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Anabolic Steroids

The subject of anabolic drug abuse is quite delicate and many athletes are sensitive about it.  The subject is complex and despite decades of research it is difficult to assess the abuse objectively. There is no doubt that anabolic steroids have varying effects on the body. The majority of users take the drug in secrecy and to make matters worse, take multiple drugs at the same time. Further there are many drugs out on the market with unproven claims, there are just as many fake drugs and others which have contaminants. Thus, the study of anabolic steroids has proven to be difficult.

There are many studies which indicate that anabolics steroid are harmful and there are some who say that the steroids are not harmful. Contradictory data on every aspect of anabolic steroids are wide spread all over cyberspace.

The use of performance enhancing drugs is not new but climaxed in the 1990s. In the early part of the 1960s, only professional athletes abused steroids - today, the problem has trickled down to high schools and colleges. The win at all costs mentality and the money invoked in sports has many individuals abusing steroids. Evidence indicates that the majority of athletes load themselves with anabolic drugs of all types and even increase the duration of use. This use of multiple anabolic steroids significantly increases the chance of developing side effects and coupled with the secrecy, the user is at a very high risk of developing a serious complication- sooner or later.

While most people know what anabolic steroids can do for the body, many forget that these drugs are not exactly harmless. However, it appears that many individuals appear to show little concern for the side effects and possible complications of these drugs. There is a myth among athletes that only cocaine and other illicit drugs are harmful and that the rest of the drugs in the pharmacopeia are harmless. This is erroneous. Every single drug that we have today has the potential to cause side effects and anabolic steroids are no different. Infact, the wide abuse of these anabolic drugs has led to observation of more toxicity that was what known previously.

 

One fact that all body builders should know- the dealers who sell anabolic steroids in cyberspace always claim that the drugs are safe - infact the reverse is true.

 

So before one embarks on a journey of anabolic steroid abuse, know what the potential side effects are. While all these side effects do not occur at the same time or in one individual, they do occur. The longer the anabolic steroid is abused, the greater the frequency of side effects. When the anabolic steroids are used for a short time, the side effects are minimal but as the dose and duration is increased, the side effects become more frequent. All individuals who take anabolic steroids should be regularly followed by a health care professional and have their blood work assessed. This may help prevent some side effects. Some of the more common side effects of anabolic steroids are the following:

 

Heart Related

When anabolic steroids are taken for a long time (>6-8 weeks), they can lower the good cholesterol (HDL) and increase levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL). This alteration does reverse when the drugs are stopped. However, if the anabolic steroids are continued, then there is a risk of developing heart disease. Higher levels of LDL are associated with the development of atherosclerotic plaques and it is not unheard of that a body builder has died from a heart attack (just read about how many WWE wrestlers have died from heart attacks at a relatively young age). The high LDL also causes the precipitation of cholesterol in the blood vessels in the legs, brain and kidneys. This eventually results in development of hypertension and lack of blood flow to the legs. Once an atherosclerotic plaque has been developed, it only progresses. While there are some reports that these plaques do reverse back to normal after the drug is stopped, this is infact very rare. Heart Diease & Anabolic Steroids
  Blood Pressure & Anabolic Steroids Another finding in athletes who take anabolic steroids is high blood pressure and a fast pulse rate. How this occurs is not entirely known and often it does not reverse when the steroids are stopped.  

Liver effects

The liver is the main site where many drugs are modified and broken down. Anabolic steroids also damage the liver. Individuals who do take these drugs for a long time have been found to have elevated levels of liver enzymes- which are markers of liver injury. The liver enzymes can increase 2-3 time the normal levels and must be monitored. There are many reports of liver failure and irreversible liver damage in individuals who have used anabolic steroids. Liver Effects of Anabolic Steroids

Sometimes anabolic steroids can also cause lesions in the liver which are filled with blood. These cystic structures can sometimes rupture and bleed.

 

Rarely liver tumors have also been reported with the use of anabolic steroids. Fortunately, the majority of liver masses reverse or regress after the steroids are discontinued. However, there have been a number of deaths in young athletes after the development of malignant liver cancers.

Endocrine effects

Low Spermatogenesis & Anabolic Steroids

The endocrine system is responsible for multiple actions on the body. It maintains the homeostasis of the body systems and can be altered by anabolic steroids. The anabolic steroids can suppress the hypothalamic pituitary axis and also inhibit the testes from making more testosterone. This leads to a suppression of spermatogenesis.

High levels of blood sugar are also common after ingestion of anabolic steroids. This effect does reverse after anabolic steroid use is discontinued.

 

Many anabolic steroids are also converted to estrogen in fatty tissues. This leads to development of estrogenic side effects like breast growth and water retention. In many cases, the gynecomastia does not always reverse after discontinuation of the drug and requires some type of medical or surgical treatment.

 

Urologic effects

 

The anabolic steroids also affect the prostate gland. The prostate gets hyperstimulated and become bigger and can block the passage of urine. This eventually results in retention of urine and underlying kidney damage. Any individual who has prostate cancer should never take anabolic steroids as the tumor growth can increase rapidly.

 

Hematologic effects

 

Many anabolic steroids can increase the tendency to bleed after even mild injury. While anabolic steroids are useful in the treatment of anemias, one must be careful that this does not lead to over production of red cells – which can lead to plugging up of blood vessels in the body.


Dermatologic effects

All anabolic steroids affect hair growth. Male pattern baldness does occur in individuals who take anabolic steroids. The steroids also lead to an oily skin and acne. The hair loss that occurs with anabolic steroids is worsened in individuals who are predisposed to hair loss.

Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids

Females

Even females are not immune from the side effects of anabolic steroids. Because many of the anabolic steroid have androgenic side effects, females will show signs of virilizing when these drugs are taken for a long time. The most common side effects in females who take these steroids are:
 
  • menstrual irregularities
  • inability to conceive
  • excessive hair growth
  • clitoral enlargement
  • deepening of voice
  • decrease in size of breast
 
Not all these side effects in females are reversible even when the drug is stopped.

Mental alterations

 

For decades it has been known that anabolic steroids have a powerful affect on the psyche. The majority of individuals who take these drugs will develop some type of mental change with time. The most common mental effects include the following:

 

Mental Alterations of Anabolic Steroids
  • alterations in mood - from sedate to extreme anger and violent
  • impaired judgment – a sense of invincibility
  • depression which is the most common
  • anxiety or hyper irritable at the slightest provocation
  • delusions and paranoia
  • aggression and anger
 

The majority of these mental changes are transient but unpredictable. There are countless reports of Roid rage and deaths have often occurred in innocent individuals at the hands of steroid users. The majority of these effects subside when the drug is discontinued.

 

Conclusion

 

These side effects of anabolic steroids do not occur in all individuals nor do they occur all the time. However, if the duration of steroid use is increased, the chances of developing side effects are high.

 

References


Bain J. The many faces of testosterone. Clin Interv Aging 2007; 2(4):567-76.

Botrè F, Pavan A. Enhancement drugs and the athlete. Neurol Clin 2008 Feb; 26(1):149- 67.

Gerber PA, Kukova G, Meller S, et al. The dire consequences of doping. Lancet 2008 Aug 23; 372(9639):656.

Kicman AT. Pharmacology of anabolic steroids. Br J Pharmacol 2008 Jun; 154(3):502-    21.

Santamarina RD, Besocke AG, Romano LM, et al. Ischemic stroke related to anabolic abuse. Clin Neuropharmacol 2008 Mar-Apr; 31(2):80-5.

Sjöqvist F, Garle M, Rane A. Use of doping agents, particularly anabolic steroids, in sports and society. Lancet 2008 May 31; 371(9627):1872-82.

Sonksen PH, Holt RI. Commentary on Graham et al.: Physical Effects of Short-Term rhGH Administration in Abstinent Steroid Dependency. Horm Res 2008; 69:343-354. Horm Res 2008 Mar 17; 69(6):355-356.

Vieira RP, França RF, Damaceno-Rodrigues NR, et al. Dose-Dependent Hepatic Response to Subchronic Administration of Nandrolone Decanoate. Med Sci   Sports Exerc 2008 Apr 9.

Wysoczanski M, Rachko M, Bergmann SR. Acute Myocardial Infarction in a Young Man Using Anabolic Steroids. Angiology 2008 Apr 2.

 

 

 
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