All medications come with some adverse side effects. Anabolic steroids as a group of exogenous hormones tend to have some common side effects along with those specific the individual steroid.
Here we will introduce the main issues experienced by steroid users. The severity of each will depend on the individual user and again on the steroid itself.
Every steroid suppresses endogenous (natural) testosterone production to some degree.
From the most suppressive (e.g the Nandrolone group like Deca Durabolin) to the least (e.g. Oxandrolone / Anavar) there is always the need for some Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) medication to help natural testosterone levels recover.
The suppressive process goes a bit like this: The pituitary gland in the brain releases two gonadotropin hormones – Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH).
These hormones signal the testes to make testosterone.
The problem occurs when exogenous anabolic steroids are introduced to the system. This makes the body reduce or virtually stop the release LH and FSH, and thus endogenous testosterone manufacture in the testicles is reduced or shut down.
A low testosterone state is very undesirable, regardless of the other anabolic steroids being used. Testosterone is vital for many functions, indeed a person cannot be healthy in this state.
For this reason, most anabolic steroid cycles will be run with testosterone to at least provide that which is needed. However, because it is exogenous testosterone that is used, a period of recovery will still be necessary when the steroid cycle is stopped.
Total recovery can take months and in some cases testosterone will never return to the previous levels. As mentioned above, a course of PCT drugs will facilitate the recovery process (but not guarantee it).
This is liver toxicity. Most oral anabolic steroids and some injectable (e.g. Winstrol Depot) are chemically altered to survive the first pass through the liver.
This is usually by the addition of an alkyl or methyl group to the structure. When the steroid passes through the liver it leaves some material which in turn has a toxic effect.
Time is the main factor against the bodybuilder/athlete using oral steroids. In cases of high hepatotoxicity – like Anadrol – the cycle must be limited to around 4 weeks. Others like Anavar have been used for longer, perhaps up to 8 weeks.
Other countermeasures include taking a liver tonic. Some herbal products are useful for this, but they may be weak in comparison to the steroid. Also, they should never be an excuse to extend the cycle.
It goes without saying that any other medications which are toxic to the liver should be avoided, as should alcohol.
A healthy diet coupled with Cardio Vascular exercise will be of great value during a steroid cycle.
Cardio Vascular – Serum Lipoproteins and Cholesterol
Anabolic steroids tend to increase total cholesterol levels, but the real problem is that HDL – High Density Lipoprotein, aka “good cholesterol” – is lowered significantly, and LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein, aka “bad cholesterol” – is raised.
This imbalance can cause cardio vascular problems as increasing LDL can, over time, causes arterial walls to stiffen and become constrictive.
Most responsible steroids users will give their bodies a chance to recover post-cycle. Normal cholesterol levels usually return within 6-8 weeks.
Estrogenic Effects – Gynecomastia and Water Retention
Some testosterone is converted naturally to estrogen via the aromatase enzyme. This happens in average men with average levels of endogenous testosterone.
As anabolic steroids are essentially derivatives of the hormone, they follow the same conversion process.
The big difference is that this process can happen with several times more potency due to the sheer amount of exogenous steroid used by bodybuilders and performance athletes.
The severity of the effect varies between different steroids, and there are other factors to account for, such as the user’s genetics and other predispositions.
The truth is, no-one knows how much aromatization will occur until they are experiencing it; though clues may be evident from a person’s physique before they touched a steroid. A propensity to store fat in the chest and hip areas is a good one.
Gynecomastia – which means Woman Breast – is one of the most upsetting estrogenic side effects for men. While not necessarily overly detrimental to health, it is a psychologically damaging problem.
Considering steroid use is generally undertaken by those interested in physique enhancement, the growth of ‘man-boobs’ is particularly disheartening.
Water Retention is another estrogenic / estradiol feedback effect of some steroids. Some people take diuretic herbs to purge extra water from their system. These can however cause cramping so aren’t very excellent choices for athletes.
Water retention can lead to high blood pressure, so it is nonetheless a good idea to control it. Drinking water seems counterintuitive but it will help the passing of excess fluid.
Countermeasures are used by most people ‘on cycle’. Aromatase Inhibitors (AIs) are one option, but they too cause their own side effects – generally in the form of high cholesterol. And the combined effect of steroid-induced and AI-induced high ‘bad cholesterol’ means their use must be very limited.
Usually, Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) are the less impactful option. They are milder in beneficial effect as well.
Also, as always, cardiovascular exercise is everybody’s best friend.
Testosterone gets converted to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) via the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. DHT is a highly androgenic hormone.
Androgenic side effects can be seen in men with high levels of natural testosterone coupled with a susceptibility – or predisposition – to certain patterns: acne, hair loss (male pattern baldness) and body hair growth.
Steroid use only heightens the chances this will happen. As usual, the type of steroid will determine the severity, as will genetic markers in the user.
Countermeasures in the form of medication exist, such as Finasteride. This is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor. It does not work on many steroids, however, because it simply prevents the conversion to DHT.
Women Specific Side Effects
Virilization effects in women can occur as a result of using anabolic steroids. These effects manifest as masculine traits: deepening voice, acne, body hair growth, enlargement of the clitoris and even male pattern baldness related hair loss.
The one likely to be permanent is the deepening of the voice as it is a result of hypertrophic growth of the vocal chords. The reversal of this needs to be surgically invasive and involves the thinning of the vocal chords during a rather unpleasant sounding operation.
Highly androgenic steroids should be avoided of course. Also, generally speaking, the dosages used by female users are substantially lower than those taken by their male counterparts.
Steroid use is not a situation where women should attempt to compete with men. It is not a question of strength or equality – just biology.
Irresponsible dosing by women will only result in deep sounding sobs because of a receding hairline, acne and a moustache…and nobody wants to see that!
Other Side Effects
Psychological problems, often wrapped up in to the term: “Roid Rage”, have been experienced by users. Emotional imbalances, leading to depression accounts are also a risk.
Reports of aggressive and violent behaviour, sleep disruption, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and even euphoria have been made.
Enlargement of the Prostate is possible, considering it occurs naturally due to imbalances between estrogen, testosterone and DHT.
Increased Blood Pressure can occur for a number of reasons. Bodybuilders – especially when on an intense bulking cycle – tend not to partake in much, if any, aerobic exercise.
Also, water retention from the estrogenic effects of the bulking steroid itself can increase the problem.
Kidneys can be put under greater strain when on a steroid cycle. They are natural filters, so of course if you give them more toxic (for want of a better word) substance to filter they have to work harder.
Dark urine is a sign of them working overtime. Staying very well hydrated is a must.
Sterility in both Men and Women occurs temporarily and tends to reverse post cycle with the aid of PCT drugs.
Firstly, not all of these side effects will happen to everybody, every time they take steroids.
The side effects described in this article and throughout the website are the ones associated with steroid use, not necessarily guaranteed.
However, it is prudent to be aware that they are entirely possible and be ready for them should you be thinking of using anabolic steroids.
On a final note, the one side effect which will happen is testosterone suppression and the shrinking of the testicles – aka testicular atrophy, hypogonadism (as indicated at the beginning of this article).
To purchase legal, high quality anabolics which do not cause the above side effects, please visit the links and adverts located around this website.