Long term effects of anabolic steroids
Anabolic steroids are extensively used by bodybuilders and athletes in order to improve the performance and have an edge over other competitors. Anabolic steroids improve strength, increase lean body mass and enhance aggressiveness of the user. Anabolic steroids are also taken by non-athletes to decrease body fat, increase endurance and strength. Steroids can stay in the system for over a year or more.
Harmful effects of steroid abuse
Anabolic androgenic steroids are controlled substances but are often abused by bodybuilders and athletes who use them in high doses for a prolonged period of time. Anabolic steroid abuse cause many harmful long term effects. Some of them have been described here.
- Decrease in sperm count and testicular atrophy due to disturbance in the natural production of hormones. Gynecomastia and pattern baldness are other harmful effects of anabolic steroids in men. In women, prolonged use of anabolic steroids result in many masculine features such as deepening of voice, excess body hair, decrease in breast size and shrinking of the size of clitoris. Some of these effects may become permanent.
- Cardiovascular diseases such as cardiac arrest and strokes have also been associated with anabolic steroid abuse. Anabolic steroids reduce the levels of High Density Lipoproteins and increase the levels of Low Density Lipoproteins. This increases the risk of developing atherosclerosis in the individual, a condition in which fatty substances obstruct the flow of blood in the arteries. This blockage reduces the blood flow to the heart which causes cardiac arrest. When blood flow to the brain is reduced it results in stroke.
- Steroid abuse can also lead to liver damage in the form of liver tumours and blood filled cysts in the liver. Both of these conditions are dangerous because the rupturing of tumour or cyst result in internal bleeding.
Anabolic steroids are available in both oral and injectable forms and are often abused by athletes and bodybuilders. Prolonged use of anabolic steroids for over a year or more can result in many of the side effects as mentioned before. This is the reason that people who use them try to avoid these long term effects by a process known as cycling. Cycling refers to a practice where a person uses steroids for some weeks or months prior to a break from using the steroid for a predetermined period of time. The term used for the period when the steroid is being used is “on cycle” while “off cycle” is the term used for the break period. A cycle can last for 6-12 weeks. Taking a break from using the steroid is highly recommended by experts in view of the harmful effects of prolonged use. Oral steroids are considered to be toxic to the system when used for prolonged periods. The practice of taking anabolic steroids orally for four weeks followed by injections for the remaining period of a cycle has been adopted by some users.
Anabolic steroids are highly useful for gaining strength and muscle mass but the risk factors must also be considered by the users.