Anabolic steroids are synthetic variants of the male sex hormone testosterone. Doctors normally use these steroids to treat hormone related problems like delayed puberty in males. In addition, some athletes use anabolic steroids illegally to bulk up and improve their performance including training harder. Nevertheless, steroids have both beneficial and adverse health problems, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
To start with, steroids do really boost athletic performance. This is according to a study done by a researcher at the Southwestern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia. Robert Weatherby, the lead researcher in this study found that even a low dose of synthetic testosterone can enhance athletic performance in as few as three weeks. Moreover, a study published by the New Scientist found that anabolic steroids boost muscle size and strength significantly, especially in athletes doing strength-training exercises.
Besides these beneficial effects, the same study done by Weatherby found that people taking steroids are less empathetic to others. Fortunately, study results showed that low doses of anabolic steroids do not cause substantial mood changes.Other short-term effects include impaired judgment, extreme paranoia, delusions, extreme irritability, unreasonable jealousy, and extreme mood swings. In some cases, extreme irritability and delusions can lead to violence, according to the NIDA.
Charles Yesalis, professor of exercise and sports science at Penn State University says that oral steroids can cause tumors to form on the liver. At the same time, they reduce the level of good HDL cholesterol substantially. In fact, Yesalis says that anabolic steroids can lower HDL levels to single digits. This is not good health wise because people with HDL readings below 40 have a higher risk of developing heart disease. What’s more,a report published by the NIDA says that anabolic steroids can cause enlargement of the heart and high blood pressure even in young people.Over time, anabolic steroid use can lead to psychological dependence, which also increases one’s likelihood of abusing other drugs. It is worth noting that steroids can be addictive even though they do not cause the same high associated with illegal drugs.
Worryingly, steroids stunt growth in teens by signaling the body to inhibit bone growth. In women, steroids cause enlargement of the clitoris, voice deepening, growth of facial hair, menstrual cycle changes, and male pattern baldness. For men, adverse effects include shrinking of the testicles, increased prostate cancer risk, premature baldness, lower sperm count, and development of breast tissue. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that injecting steroids increases one’s risk of contracting or transmitting hepatitis and HIV.
Although anabolic steroids can enhance athletic performance, they have short and long-term adverse effects. These include mood swings, balding in both genders, liver damage, psychological dependence, heart diseases, irritability, increased, paranoia, low sperm count in men, and facial hair growth in women.