Learn how we develop our content. To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated. Top of the page. Topic Overview What are anabolic steroids? Why do some people use anabolic steroids without a prescription? What problems can using illegal anabolic steroids cause? In men, anabolic steroids can: Reduce sperm count. Shrink the testicles. Cause you not to be able to father children.
Enlarge the breasts. In women, anabolic steroids can: Increase body hair. Make skin rough. Decrease breast size. Enlarge the clitoris. Deepen the voice. In both men and women, anabolic steroids can cause: High blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. Liver disease and possibly liver cancer. The chance of these problems is higher when steroids are taken as a pill. Oily skin, acne, and male-pattern hair loss. Skin infections that can become severe if the drug was tainted with bacteria.
Irritability, rage, aggression, violence, uncontrolled high energy mania , false beliefs delusions , and substance use disorder. How is anabolic steroid misuse identified? How is it treated? Doctors usually advise: Treatment in a program that includes medicines for withdrawal symptoms and other health problems. Family and social support.
Individual or family counselling. Most are reversible if the user stops taking the drugs. However, others may be permanent or semi-permanent. Most data on the long-term effects of anabolic steroids in humans come from case reports rather than formal epidemiological studies. Serious and life-threatening adverse effects may be underreported, especially since they may occur many years later.
One review found 19 deaths in published case reports related to anabolic steroid use between and ; however, many steroid users also used other drugs, making it difficult to show that the anabolic steroid use caused these deaths.
Steroids contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease partly by increasing the level of low-density lipoprotein LDL 47 and decreasing the level of high-density lipoprotein HDL. If blood is prevented from reaching the heart or brain, the result can be a heart attack or stroke, respectively.
Steroids also increase the risk that blood clots will form in blood vessels, potentially disrupting blood flow and damaging the heart muscle, so that it does not pump blood effectively. Steroid use disrupts the normal production of hormones in the body. Changes that can be reversed include decreased sperm production, 56—59 decreased function of the testes hypogonadism that leads to low testosterone levels, 60 and shrinking of the testicles testicular atrophy.
In females, anabolic steroids cause masculinization. Specifically, breast size and body fat decrease, the skin becomes coarse, and the voice deepens. It is commonly believed that anabolic steroids will produce irreversible enlargement of the clitoris in females, although there are no studies on this. Many people who inject anabolic steroids may use nonsterile injection techniques or share contaminated needles with other users.
This puts these steroid users at risk for acquiring life threatening viral infections, such as HIV and hepatitis B and C. Steroid misuse has been associated with liver damage, 50,51 tumors, 46,52,53 and a rare condition called peliosis hepatis, in which blood-filled cysts form in the liver.
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