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Home » Anabolic Steroid Side Effects That You Need To Know

Anabolic Steroid Side Effects That You Need To Know

Anabolic Steroid

Anabolic steroids are known as artificial derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. Athletes and bodybuilders often use anabolic steroids, believing they enhance physical performance and give them a competitive edge.

These drugs are also thought to improve strength and lean body mass. They may shorten recovery time between workouts, allowing users to exercise more intensely and build endurance and strength.

Some non-athletes use anabolic steroids to increase their endurance, size, and strength while losing body fat, believing it improves their physical appearance. The official term for this class of drugs is androgenic anabolic steroids, which promote male characteristics. Popular anabolic steroids include Winstrol, Equipoise, Durabolin, and Deca-Durabolin.

Anabolic steroids are often called their street names, such as Pumpers, Weight Trainers, Gym Candy, Juice, Stackers, Roids, and Arnolds.

Despite their benefits, most users are aware of the side effects, which can impact internal and external organs, including the eyes. Hormonal imbalances may cause sudden weight loss in some cases. This article will examine some of the various side effects of anabolic steroids.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) or anabolic steroids are known as synthetic forms of testosterone that are commonly prescribed by healthcare providers for various medical conditions and are frequently misused by athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and bodybuilders to enhance performance and muscle growth.

Testosterone, the primary androgen, plays a critical role in the development of male characteristics. Anabolic steroids primarily aim to promote tissue building, particularly muscle growth, hence their widespread use in treating conditions like male hypogonadism and muscle-wasting disorders associated with illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.

These compounds are available in different forms, including pills, injections, creams, skin patches, and implantable pellets, catering to varied medical needs and preferences. However, misuse of anabolic steroids is a prevalent issue in society, with an estimated 2 million people in the United States alone using them for nonmedical purposes.

Anabolic Steroid

What are anabolic steroids used for?

Anabolic steroids are known as synthetic forms of testosterone that can aid in gaining body mass through increased protein production, leading to gains of approximately 4.5 to 11 pounds. They also play a role in lowering overall body fat percentage, boosting muscle strength and endurance, and enhancing bone density.

Anabolic steroids could stimulate red blood cell production, which might improve oxygen delivery to muscles and enhance performance in strength-related sports like weightlifting.

AAS or anabolic steroids were mainly used for medical purposes to help maintain muscle mass in conditions such as liver disease or cancer, where muscle wasting may occur.

Side Effects Of Anabolic Steroids

  1. Acne

    Acne is a common dermatological condition experienced with the misuse of anabolic steroids. These steroids could disrupt the normal functioning of the sebaceous glands in the skin, causing increased oil production and clogged pores, which are primary factors contributing to acne development.

    Anabolic steroids could exacerbate existing acne or trigger the onset of acne in people who are predisposed to the condition. The severity of acne outbreaks can vary, ranging from blackheads and whiteheads to more severe inflammatory lesions like papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts.

    Acne associated with anabolic steroid use commonly affects areas of the body with a high concentration of oil glands, such as the face, chest, and back.

  2. High blood pressure

    Anabolic steroids might cause an increase in blood pressure due to various mechanisms. One primary reason is the body’s retention of sodium and water, which leads to an expansion in blood volume and subsequently raises blood pressure.

    These synthetic steroids could directly affect the blood vessels, causing them to become narrower, increasing resistance to blood flow, and resulting in increased blood pressure readings.

    Persistent high blood pressure can have severe implications on cardiovascular health. It could increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

    People misusing anabolic steroids may experience symptoms such as:

    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Vision problems
    • Hypertension

    Long-term consequences of unmanaged high blood pressure include cardiac hypertrophy, where the heart muscle thickens abnormally, potentially leading to heart failure.

  3. Breast Enlargement

    Breast enlargement, or gynecomastia, is a side effect of anabolic steroid misuse that might have significant physical and psychological implications.

    Gynecomastia in men is characterized by the development of breast tissue, leading to breast tenderness and swelling.

    Anabolic steroids could disrupt the normal hormonal balance by increasing estrogen levels relative to testosterone, contributing to gynecomastia.

    Women may also experience breast enlargement due to hormonal imbalances caused by anabolic steroid use, leading to complications like irregular menstrual cycles.

    Surgical intervention may be important to correct severe cases of gynecomastia, which could be a result of potential long-term consequences of steroid misuse.

  4. Oily skin

    Oily skin is a dermatological manifestation associated with the misuse of anabolic steroids, It could be caused by erratic sebaceous gland function from using these synthetic compounds.

    Anabolic steroids change the normal sebaceous gland functioning, causing an increase in sebum production.  Excessive oil can also clog pores, leading to the development of acne lesions, blackheads, and whiteheads.

  5. Urination Problem

    Potential urinary issues can arise as a consequence of anabolic steroid use, leading to problems with urination. Anabolic steroids can affect the urinary system by causing an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

    Misusing anabolic steroids can upset the natural balance of bacteria in the urinary tract, heightening the risk of UTIs. Signs of a UTI include frequent urination urges, painful or excessive burning sensations while urinating, cloudy or pungent urine, and pelvic discomfort.

    Anabolic steroid misuse can trigger issues like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), where the prostate gland enlarges and hinders urine flow from the bladder. This can manifest as challenges initiating urination, feeble urine stream, dribbling after urination, and increased nighttime urination frequency.

    In severe instances, BPH may lead to urinary retention, a critical condition necessitating prompt medical attention to avert complications.

  6. Worse Sleep Apnea

    The misuse of anabolic steroids could elevate the severity of sleep apnea sleep disorder marked by breathing pauses or shallow breaths during rest. This concern arises from multiple mechanisms through which anabolic steroids can worsen sleep apnea.

    These steroids disrupt the natural hormonal balance, which could impact the central nervous system and respiratory regulation during sleep.

    Consequently, this disruption may elevate occurrences of breathing irregularities, further aggravating sleep apnea symptoms.

  7. Liver damage

    Prolonged use of anabolic steroids(AAS) has been linked to significant risks of liver damage in individuals. The liver is responsible for numerous metabolic functions, including the detoxification of harmful substances. Anabolic steroids, when misused or abused, can impose a heavy burden on the liver, leading to various forms of liver damage.

    Studies have shown that anabolic steroids can result in liver conditions such as peliosis hepatitis, which is characterized by the development of blood-filled cysts within the liver. Additionally, steroid use has been associated with the development of benign and malignant liver tumors. These liver complications can manifest silently and progress to severe issues if not addressed promptly.

  8. Ankle swelling

    Anabolic steroid misuse has been associated with the development of ankle swelling, a condition that warrants attention due to its potential implications for overall health. Ankle swelling, or peripheral edema, can be a concerning side effect of anabolic steroid use.

    Anabolic steroids can lead to the retention of excess fluid in the body, resulting in swelling in various areas, including the ankles.

    Elevated blood pressure caused by anabolic steroids can contribute to fluid retention and ankle swelling.

    Anabolic steroids can impact kidney function, leading to decreased urine production and potential fluid buildup in the ankles.

    The strain that anabolic steroids put on the heart can affect its ability to circulate blood effectively, contributing to ankle swelling.

  9. Heart issues

    Anabolic steroid use can potentially increase LDL cholesterol levels and decrease HDL cholesterol levels, leading to a higher risk of atherosclerosis and severe coronary artery disease(CAD).

    They might cause an increase in blood pressure that puts excess strain on the heart and increases heart attack and stroke chances.

    These substances may also lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, a condition where the heart’s main pumping chamber thickens, reducing its efficiency and potentially leading to heart failure.

    Anabolic steroids could disrupt the normal functioning of blood vessels, increasing blood clot chances that could hinder the adequate flow of blood to vital organs.

    Blood clots, or thrombi, are a potentially serious complication associated with the misuse of anabolic steroids. When people engage in the misuse of these substances, the risk of developing blood clots significantly increases.

  10. Stroke

    Anabolic steroids might increase the risk of blood clot formation, which is a significant factor in the development of strokes. They may cause hypertension that might contribute to the occurrence of strokes.

    Anabolic steroids may accelerate the buildup of plaque in the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis, which could obstruct blood flow to the brain and trigger a stroke.

    The impact of anabolic steroids on the heart can result in cardiac issues that predispose individuals to strokes.

  11. Male-pattern baldness

    Anabolic steroids might disrupt the natural hormonal balance in the body, leading to an increase in dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels, which is a hormone associated with male-pattern baldness.

    Genetic predisposition may also cause the development of male-pattern baldness, and anabolic steroid use can accelerate this process in individuals with a family history of baldness.

    The severity of male-pattern baldness can vary among users of anabolic steroids, with some experiencing mild thinning of hair while others may face more extensive hair loss.

    Stopping the use of anabolic steroids may slow down the progression of male-pattern baldness in some cases, but the effects can be irreversible in individuals predisposed to baldness.

  12. Decrease in testicle size

    Anabolic steroids interfere with the normal hormonal balance in the body, causing a decrease in testosterone levels and subsequent testicular atrophy. This side effect can impact sperm production and fertility, potentially causing difficulties in conceiving.

    It is crucial for people experiencing testicular atrophy due to anabolic steroid use to seek medical attention promptly to manage any underlying issues and explore potential treatment options.

How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?

The mechanism of action of synthetic androgens involves the activation of specific receptors within the body to replicate the effects of natural androgens. Anabolic steroids, also called anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), mimic the effects of testosterone in the body.

When anabolic steroids are introduced into the system, they bind to androgen receptors located in various tissues, including muscles, bones, and the brain. Anabolic steroids bind to these receptors and can stimulate protein synthesis, causing an increased muscle mass and strength.

These synthetic compounds can also affect the production of certain proteins that are responsible for causing secondary sexual characteristics, like excess facial hair growth and hoarse voice.

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Misuses Of Anabolic Steroid

Anabolic steroid misuse, characterized by practices such as cycling, stacking, and pyramiding, poses significant risks and dangers due to the high concentrations and patterns of usage adopted by recreational users.

  • Cycling: Involves using a large amount of steroids and then stopping for a while before starting again.
  • Stacking: Users combine multiple types of steroids simultaneously or use different delivery forms together.
  • Pyramiding: Users gradually increase doses, peak, and then decrease them.
  • Plateauing: Switching between different steroids abruptly to prevent effectiveness loss.
  • Addiction Risks: Some individuals can become addicted to the feelings of strength and endurance provided by steroids, leading to dangerous habits.

These misuses can result in severe consequences, such as physical and psychological changes, premature aging of bones, restricted growth, and increased risks of various medical conditions associated with long-term steroid use.

Sharing needles for steroid injections could expose people to risks like vein damage, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV transmission, ulcers, and gangrene.

Addiction to anabolic steroids can lead to cravings, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and continued use despite side effects.

Are anabolic steroids illegal?

It is illegal to use steroids without a valid authorization for distribution. According to the Controlled Substances Act(CSA), steroids are included under Schedule III. It is important to note that only a limited number of anabolic steroids are approved for legal use in humans or animals, primarily for treating specific medical conditions under the supervision of healthcare providers.

The illegal nature of anabolic steroids without a prescription serves to protect individuals from the potential risks associated with their unsupervised use.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can Anabolic Steroids Lead to Mood Changes or Psychiatric Effects?
    Anabolic steroids can lead to mood changes and psychiatric effects. Users may experience irritability, aggression, mania, or depression. These alterations are linked to the impact of steroids on neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain.
  • What Are the Long-Term Effects of AAS or Anabolic Steroid Use on Fertility?
    Long-term anabolic steroid use can significantly impact fertility in both men and women. In males, it can lead to decreased sperm production and testicular atrophy. Females may experience menstrual irregularities and reduced fertility.
  • Can Anabolic Steroids Affect Cholesterol Levels in the Body?
    Anabolic steroids can negatively impact cholesterol levels in the body by lowering HDL (good) cholesterol and increasing LDL (bad) cholesterol. This imbalance may elevate the risk of cardiovascular complications, including heart disease and stroke.
  • Is There a Risk of Developing Liver Tumors With Anabolic Steroid Use?
    Anabolic steroid use poses a risk of developing liver tumors due to the potential hepatotoxicity of these substances. Chronic misuse may lead to liver damage, including the formation of benign hepatic adenomas or, in severe cases, hepatocellular carcinoma.


Anabolic steroids are illegal and banned by medical organizations, but some athletes still use them because they believe steroids provide a competitive edge. If an athlete is caught in anabolic steroid possession, their career could be ruined.

Moreover, using anabolic steroids can lead to serious health issues for users. People should aim to work hard and live healthily by eating well and exercising regularly without the use of steroids.

  • This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or a replacement for medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips.
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This project was supported in part by NSF Grant IIS-03-25867 (ITR: An Electronic Field Guide: Plant Exploration and Discovery in the 21st Century) and by the Washington Biologists' Field Club.
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