Six Serious Health Risks of Using Steroids to Improve Athletic Performance

The use of performance-enhancing substances in sports is prohibited and has caused several well-known players to lose their respect.

After admitting to using anabolic steroids, the Olympic runner Marion Jones had her five medals from the 2000 Games taken away in 2007. The Barry Bonds drug controversy in Major League Baseball continued for years in the early 2000s and led to his perjury conviction.

Some social media users, however, who boast of the fitness and muscular gains from using the same illicit medications, may have forgotten these well-publicized drawbacks.

Bodybuilder David Rau, who has 25,600 followers on TikTok, has been transparent about his experience. He has shown how-tos, comparative images of physiques obtained naturally vs via the use of anabolic steroids, and what he claims are the advantages of using anabolic steroids (confidence, mental clarity, and increased muscle mass).

Others are criticizing the usage of steroids by well-known social media influencers who work as personal trainers, such as TikToker Caroline Mathias (34,000 followers).

Doctors caution individuals about falling for the attention and admiration that social media celebrities are gaining for these medications. The hazards and effects of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances can be severe and permanent.

Anabolic steroids: What Are They?
According to MedlinePlus, anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetic copies of testosterone, which is the main sex hormone in males. The physical characteristics we associate with masculinity, such as a deep voice, facial hair, and bulging muscles, are all brought on by testosterone. The steroid medication can be administered topically, intravenously, or orally.

According to a review published in December 2022 in Frontiers in Endocrinology, these hormones are frequently overused in high dosages because individuals seek huge muscles and greater sports performance.

Diederik Smit, an internist with expertise in endocrinology and the use of anabolic steroids in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and a co-author of the review, states that anabolic steroids significantly increase muscle growth and boost metabolism and fat breakdown. Men that use AAS are often thinner in addition to having bigger muscles and more strength. As muscle growth and definition are the main goals of bodybuilding, this makes steroids an excellent choice.

Among the anabolic steroid medications are:

Testosterone Danazol
Nandrolone phenpropionate Nandrolone decanoate
According to studies, this usage of anabolic steroids dates back to the 1950s. But since then, they have been outlawed as performance-enhancing substances by a number of sporting associations (more on that below).

The use of anabolic steroids in medicine is possible. The following conditions are treated with them, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the Department of Justice:

testosterone shortage
postponed puberty
Mammary cancer
low level of red blood cells
wasting of tissue due to AIDS
According to the Mayo Clinic, they may also be administered to assist patients gain weight after an illness, accident, or infection or to individuals who are having difficulty gaining weight for unidentified causes.

The DEA states that most anabolic steroids are banned and are categorized as Schedule 3 chemicals under the Controlled Chemicals Act. However, some anabolic steroids are authorized for medicinal use in humans and animals with a valid prescription for the aforementioned circumstances.

According to prior studies, they have also been prohibited by the International Olympic Committee since the middle of the 1970s, and subsequently by the majority of sporting organizations.

According to MedlinePlus, these steroids only become harmful and unlawful when they are taken for incorrect purposes (and at dosages that are 10 to 100 times larger than those that would be used to address medical issues), such as bodybuilding or improving sports performance.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, anabolic steroids are distinct from corticosteroids, or general steroids, which include anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone and cortisone.

6 Dangers of Using Anabolic Steroids for the Wrong Purposes
When used to treat particular medical disorders, they are not only prohibited when taken without a doctor’s supervision, but they may also be harmful. After two to three weeks of treatment, side effects may begin, usually at the same time that the favorable advantages become apparent, according to Smit.

Here are six possible negative effects of anabolic steroids that might occur if they are used in large amounts without a proven medical need.

1. Liver and Heart Issues
One of the most dangerous effects of steroid usage, according to Sean Byers, MD, a medical expert in Los Angeles for Health Report Live, is the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to the DEA, steroids may raise cholesterol levels, which might result in a heart attack, stroke, or coronary artery disease.

Anabolic steroids raise LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) by roughly 50% and reduce HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) by more than 90%, according to research published in November 2018 in the International Journal of Sports and Exercise Medicine. After individuals stopped taking them for roughly four months, the researchers discovered that levels had reverted to normal.

According to Smit, prolonged use of steroids puts a person at risk for heart attacks and strokes in the same way as smoking, high blood pressure, and poor cholesterol do. The size of the cardiac muscle also enlarges, but not in a favorable way. This alleged enlargement might impair heart function and result in potentially harmful arrhythmias.

According to a study published in May 2020 in LiverTox, oral steroids can also cause liver problems, including the growth of tumors.

2. Young People’s Growth Is Stagnant

The DEA warns that if these steroids are used throughout adolescence, they may affect adult height. According to Nemours KidsHealth, this occurs when the bones end up developing too rapidly and then cease expanding.

3. Aggressive Conduct
Have you ever heard of “roid rage”? This is one possible personality change brought on by using anabolic steroids. According to the DEA, many persons discover themselves become antagonistic, having significant mood swings, and acting aggressively. Once the steroids are withdrawn, this can occasionally result in sadness and suicide.

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4. Physical Alterations
According to Smit, many of the negative effects are the same for both sexes. But not every. According to MedlinePlus, men taking anabolic steroids may experience baldness, breast enlargement, and decreased testicles.

Contrarily, women may have changes to their menstrual cycle, a deeper voice, more hair on their bodies and faces, male pattern baldness, and lengthening of the clitoris, according to the DEA. According to Smit, some of these changes in women may become permanent even if many of the negative effects of anabolic steroids disappear after the medicines are discontinued.

5. Infertility in men
A man’s fertility may be significantly impacted by steroids. According to studies, testosterone is crucial for the health of male reproductive organs and sexual activity, however consuming testosterone through steroids can decrease two other reproductive hormones, FSH and LH.

Sperm motility and morphological problems can also be brought on by steroids. This could be reversible since, according to a prior study, sperm can normalize after around four months.

Smit adds that other research hasn’t been as encouraging, so it’s unclear if male fertility always recovers. If they decide to have children in the future, he warns, “This could have consequences.”

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6. Acne
According to DermNet, acne typically develops on the chest, face, neck, back, and arms in reaction to high steroid dosages. The most frequent place is the chest, and steroid acne is typically more uniform than regular acne. Even though it’s not the most severe adverse effect, it’s important to note that, per prior studies, around half of steroid abusers experience it. Smit claims that although acne is treatable, it may be disfiguring.

The Cleveland Clinic claims that after the steroid is stopped, many of these negative effects in males may be reversed. However, given that more than 50% of users develop dependence, it might be hard to stop.

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