What are the dangers of steroids?

Since their inception in the 1930s, steroids have been admired for their effectiveness, outlawed in sports, debated over by professionals, made illegal by governments and attacked by the media and public opinion. Despite their well-publicized history, few know about the dangers of steroids.

What are anabolic steroids?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male sex hormone testosterone. “Anabolic” refers to muscle-building, and “androgenic” refers to increased male sexual characteristics.

Steroids were produced for legitimate medical purposes but are commonly used by athletes and body builders to gain mass and enhance performance. Scientists developed these drugs to treat conditions such as hormone deficiency, delayed puberty, cancer and AIDS. Due to the harmful and potentially fatal side effects, steroids are a controlled substance and illegal without a prescription. Possession of steroids without a prescription can result in jail time and pricey fines. Trafficking steroids carries a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Why are steroids abused?

Fueled by money and desire to excel, steroids dominated the world of sports. Abuse began shortly after creation of and the discovery of performance enhancement effects. Confirmed steroid abuse began in the 1950s during the World Weightlifting Championships where Soviet team doctors gave their athletes testosterone injections. In the 1960s, East Germany began a doping program to win more gold medals. For the next 20 years, steroids were a staple in professional sports and body building.

What are the physical and psychological dangers?

There are many short-term and long-term effects of steroid abuse. Short-term effects are fairly well known and most are reversible with discontinuation of use. Long-term effects are more prevalent in women.

Possible side effects include:

  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Severe acne
  • Thinning of hair or baldness
  • High blood pressure
  • Fluid retention
  • Liver disorders
  • Risk of contracting blood borne diseases like HIV from sharing infected needles
  • Sexual and reproductive disorders

Male side effects include:

  • Decrease in sperm production
  • Breast and prostate enlargement
  • Sterility
  • Loss of sexual drive
  • Wasting away of tissue of the testicles

Female side effects include:

  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Infertility
  • Permanent effects such as facial hair, a deepened voice, enlarged clitoris and decrease in breast size

Short term psychological effects include:

  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Hostility and aggression, commonly known as “roid rage”
  • Impaired judgment

Additional helpful resources

If you have questions or concerns about steroids and steroid use, please contact the Student Health Care Center to make an appointment: (352) 392-1161.