• Valentina Colombo


Anabolic steroids are used for their anabolic and androgenic function in the sporting field, i.e. to promote muscle mass growth and the effect. I’m talking about hormones, among which we also find the famous testosterone, one of the hormones most often detected during antidoping analysis in sport. Recent studies have shown that in recent years the use of these substances has increased among the gym amateurs who take over-physiological doses at each cycle.

Among the many side effects that steroids can arise, there are 3 that should instil more than one question in those who are considering to take these substances.

These side effects are: • Cardiac dysfunction • Endocrine/reproductive system impairment • Psychological side effects

Heart dysfunction

Scientific literature has highlighted that anabolic steroids increased adverse cardiovascular episodes in young ′′healthy′′ athletes. I’m talking about arteriosclerosis, conduction abnormalities and coagulation, left ventricular hypertrophy, arrhythmia, hypertension and dyslipidemia [i.e. the variation in the amount of lipids (fat) in blood].

However, scientific research underlines the fact that the number of clinical trials available to date is still limited to establish a causal relationship between the two factors, but the available data is sufficient to demonstrate an association between steroid consumption and premature cardiac complications in young athletes who use these substances compared to natural athletes. For those who don’t know, it’s called ′′ natural ′′ an athlete who doesn’t use doping substances.

Endocrine/reproductive system impairment

The latest available data shows that about 50% of those who use steroids suffers from sexual dysfunction, including decreasing libido and gynecomastia, i.e. the development of breast tissue in men where the balance between estrogen and endogenous hormones is compromised. This, if we want to use scientific terminology, in simple words: ′′Your boobs grow!”.

The decrease in libido is associated with the exogenous administration of androgen hormones which reduces the endogenous production of testosterone due to the suppression of the hypothalamus-pituitary gland, resulting in abnormalities in male semen such as decreasing sperm numbers and their motility.

In women, the effects of steroids are more permanent than in men, among them we have: changes in the tone of voice, therefore deeper voice, increase body hair and growth in clitoris size. Effects such as increased aggression, irregular menstrual cycle and acne could be transient.

Psychological side effects

Behavior changes and significant psychological disorders such as hostility, paranoia, guilt and self-criticism have been found in subjects using steroids. A 2003 study showed that subjects with testosterone concentrations above normal level were more aggressive than natural subjects and had traits due to personality disorders and narcissism. Depression, body dysmorphism and other psychiatric disorders have been associated with the use of steroids and can reach extreme levels leading to suicide.

As in the case of cardiac dysfunction, it is not possible to demonstrate a direct correlation between the use of steroids and the psychological consequences, but several case studies have led to exhaustive tests on a strong relationship between the two factors.

If you are wondering “Why do they produce them if they are so dangerous?” The answer is that they produce them for other purposes. Testosterone is used in replacement therapy on male patients suffering from hypogonadism, a condition where the body fails to produce the right amount of testosterone, necessary to perform its functions. Paradoxically, men suffering from this condition are at risk of developing cardiovascular problems if testosterone levels become too low, just like those who take higher doses of testosterone while being healthy subjects. Latest research studies have shown how testosterone replacement therapy has led to a reduction in adverse cardiovascular events resulting in a 10% decrease in mortality rate and additional sexually benefits in patients suffering from hypogonadism.

The last data I want to bring to your attention, and that should arouse further concern, is that almost 100% of those who use anabolic and androgen steroids have side effects. If you’re thinking, ′′Oh, it’s not going to happen to me!” just know that the stats are all against you. You don’t know how your body will react to the use of these substances and the “let’s try just once′′ reasoning doesn’t hold up, because even once could be the last. Basically the game is not worth the risk.

Listen to science, there are no shortcuts, there are only you and a barbell… and the barbell never lies.

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Akihita, M. et al. (2010) ‘Low testosterone level as a predictor of cardiovascular events in Japanese men with coronary risk factore.’

Cowley E. (2020) ‘Anabolic-androgenic steroid use among bodybuilders and weightlifters.’

Haerinejad, M. et al. (2016) ‘The prevalence and characteristics of performance-enhancing drug use among bodybuilding athletes in the South of iran, Bushehr.’

Parkinson, A e Evans, N. (2006) ‘Anabolic androgenic steroids: A survey of 500 users.’

Parssinen, M. e Seppala, T. (2002) ‘Steroid use and long-term health risks in former athletes.’

Perrry, P. et al. (2003) ‘Measures of aggression and mood changes in male weightlifters with and without androgenic anabolic steroid use.’

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