Anabolic Steroids are drugs that simulate the effects of testosterone in the body. They can build up muscular tissue by increasing protein synthesis in the cells and have properties that encourage the development of masculine features.
Steroids have been used medicinally for decades and have been used to treat anemias, stimulate the appetite in those with chronic wasting conditions, stimulate lean body mass and more. Even when used correctly and administered by doctors, anabolic steroids can have negative side effects like an increased risk of osteoporosis. But when used as a performance enhancing drug or abusively for recreational purposes, the dangers increase significantly and can lead to a number of health problems.
A common side-effect of steroids is high blood pressure. Prolonged high blood pressure or hypertension can contribute to heart failure, heart attack and stroke. Long-term use of steroids can enlarge parts of the heart and change heart function as well as increase the risks of cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, heart attack, sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular problems. Steroids can also increase bad cholesterol (LDL) and dramatically decrease good cholesterol which can further contribute to heart disease.
When used medicinally, steroids can stimulate the production of bone marrow. Steroids can also accelerate bone maturation, stunt bone growth by permanently stopping the lengthening of the bones and increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Anabolic steroid use has been associated with the formation of tumors, cancers and blood-filled cysts in the liver. The cysts can rupture and cause internal bleeding, liver failure and death. The liver is part of the body’s waste filtration system and can be damaged as it tries to process the chemicals in steroids.
Hormonal and Sexual Side-effects
As anabolic steroids mimic the effects of testosterone, they can cause a variety of hormonal and sexual problems for both men and women. In men, steroids inhibit the production of natural testosterone. This is due to the body’s biofeedback loop which regulates and prevents an overabundance of the hormone production. The body may then convert some excess steroids into estrogen which can lead to testicular atrophy and inhibited sperm production, temporary to permanent infertility, an acceleration of premature baldness and an increase in the soft tissues of the breasts, known as gynecomastia.
In women, the hormonal imbalances caused by long-term steroid use may lead to increased body hair, a permanent deepening of the voice, masculinization, male pattern baldness, enlargement of the clitoris and a temporary decrease in menstrual cycles. If steroids are used during a pregnancy, they can affect fetal development by causing male features to develop in the female fetus and female features in the male fetus.
Psychiatric and Neurological Effects
The misuse of anabolic steroids can cause or contribute to behavioral problems such as depression, hypomania, hostility, anxiety, psychosis and increased aggression. Steroid abusers are more prone to violence and have a higher risk of suicide. Users may grow dependent on the steroids and suffer withdrawal when not taking them. Users may also be more likely to progress to other forms of substance abuse.
Other Side-effects and Potential Risks
Some evidence suggests that steroids can cause chromosome damage and even harm the immune system. Increased testosterone levels can stimulate the sebaceous glands and cause acne. Many cancers need high levels of androgens to grow in the body such as breast and prostate cancers. Prolonged usage of anabolic steroids can stimulate the cell receptor sites of these organs in susceptible individuals and possibly cause or increase cancer growth and risk. Users who inject steroids into their body risk bacterial infections due to potentially non-sterile conditions. The practice of needle-sharing can subject users to other infections like HIV and hepatitis.
The effects of steroid use are not limited to physiological or psychological damage. The use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports is illegal, and a number of athletes and bodybuilders have been reprimanded, stripped of their accomplishments or had their reputations damaged because of steroid use. Given the potential physical, neurological and reputational damages of recreational or abusive steroid use, might the drawbacks outweigh the benefits?
Personally for me, it was not worth any of the risks I am discussing here. I decided I wanted to have the sense of achievement that comes from learning how to tweak things naturally myself in my own body with the safe use of supplements and eating in accordance with muscle building and lean out phases depending on my cycle. I understand that not everyone will agree with or want to take this route. Some will use steroids reagrdless of the dangers. For these people, I recommend that they become familar with the above risks to look for signs of any complication (though many problems develop later). Also I strongly recommend exploring Post Cyclical Therapy (PCT) if one does use steroids. Many agents can reduce the risk of androgen conversion to estrogen and the unfavorable form of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Also getting lab work to manage these concerns can sometimes head this off to some degree especially if usage of anabolic steroids in prolonged.
Whatever path you choose to get you where you want to be is yours. The most important thing is to remain informed about your choices and talk to people who have treaded the path. I hope I have offered you some of my perspective that can help you along the way.