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The Health Consequences Of Steroid Abuse

Nov 14, 2007
Young adolescents typically start taking anabolic steroids either in an attempt to improve their athletic performance or increase their muscle mass and decrease body fat. Though the initial effects of steroids helps boost their strength and confidence, long-term steroid abuse has the potential to cause serious long-term damage, some of which is irreversible.

Steroid abuse has been associated with a host of adverse physical and physiological side effects ranging from mild to severe and life-threatening. Steroid abuse affects the hormonal, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems as well as the liver and the skin. Steroid abuse also causes behavioral changes.

Cardiovascular system

Steroid abuse increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause severe cardiovascular diseases including stroke and heart attack in athletes as young as thirty or even younger. Steroids also promote the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels, which disrupts the flow of blood and causes damage to the heart muscles.

Hormonal system

Steroid abuse disrupts normal hormone production, causing reversible as well as irreversible changes in the body in the body. Some of the reversible changes in men include testicular atrophy (shrinking of the testicles) and reduced production of sperm. Irreversible changes include gynecomastia (breast development) and male-pattern baldness. In women, anabolic steroids cause the onset of masculine features including decrease in body fat and breast size, deepening of the voice and excessive growth of body hair. With continuous use of steroids, some of these effects could become irreversible.

Musculoskeletal system

Use of steroids increases the levels of testosterone and other sex hormones in the body. Steroid abuse during puberty and adolescence results in artificially high sex hormone levels that cause the bones to stop growing prematurely.

Liver

Abuse of anabolic steroids can cause tumors and cysts in the liver, both of which could rupture and cause fatal internal bleeding.

Skin

Abuse of steroids could cause oily skin and hair as well as acne and cysts.

Behavior

High doses of anabolic steroids can increase aggression and irritability, often leading to violent behaviors.

Anabolic steroids are highly addictive and steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money trying to obtain the drug despite negative physical and physiological effects. Steroid abusers can experience severe withdrawal symptoms that could persist for more than a year after the abuser has stopped taking the drug. Depression is one of the most dangerous of the withdrawal symptoms associated with steroid abuse and it often leads to suicide attempts. Other withdrawal symptoms include loss of appetite, mood swings, restlessness, fatigue, reduced sex drive, steroid cravings and insomnia.
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