The actual mechanism in which testosterone elicits these changes is somewhat complex. When free in the blood stream, the testosterone molecule is available to interact with various cells in the body. This includes skeletal muscle cells, as well as skin, scalp, kidney, bone, central nervous system, and prostate tissues. Testosterone binds with a cellular target in order to exert its activity, and will, therefore, effect only those body cells that posses the proper hormone receptor site (specifically the androgen receptor). This process can be likened to a lock and key system, with each receptor (lock) only being activated by a particular type of hormone (key). During this interaction, the testosterone molecule will become bound to the intracellular receptor site (located in the cytosol, not on the membrane surface), forming a new “receptor complex.” This complex (hormone + receptor site) will then migrate to the cell’s nucleus, where it will attach to a specific section of the cell’s DNA, referred to as the hormone response element. This will activate the transcription of specific genes, which in the case of a skeletal muscle cell will ultimately cause (among other things) an increase in the synthesis of the two primary contractile proteins, actin and myosin (muscular growth). Carbohydrate storage in muscle tissue may be increased due to androgen action as well.
Awareness and educational efforts are working to help prevent anabolic steroid abuse in schools and communities. The Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids (ATLAS) and the Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives (ATHENA) programs, funded by the NIDA, and supported by the Oregon Health & Science University programs is teaching athletes that they do not need steroids to build powerful muscles and improve athletic performance. These programs provide weight-training and nutrition alternatives, increase healthy behaviors, less likelihood to try steroids, and less likelihood to engage in other dangerous behaviors such as drinking and driving, use of marijuana and alcohol , and and improved body image. Bother Congress and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration endorsed these model prevention programs. 4