Testosterone is a naturally occurring anabolic steroid hormone from the androgen group. As with other steroid hormones, it is derived from cholesterol. It is the primary male sex hormone and is secreted in the largest amounts in the testes of males; however it is also manufactured in far smaller quantities in the ovaries of females. Testosterone plays an important role in health and sexual functioning in both men and women. Testosterone enhances sex drive, increases energy, protects against osteoporosis and increases red blood cell protection.
Adult Testosterone Effects
The effects of testosterone are important to men and women but they are more clearly seen in males. Some of the following effects decline later in life corresponding to declining levels of testosterone in the adult body.
*Maintenance of muscle size and strength
*Bone density and bone strength
*Libido (clitoral engorgement/penile erection)
*Mental and physical energy
*Maintaining cardiovascular health
Routes of Administration
Exogenous (from outside the body) testosterone may be injected into muscle tissue, taken orally, administered in implantable pellets, through skin patches or creams and gels applied to the skin topically. There are also "roll on" topical methods and nasal sprays available.
Testosterone supplementation has many health risks. It has been linked to risk of breast cancer in women and thought to advance prostate cancer in men already diagnosed with the cancer. A common compliant of males is the development of breast tissue. Difficulty urinating is another common complaint.
Testosterone has been used by athletes in order to enhance their performance. Like steroid usage, this is considered to be a form of doping in sports. Testosterone is an anabolic steroid and when increased in the body muscle fibers become larger and repair faster than in the average individual. Testosterone was designated as a "controlled substance" by the US Congress in 1990 under the Anabolic Steroid Act.
A percentage of exogenous testosterone users do become addicted to the steroid as is seen by their continued use despite adverse effect such as physical problems and the effects of their use on their relationships. Testosterone users also typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drug. Extreme measures are gone to in the sports industry to hide use from labs. Withdrawal symptoms have also been reported when individuals stop using testosterone such as; mood swings, tiredness, restlessness and irritability, insomnia, decreased libido and cravings for more steroids. Depression is the most dangerous withdrawal symptom because it has been liked to suicide attempts. Depressive symptoms have been known to persist for a year or more after the individual has stopped using steroids.
Few studies have been conducted as to the effectiveness of steroid treatment. Individuals undergoing steroid withdrawal provide the best evidence to the efficacy of treatment approaches. Education about steroids and the effects has been extremely important in recovery. Medication has been used to restore hormonal balance and to target specific symptoms, for example an antidepressant for depression and analgesics for headaches. Sometimes behavioral therapy has proven useful.