Steroid Abuse - Side Effects

Describe the psychological and physical side effects that you experienced with anabolic steroid use or abuse.

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What are the psychological and physical side effects of anabolic steroid abuse?

Anabolic steroids are used as performance-enhancing drugs to increase the ability to do work and exercise by abnormally stimulating muscle growth, power, and aerobic capacity. This increased function comes with a cost of potentially life-threatening side effects.

The complications of anabolic steroid abuse are a result of excess testosterone affecting almost all the organ systems in the body. Some of the effects are reversible and decrease when the drug abuse stops while others are permanent and irreversible.

In males, the excess steroid suppresses the normal testosterone production in the body and can lead to shrunken testicles and decreased sperm count, baldness, and breast development (gynecomastia).

In females, steroids will lead to masculinization with loss of body fat and breast size, swelling of the clitoris, deepening of the voice, and the development of facial and body hair.

Life-threatening side effects include heart attack and stroke, the risk of forming blood clots (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus), liver cancer, and liver failure.

The skin is often affected by excess steroid use and the issues are similar to the adolescent male going through puberty with its testosterone spike. Acne is often present along with cyst formation in the skin. Hair can also become oily.

Infections are a common side effect of steroid abuse because of needle sharing and unsanitary techniques used when injecting the drugs into the skin. These are similar risks to IV drug abusers with increase potential to acquire blood-borne infections such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Skin abscesses may occur at injection sites and may spread to other organs of the body. Endocarditis or an infection of the heart valves is not uncommon.

Psychiatric and psychologic complications include manic behavior and psychosis including hallucinations and delusions. Aggressive behavior is common and is often known as "roid rage"

Because the muscle growth can occur quickly, it can cause stress on the tendons that attach the muscle to bone and anabolic steroid abusers are at risk for tendon rupture.

Anabolic steroids can increase bone production, especially in the skull and face. Teeth can splay apart as the maxilla and mandible grow. There can be overgrowth of the forehead giving an "Incredible Hulk" appearance. If adolescent teenagers abuse steroids before they have finished growing, these drugs can prematurely close bone growth plates, leading to short stature.

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