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What are the Risks of Steroid Use?

By Aniza Pourtauborde
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Over the years, the illegal use of anabolic steroids to enhance sports performance has made headlines worldwide. Anabolic steroids are artificially produced variants of the male hormones called testosterones. Many professional athletes claim that this substance helps build their stamina, making them much faster, stronger and bigger than before. Unfortunately, these beliefs have extended beyond the professional sports arena into schoolyards in the United States.

According to the 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.8% of all high school students surveyed reported using steroid injections or pills without a prescription. Furthermore, the 2005 Monitoring the Future Study (MFS), conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), added that between 18% to 40% of students in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades stated that these drugs were “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain. Parents and educators are concerned with the easy availability and subsequent use of this drug by adolescents who simply wish to emulate their athletic idols without realizing the consequences of their use.

Whether injected into the muscles, taken orally or smoothed onto the skin via gels or creams, this drug has the following effects:

General health
  1. Severe acne: Changes in hormonal levels stimulate the glands in the skin to produce more sebum, an oily substance that protects and keeps the skin from becoming dry.
  2. Jaundice: Steroids affect liver function, causing a gradual yellowing of the skin.
  3. Cardiovascular or heart diseases: Their use increases bad cholesterols or low-density lipoproteins (LDL) while simultaneously decreasing good cholesterols or high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the body.
  4. Tumors: Benign and malignant (cancerous) tumors form in the liver and kidneys.
  5. Stunted growth: Bone lengthening and growth halt prematurely.
  6. Psychological effects: Prolonged use increases aggressiveness, mood swings, paranoia, sleeping disorders, euphoria and hallucinations.
  7. Potential violence: Increased hostility, competitiveness and aggressive behavior may lead to assaults and violence.

The male reproductive system
  1. Temporary testicular atrophy: The testes diminish in size and eventually cease to function.
  2. Decreased sperm cell production: Testicular shrinkage limits the production of sperm.
  3. Temporary infertility: Lower sperm count reduces fertility and the ability to father a child.
  4. Erectile dysfunction: Sexual function is severely affected due to testicular atrophy.
  5. Potential impotence: Impotence occurs after continual use of steroids in high doses over a long period of time.
  6. Permanent gynecomastia: Increase in female hormones called estrogens prompt irreversible breast development in men.

The female reproductive system
  1. Irregularity of the menstrual cycle: Steroids harm the maturation and release of eggs during ovulation, causing a disruption in the menstrual cycle. Prolonged use of this drug will eventually lead to infertility.
  2. Enlarged clitoris: This is an irreversible physical disfiguration.
  3. Female pattern baldness: These drugs cause permanent hair loss, particularly in the frontal hairline.
  4. Breast atrophy: Increased testosterone in the reproductive system diminishes the size of the breasts permanently.
  5. Masculine physical traits: Steroids encourage facial hair growth, muscularity, deepening of the voice and skin coarseness.
  6. Pregnancy problems: Use during pregnancy can bring about fetal retardation or death.

It is important to create awareness and to educate the public about the potential dangers and long-term health risks that come with prolonged use of these drugs. In this matter, parents, educators, sports establishments and government organizations should band together to help adolescents realize that enhancing sports performance can be achieved without compromising health and well-being.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon924585 — On Jan 05, 2014

Is there any other way to do steroids other than by injections?

By Ivan83 — On Dec 11, 2012

If I am dead set on taking steroids to bulk up, which ones are the safest and will have the least impact on my body? I know that I am taking a risk but using them at all, but I want to be as responsible as I can.

By tigers88 — On Dec 11, 2012

Is protein powder considered a steroid? Are there any health effects associated with taking protein supplements? What about a whole lot of protein supplements?

By truman12 — On Dec 10, 2012
Steroids are dangerous for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest threat is the unknown. Using steroids puts a stress on your system that is very hard to predict, even for a medical professional. It could be having unintended, negative effects on your body that no one would have expected. The body is such a complicated and interconnected system that adding a pressure, in this case steroids, to one part can have affects all over the body. Don't risk it, don't mess with steroids.
By anon146644 — On Jan 26, 2011

Do you care to list at least one source of all this incorrect information? I know men who have been self medicating with testosterone for over 30 years.

By anon74769 — On Apr 03, 2010

This is typical of scare tactics put out by the FDA. All of these things can happen, yes. Such hormones should not be used without medical supervision.

Most young men do not need supplementary testosterone unless they have a medical condition. Older men who have low testosterone can be helped with medically prescribed corrective dosages.

As far as muscle building goes, when you are young

your body type, proper training, and nutrition determine what is possible. If you are an ectomorph, even all the above and testosterone won't let you become a muscular behemoth.

Older women can benefit from medically supervised testosterone dosage if they are excessively low. Medically supervised testosterone supplementation is safe and beneficial. That is the key.

Overdosing, no blood testing, buying tainted products on the black market, and other such self medication can be dangerous and lead to problems. However, people should not look at proper supplemental testosterone treatment as akin to committing suicide or asking for a wide range of health problems.

By anon60100 — On Jan 12, 2010

that info right there saved a life. thanks for the clear and precise info on the effects of use of steroids. i wish there was a more efficient way to get this message to everyone. good job.

By anon28188 — On Mar 12, 2009

Can the use of steroids by the male have any impact on the unborn baby or mother?

By anon7307 — On Jan 23, 2008

I was wondering if blood clots could be caused by prolonged usage of steroids

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