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Overview

When we talk the about possible side effects of steroids we don't only speak of the prescription steroids used by patients to help reduce inflammation caused by certain illnesses and disorders but also of the anabolic type used to build up muscle mass illegally.

The difference between these two drug classes is that corticosteroids, as mentioned, reduce inflammation whereas anabolic steroids have a composition similar to the male steroid sex hormone testosterone.

For the purposes of this topic, we shall discuss the issues caused by anabolic steroids.

These steroids may only be prescribed for patients who have genetic conditions that cause the body not to produce testosterone. If used for any other indication, these steroids are referred to as being used illegally.

Why are anabolic steroids used illegally?

Since anabolic steroids mimic testosterone, they help to perform the same functions as this hormone does which include:

  • Achieving bigger muscles.
  • Losing more fat.
  • Increasing strength. 

If taken in large amounts then anabolic steroids cause bigger problems for the user.

Negative effects of anabolic steroids on men

Signs and symptoms of anabolic steroid use in men may include the following:

  • Breast tissue growth due to conversion to the female hormone estrogen.
  • Changes in hair growth patterns with baldness developing.
  • Increased oiliness of the skin which may cause acne.
  • Atrophy (shrinkage) of the testicles.
  • Decreased sex drive (libido).
  • Erectile dysfunction (weak erections).
  • Infertility due to the shrunken testicles not being able to produce sperm anymore.

Other medical problems that anabolic steroids can cause include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) and elevated cholesterol levels which can lead to cardiovascular complications such as heart attacks and strokes.
  • Liver disease or even liver cancer may develop especially if the anabolic steroids are taken orally.
  • Skin infections especially with the injectable form when laypeople inject and don't use sterile techniques to do so.
  • Psychological and central nervous system issues such as irritability, aggression, rage, delusions, violent tendencies, and addiction to the drug.
  • Delayed bone growth in teenagers.

Why does this happen?

The reason why the use of anabolic steroids causes these issues is that the body recognizes the steroids being supplemented as normal testosterone molecules being naturally produced by the body itself.

When the body notices an excess of anabolic steroids in the bloodstream, it thinks that an excess of testosterone is being produced and the production of these molecules is stopped.

The natural testosterone levels in these men then decrease and the mentioned symptoms and signs may develop shortly thereafter. These issues become more pronounced if the user stops using the anabolic steroids as the body doesn't immediately restart the production of testosterone. In fact, this may be a permanent problem.

How is anabolic steroid abuse treated?

The management of this issue hasn't been studied or researched enough but the following advice is given to patients by doctors:

  • Following a rehabilitation program where the drug is withdrawn from the individual using the steroid. Here, other medications are used to help with withdrawal symptoms and other health issues that may be faced.
  • Social and family support is essential to help prevent relapse in terms of using the steroids again.
  • Individual and family counseling to help with any psychological issues.

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