Short-term side effects of steroid use

picture of man with steroidacne

Acne is a common side effect of steroid use.

Anabolic steroids are a synthetic form of the male hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.  There are numerous reasons people choose to use steroids but it usually boils down to two basic reasons, increased performance and a better self image.  They are most frequently used by athletes and body builders to improve their size, strength, speed and stamina.  Whatever the users goal they tend to overlook the seriousness of the potential risks.  In recent studies done by the National Institute of Drug
Abuse indicates that there are at least 325,000 teenage boys and 175,000 teenage girls that admit to using steroids.
Most users, especially teenagers will tell you that they have educated themselves on the use of anabolic steroids and their side effects, however, most of the time their “education” was provided by someone they know that uses steroids, in other words hear say, or they found sites on the internet that provide limited information at best in order to promote their product.  Also, many users believe that they aren’t taking doses that are harmful because they are “cycling”.  These beliefs are closer to fantasy than reality.  The only way to achieve the results you are seeking is to take massive doses, up to 100 times more than a Dr would prescribe for a medical issue, which makes them extremely dangerous.
There are numerous side effects associated with the use of anabolic steroids both short term and long term.  Some side effects are specific to men others to women and many are experienced by both men and women.  One of the most common side effects is severe acne.  Steroids cause the sebaceous glands in our skin to become enlarged causing glands to increase production of oil which then serves as “food” for bacteria.  Teens experience a normal surge in hormone production called “puberty”.  It is this normal surge that causes teens to develop body hair and deeper voices in boys and acne in both boys and girls and when you add steroids to the mix it’s a recipe for trouble.
Another common side effect that users don’t think about is called testicular atrophy which is the medical term for shrunken balls, and it isn’t only a cosmetic problem.  Normally the brain sends signals to the testes to produce testosterone, however by introducing an outside source of testosterone the brain stops sending those signals so the testes no longer produce their share of testosterone.  In addition to that the outside source of testosterone also causes the brain to slow down sperm production because it believes your body is receiving sperm from another source, usually a needle.  This leads to sterility and many experts believe steroid use causes permanent sterility though there is no proof one way or the other, but is it really worth the risk?
Another very common side effect is called gynecomastia which is the medical term for developing “man-boobs”.  Because most users are taking such high doses there is a significant imbalance of testosterone in your body.  The extra testosterone is then converted into estrogen as well as other female hormones.  when the male body has that much estrogen along with the other female hormones female breast tissue develops causing men to have female appearing breasts.  These “man-boobs” are permanent.  The only treatment is surgical removal of the female breast tissue which includes a long and painful recovery process.  On top of that the cost is prohibitive and it is an out of pocket expense as insurance companies do not cover steroid abuse.
Now lets move on to the cardiac system.  Some side effect will develop sooner than others and some develop only after long term use, whether you  “cycle” or not.  Steroids cause the body to retain extra sodium and water instead of flushing it out.  In addition to sodium and water they increase the red bloods cells and platelet levels.  Individually these factors can lead to high blood pressure, but combined they always lead to high blood pressure and that leads to another whole list of side effects.  For example, the heart gets larger which can lead to heart failure, and/or aneurysms can also develop in numerous blood vessels.  The blood vessels in different organs and areas through out the body narrow and harden especially those in the brain, heart and kidney’s as well as the legs.  This then can lead to other complications varying from heart attacks and strokes to renal failure or sometimes amputation of a leg.  It is also possible for blood vessels in the eyes to burst and can even lead to blindness.
Another vital organ that is significantly affected is the liver.  The liver is as critical to the body’s function as the heart, you can’t live without it.  Liver tumors as well as a condition known as peliosis hepatitis have been linked to steroid use.  Peliosis hepatitis is a condition in which blood filled cysts develop in the liver.  These tumors and cysts can burst and cause internal bleeding and these are the short term effects so imagine what the long term effects are.
Then it’s time to move on to the prostate gland.  An enlarged prostate gland is rarely seen in young men unless they are using steroid.  The male prostate gland grows to 30 times it’s original size naturally over the average life span, add steroids to that and  in no time your prostate gland is the size of a grapefruit.
Women also suffer from baldness because the body over produces a hair inhibitor enzyme known as DHT.  Women also develop certain normally male characteristics like growing facial hair, increased body hair with coarse skin as well as a deeper male sounding voice.  Women also experience the same damage to their organs including the heart, brain, liver and kidney’s as men do.
These are the most common side effects that can develop after using steroids for a short time, some are permanent while other resolve after steroid use is stopped and with treatment if caught soon enough.  There are also effects that develop after long term steroid use as well as psychological effects that can significantly impact your life.