote weight gain. However, oxymetholone therapy alone showed a much higher increase in the restoration of fat-free muscle mass. Improvements are faster together with proper food intake and mild exercise.
What are its side effects?
Like all medications, the long-term use and abuse of oxymetholone have severe consequences to the body. Fatal ones include the formation of blood-filled cysts or tumors in the liver and spleen. Some long-term aid effects also include:
- Muscle hypertrophy
- Decreased testicular size
- Development of cholestasis, jaundice, and hepatitis
- Formation of clay-colored stools and dark urine due to fluid retention
- Psychotic episodes and aggressive behavior
Allergic reactions such as hives, face swelling, and breathing difficulties may occur during short-term use.
Individuals diagnosed with diabetes, kidney and liver disease, breast and prostate cancer, and cardiovascular diseases may suffer severe conditions if administered with anabolic steroids.
According to the law, oxymetholone must be used under strict medical supervision. Prescription labels should be followed, and dosages may only be changed by your doctor. Skipping or abruptly stopping the medication without consent is highly prohibited.