Anabolic steroids side effects are the one aspect of these controversial drugs that people cannot claim total ignorance about.
Anyone familiar with horror stories in the media are likely already primed to take extreme caution.
But while most are aware that adverse health outcomes are possible with steroid use, a lot of other questions can stay unanswered.
What are the side effects? How do the side effects develop? Which are short term and which are long term?
How do steroids affect females and males differently?
How are they commonly dealt with, how prominent are they, and can anything be done to mitigate them?
The topic of unwanted side effects is one people could discuss endlessly.
This article will cover these question and more about performance-level anabolic steroid use.
Using steroids for physique and performance is often done at great expense.
Possibly the most important safety measure physique builders can take is accepting that steroids are dangerous and choosing to forgo them entirely. Buy legal steroids online here.
Table of Contents
A 2002 study found that 96.4% of performance steroid users in a group (n=772) experienced side effects.
That percentage is a generalized figure. It does not reveal what percentage of users experienced severe side effects as opposed to minor side effects, like a tiny outbreak of acne.
A side effect like acne is not considered “life-threatening” or “high-risk.”
Many side effects experienced from anabolic steroid use are held to be very minor, cosmetic in nature and completely reversible.
But don’t be lured into a false sense of security.
The real finding in this study is that if you decide to take steroids at performance-level dosages, the chances of escaping side effects are slim to none.
Abuse of different types of anabolic steroids can cause a variety of temporary and permanent medical harm to anyone who uses them.
Teenagers, having immature bodies that are still behind major periods of physiological development, are at the greatest risk.
A shocking amount of teens will try steroids hoping to improve their physical appearance and athletic abilities.
Are steroids safe to use?
Anabolic steroids are pharmaceutical substances that are similar in molecular structure to testosterone, the male sex hormone.
Doctors and clinicians frequently use anabolic steroids to treat a number of hormone problems in men, muscle loss from some diseases, and problems related to delayed puberty.
When used in this context, steroids can be used relatively safely.
However, bodybuilders and other athletes also commonly use anabolic steroids to stimulate muscle growth and improve their athletic abilities.
Such steroid users tend to take much higher doses than would be ever prescribed for the treatment of a medical condition.
Using them for performance enhancement is illegal in much of the developed world and is considered generally unsafe because of the side effects of anabolic steroids.
The anabolic category of steroid is just one type of steroid. Other types include estrogen, cortisol, and progesterone. These are very different chemical substances and do not promote the same effects as steroids.
Numerous studies estimate that of American and European high school students, 5% of boys and 2.5% of girls have tried anabolic steroids no less than once. That is equal to 380,000 teen boys and 175,000 teen girls.
Anabolic steroids mimic the effects of the male sex hormone testosterone, including the promotion of cell growth, most especially in muscle— (secondarily in bone), and the maintenance and promotion of male secondary sexual characteristics.
One fascinating result of taking anabolic steroids is an improved ability to raise calcium and mineral levels in bones and an enhanced synthesis of collagen.
What this generally adds up to is stronger bones and improved linear growth. In fact, one of the medical uses of anabolic steroids is to treat children and adolescents who don’t seem to be growing as they should.
Oddly enough, anabolic steroids have also been observed to cause some level of adverse closing/fusion of the human skeleton’s growth plates, stunting growth in young people.
In fact, there is quite a bit of research data establishing that some teenage athletes who had taken anabolic steroids suffered from stunted growth.
It is unknown at which precise age people stop growing (their growth plates close). It is commonly understood that men keep growing until they are 21 – 24, but some are reported to have kept growing after that. The age range for growing is different for women.
There are specific conditions under which people taking anabolic steroids can experience stunted growth. The risks are even more tremendous for people who take anabolic steroids before their growth plates have closed.
The main cause of this is held to be Estrogen, which is known to play a huge role in growth plates fusing, preventing any potential growth in the future for both men and women.
This is why women are usually shorter than men and why women stop growing taller earlier than men. This is linked to the higher levels of endogenous Estrogen in women as compared to men.
The use of aromatizable anabolic steroids (that convert into Estrogen) are believed to cause the growth plates to close in users who have not yet reached their full height. This stunts their growth.
Age is a factor in the stunting of growth as a result of using anabolic steroids.
For example, children who are quite young are felt to have a lot more resistance when it comes to Estrogen affecting their growth plates. Before their growth could be stunted, the use of aromatizable anabolic steroids would have to be extensive.
A 1998 medical study has observed that adolescent males, who were on average 14 years of age when they began treatments of 500mg of Testosterone Enanthate twice a month for 6 months, appeared to have stunted growth. Their final adult height was 3 inches shorter than what had been predicted for them had they never been treated with Testosterone.
This gives credibility is to the notion that the use of non-aromatizable anabolic steroids does not bring about stunted growth, but it’s not that clear cut.
Non-Estrogenic and non-aromatizable anabolic steroids have also been implicated in the closing and fusion of growth plates, which resulted in stunted growth. This was shown in a study carried out using Anavar (Oxandrolone) in 1993.
Using any type of anabolic steroid before full growth has been achieved, which is said to occur around 24 years of age in most males, puts the user at risk of stunted growth.
These drugs are known to possess a range of dangerous adverse side effects on many of the body’s organ systems.
Males may experience shrinkage of the testicles and the development of breasts.
Females may experience irregular menstrual events and the development of unwanted masculine traits like facial hair and body hair.
Both sexes may develop an acne problem.
This is held to be an androgenic side effect (as opposed to estrogenic side effects like water retention) in which steroids bind to androgen receptors causing sebaceous glands to crank up their production of sebum.
The excessive stimulation of these glands can cause pores and hair follicles to become overwhelmed with too much sebum, dirt and dead skin, which then lead to cases of acne.
Men and women both may experience mood swings and aggression. This can impact the lives of everyone around them.
The abuse of anabolic steroids has been associated with many adverse side effects.
Some of which are quite visually unpleasant, like acne and unwanted breast growth in males.
Others are dangerous to the point of being life-threatening, such as heart attack, liver cancer, and strokes.
Most of the unwanted effects of steroids are reversible if the abuser quits using the drugs in time. But some of the unwanted effects of steroids are permanent.
One example of a side effect from anabolic steroids that cannot be reversed is the deepening of the voice in females.
Most of the data on the numerous long-term effects of enhancing drugs in humans are derived from case reports and not from formal controlled studies.
From these case reports, the prevalence of life-threatening effects actually seems to be quite low.
However, serious life threatening and other adverse effects may be under-recognized or worse, they may be underreported. This is made more likely since deaths likely occur many years after the period of use.
The data from animal studies support this. One such study found that male mice exposed to steroids for one-fifth of their lifespan suffered a high frequency of premature death.
Here are some common questions about steroid side effects, with factual answers.
What effects do steroids have on the body?
There is no one answer since different steroids create different results.
But there are some things that can be generally stated about the effects of these drugs.
First, all anabolic androgenic steroids are derivatives of the male hormone testosterone, which is created by testes. Look to the broad effects of testosterone as the starting place for getting at what exactly these exogenous substances do to the human body.
Second, each of these products has an anabolic rating and an androgenic rating.
Anabolic refers the basic muscle-building capacity of the drug, while Androgenic refers to the drug’s ability to stimulate the development of male sexual characteristics.
With these details in mind, steroids commonly ramp up production of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, producing faster recovery times since this is an important hormone when it comes to muscle repair. They also unleash more red blood cells which increases oxygen in the body and extends an athlete’s stamina.
Muscle tissue growth and bone strength are also fostered by anabolic steroid use.
Why are anabolic steroids bad?
Not all the effects are negative, but let us remind you of the side effects we’ve been discussing throughout this article.
Still not enough for you? Well let’s take a deeper look at the possible negative impact of steroids on the liver.
Steroid abuse is also associated with tumors of the liver and an unusual condition known as peliosis hepatis. This disorder causes blood-filled cysts to form in liver tissues.
Both the liver tumors and these blood-filled cysts are prone to rupturing. Should this occur, internal bleeding will result causing a very dangerous medical emergency that must be treated immediately to avoid death.
Using steroid injection sites is better for the liver than using oral steroids.
Clinical data suggests that injectable anabolic steroids without C17-alpha alkylation do not present a threat to the liver.
Medical research in 1976 looked into the possibility for hepatotoxicity using Testosterone at relatively high doses of 400mg daily (or 2800mg weekly) in a number of male participants for a period of 20 days.
This study looked at the results using an oral route of administration rather than via intramuscular injections. The purpose was to flood the liver with a high concentration of Testosterone. Any substance taken orally initially makes its way through the liver. Having participants ingest the hormone was to create a greater impact on the liver than would be possible if it had been injected.
The study showed that there were no observable changes in the liver. Therefore, it was concluded that hepatotoxicity is not an issue when a non-methylated anabolic steroid is injected except in very unusual cases when the user had an undiagnosed liver problem before being injected.
In addition to the generalized side effects of anabolic steroid use that apply to everyone, there are also certain side effects that only male users tend to experience.
Steroid abuse dramatically alters and disrupts the normal hormone production, causing reversible and irreversible changes.
The changes that are sometimes able to be reversed include lowered sperm counts and testicular atrophy. Others are not reversible, such as those you see in anabolic steroids side effects pictures you see of men with male-pattern baldness and breast development.
One study of male bodybuilders demonstrated over 50% had suffered shrunken testicles or gynecomastia.
Hypothalamic Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA) & Testicular Atrophy
Every anabolic steroid, without exception, suppresses the endogenous Testosterone production through a negative feedback loop that exists in the male Hypothalamic Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA). The exogenous use of anabolic steroids will entirely shut down and/or suppress the body’s natural production of Testosterone as long as it’s being used.
The most noticeable side effect of the shutdown and/or suppression of HPTA is testicular atrophy.
This is the shrinkage of the testicles due to lack of stimulation by the gonadotropins, the hormones that trigger the Leydig cells to start producing and secreting Testosterone. The hormones being suppressed are the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and the Luteinizing Hormone (LH). If there is no stimulation, the testicles will start shrinking over time.
Testicular atrophy is one of the most commonly experienced adverse side effects among men who use steroids. It happens to a little more than half of all men who use anabolic steroids, which means the other half don’t have this problem. Although testicular atrophy is quite common among steroid users, this side effect is felt to be quite temporary and highly reversible.
Certain anabolic steroids are more suppressive than others, but they all cause HPTA suppression and can eventually shut down the natural production and secretion of Testosterone. The damage to the body’s endocrine system can be permanent, leading to a lifetime of testosterone replacement therapy treatment in some men.
Side effects of low testosterone include erectile dysfunction, depression, weight gain and suppressed libido.
As soon as an anabolic steroid cycle ends, most users start Post Cycle Therapy (PCT). This is a protocol that involves using ancillary compounds to help stimulate the natural production of Testosterone.
These might include Nolvadex and/or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG), which is a synthetic Luteinizing Hormone. The usual length of time for PCT is from 4 – 6 weeks, starting right after the cycle ends.
Causes of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia is the enlargement of breast tissue in men, sometimes to the extent that comes to resemble female breasts.
Gynecomastia can result from excess amounts of Progesterone and Progestins introduced by steroids, which are essential hormones in the development of breast tissue.
But Estrogen is held to be the main player when it comes to developing breast tissue.
The problem is chiefly caused by Estrogen binding to breast tissue receptors, which starts the growth processes of fibroblast proliferation, ductal elongation and ductal epithelial hyperplasia.
Certain androgens will work to block the growth of breast tissue, Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) being one of them. DHT happens to be one of the body’s most effective natural anti-Estrogens.
The development of gynecomastia is triggered when specific hormones are present in the appropriate ratios to create the ideal hormonal environment that would promote the development of this side effect in males.
The rate of growth, severity, intensity, and whether gynecomastia would actually begin to develop in the first place depends on which type of anabolic steroids are being used, and their dosage and duration among other factors which include that individual’s particular sensitivity to this side effect.
Some PED users report that they have not developed gynecomastia even when the Estrogen levels in their body became extremely high. Other men have reported suddenly noticing breast tissue developing after only a tiny rise in their Estrogen levels.
The development of gynecomastia occurs at different rates throughout its various stages of development. If the development can be stopped at a certain stage, it is considered to be entirely reversible. But, there is believed to be a point of no return, and when it develops beyond that the only solution is surgery to remove the excess breast tissue.
Various stages in the development of gynecomastia are the following:
How fast this condition progresses depends on many different factors. It can progress as rapidly as 2 – 3 days, or it can take as long as a few weeks if development remains at a particular stage for weeks before tipping over into the next stage.
While gynecomastia is a frequently occurring side effect in males who use anabolic steroids, it is considered to be completely preventable. Some physique builders hold that gynecomastia is the most preventable of any of the side effects commonly attributed to anabolic steroid use.
Nolvadex, which is a Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM), is often taken to block gynecomastia from developing in the first place, as well as to stop it from progressing any further once symptoms have begun to manifest. SERMs act as phony Estrogens by binding to the Estrogen receptors located in breast tissue.
In this way, they block real Estrogen from being able to bind and activate the Estrogen receptors. Nolvadex and other SERMs do not reduce the levels of Estrogen in the body. They are administered to block the effects of Estrogen in particular tissues, such as breast tissue.
To lower the levels of Estrogen in blood plasma, users cycle aromatase inhibitors (AIs) to block the enzyme necessary to convert androgens into Estrogen. This is the real cause of the increase in Estrogen levels. Some bodybuilders take both a SERM and an AI when they first notice the symptoms of gynecomastia developing. This is promoted as a two-pronged attack against the development of gynecomastia.
Another factor that potentially causes gynecomastia is excess levels of Progesterone and Progestins. These hormones are known to play an important role in gynecomastia’s development because they increase the power of Estrogen’s effects on the growth of breast tissue.
Breast tissue has receptors for both Estrogen and Progesterone, and medical experts believe that activity in the Estrogen receptors makes Progesterone receptors more sensitive. This also works the other way around because Progestins have the ability to make Estrogen receptors more sensitive.
Anabolic steroids like Nandrolone and Trenbolone can create a lot of Progestogenic activity when they bind to and thus stimulate Progesterone receptors in breast tissue. This can make the Estrogen receptors more sensitive to any Estrogens circulating in the bloodstream, which increases the odds of developing gynecomastia.
Through this process, an environment is created in which even the tiniest levels of Estrogen can cause gynecomastia to develop.
Physique builders attempt to counteract the combined effects of Estrogen, Prolactin and Progesterone through a SERM like Nolvadex to block and prevent this adverse side effect from developing in males.
In addition to the generalized side effects of anabolic steroid use that may affect all users, there are also certain side effects that only female users tend to experience. These are caused by a process called “virilization” or the development of male-like physical characteristics.
Breast size decreases, skin becomes coarse, the clitoris tends to enlarge, and the voice grows more deep and masculine.
Women sometimes experience unwanted body hair growth in addition to male-pattern baldness. If administration of steroids continues, these effects will become irreversible.
Hirsutism (Excessive Growth of Bodily Hair)
Hirsutism also affects both male and female anabolic steroid users, but it is far less noticeable and certainly not as much a bother to men as most men already have a lot of hair growth on their bodies due to their natural production of Testosterone.
In females, the use of anabolic steroids can cause excessive hair growth on their face, chest area, back, stomach/abdomen, arms, and legs.
Similar to other adverse side effects, the excessive growth of hair is believed to depend on the specific anabolic steroid being used, the dosage and the duration of time it’s used.
Irregular Menstrual Cycles
Women who use anabolic steroids will disrupt their menstrual cycles, resulting in more frequent menstruation, less frequent menstruation or none at all.
After stopping use of anabolic steroids, menstrual cycles are often observed to return, and with them, fertility. It can take weeks or even months to return back to normal depending on the length of the cycles, the dosage used and the type of steroid(s) being utilized.
Dysphonia (Development of a Deeper Voice)
The development of a deeper voice is a common adverse side effect that women who use anabolic steroids frequently experience.
It is part of a collection of female side effects under the category of “virilization,” which refers to the development of physical attributes that adult males normally have.
Technically speaking, these side effects are androgenic in nature. But they become a lot more obvious in females than they are in males, so they must be categorized accordingly.
Androgenic anabolic steroids have an affect on the larynx along with the muscles used to vocalize. This is why the voices of men are much deeper than those of women.
Dysphonia develops in women when they use anabolic steroids over a period of time in gradual stages, like the development of gynecomastia in men. It usually starts out with a hoarse sounding voice that progresses to various pitches and the type of “cracking” heard in the voices of young males when they begin puberty.
The rate of onset and the degree of change depends on how anabolic steroids are being used, how often, what doses and for how long.
Anabolic steroids with high androgenic strength, like Trenbolone and Testosterone, tend to cause vocal changes in the women who use them, especially at high doses and for extended lengths of time. Female bodybuilders are recommended in communities of PED users to stay away from strong androgens and opt instead for milder types of anabolic steroids.
Other precautions women take to avoid the deepening of the voice is to engage in shorter cycles of just 4 weeks.
Even though some anabolic steroids are very mild, all anabolic steroids will cause androgenic side effects including the development of dysphonia if they are used in high doses for long enough periods of time.
Once the female user notices their voice starting to change, they are recommended to immediately stop administering anabolic steroids. If they catch this early enough and stop all use, dysphonia is held to be reversible. But using beyond a point of no return could mean their voice will permanently change so that it’s much deeper, similar to a man’s voice.
Reduced Breast Size
As discussed earlier under the adverse side effect gynecomastia in males, androgens in the body can inhibit the growth of breast tissue. The use of anabolic steroids by females has been shown to cause breast tissue to shrink in female patients undergoing gender reassignment treatment to become male.
This side effect, like the other virilization side effects, is widely considered to depend on which anabolic steroid is being used, the dosage and for how long.
Clitoromegaly (Enlarged Clitoris)
Female and male sex organs are similar in many different ways and as such react identically to androgenic hormones.
During puberty in males, the production of Testosterone generates growth in penile size. An increase in androgens affects females in much the same way, enlarging the clitoris, even to the extent that it starts to resemble a male penis in terms of its size.
Clitoromegaly can start out very small and be nearly unnoticeable. It can also progress to an extreme enlargement if the levels of androgens in the woman’s system stay high enough for a long enough time to cause this amount of growth.
As with most of the side effects of anabolic steroids, the enlargement of the woman’s clitoris is known to depend a lot on the dose and duration of use as well as the type of compound she is using.
Anabolic steroid side effects also concern cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks, and strokes- sometimes even in athletes aged 30 and younger.
Steroids contribute to cardiovascular disease by changing lipoprotein levels in the blood.
Oral steroids increase the level of low-density lipoprotein and decrease high-density lipoprotein. This also contributes to fatty substances deposited within arteries that disrupt blood flow.
Of course, different people respond differently and to different degrees. Still, the changes largely revolve around a lowering of HDL, which is the good cholesterol, and an increase in LDL, which is the bad cholesterol.
These changes arise out of the effect that androgens have on hepatic lipase, which is an enzyme in the liver that is responsible for breaking down HDL cholesterol.
Steroids increase hepatic lipase. This can translate to less HDL cholesterol because hepatic lipase works to lower blood plasma levels of HDL cholesterol.
A 1996 study determined that while 300 mg of Testosterone Cypionate a week caused circulating levels of HDL to drop by 21% in participants, raising the dosage to 600mg did not lead to any further reductions.
This seems to show that there might be a limit as to how much the hepatic lipase activity can actually be stimulated by taking anabolic steroids.
Researchers have proposed that extreme gains in muscle tissue mass also require the user’s kidneys to increase the usual rate of filtration. This places a dangerous burden on the kidneys, and harmful levels of strain on the kidneys results.
“Just as in obese patients, increased kidney strain from elevated muscle mass leads to what we call hyperfiltration injury,” one doctor explained.
“It is probable that steroids have a direct toxic effect on the abuser’s kidneys. Many hypothetical animal models have revealed the dangerous androgenic effects on the kidneys and we have concluded that anabolic steroids may be directly nephrotoxic.”
Before fully grasping the topic of steroid side effects, the reader must understand the following:
Bodybuilder typically view the risk of side effects from steroids though the lens of four chief factors or laws.
These principles have been developed in an effort to explain why these side effects manifest in some people and not others and how individuals experience them differently.
Every individual has their own genetic makeup and will respond differently than others to any compound, chemical, anabolic steroid, drug, or food that exists.
While one individual may develop a certain side effect or a number of side effects, there is nothing that says the next person will have the same experience.
Each individual has his or her own blueprint that directs how he or she will physically and mentally react to just about anything. These blueprints are our DNA or our inherited genetics.
We all respond differently to stimuli, whether it is food that we consume, drugs, or even certain types of experiences. Our responses can also change over time.
2. Type of Compound or Anabolic Steroid Used
There are hundreds of compounds and anabolic steroid analogues people can take to enhance physique and athletic performance.
They all have different properties, capabilities and attributes, some more distinctive than others.
The result is there will be differing side effects with varying degrees of intensity.
An individuals’ genetic responses to what he or she introduces to the body changes over time.
Age is another important factor in determining whether or not someone will develop an adverse side effect, and the severity of that side effect.
For example, some people take aromatizable anabolic steroids without taking an Estrogen blocker or aromatase inhibitor and then report no symptoms of gynecomastia.
Fifteen years later, someone in that group might decide to run a similar cycle and all of a sudden begin to develop gynecomastia. This indicates that the individual’s body has undergone some changes with age, which is causing him to respond very differently to anabolic steroids.
4. Dosage & Duration
Anabolic steroids taken in higher doses usually cause an increase in the number of incidences of side effects as well as their severity.
Some individuals report having a higher tolerance to certain compounds and take, for example, high doses of up to 2000mg per week of an anabolic steroid without experiencing adverse side effects.
Other people with a higher sensitivity who take only 300mg per week of the same steroid can end up experiencing a variety of side effects like, acne, bloating, or gynecomastia.
Duration is also held to affect the response to anabolic steroid usage. It is generally understood that the longer someone takes an anabolic steroid, the higher the incidences of adverse side effects.
Whether you decide to use testosterone enanthate, nandrolone decanoate (deca durabolin), nortestosterone, methyltestosterone, oxandrolone anavar, or other testosterone derivatives, if you abuse anabolic sterids, the side effects will catch up with you.
A quick Google search for anabolic steroids side effects pictures after use will be more than enough to dissuade most people from experimenting with these drugs.Anabolic Androgenic SteroidsAnabolic SteroidsAnabolic Steroids for SaleAnabolic Steroids Side EffectsAnabolic Steroids UKAnabolic SupplementsAnabolic TestosteroneAndrogenic SteroidsLegal Anabolic SteroidsList Anabolic SteroidsNatural Anabolic Steroid SupplementsOral Anabolic SteroidsTop Anabolic SteroidsTypes of Anabolic Steroids