The desire to reach peak physical condition can sometimes lead to anabolic steroid use, which carries some serious health risks. In fact, the risks far outweigh the benefits, warns Oliver Wu, M.D., an Internal Medicine specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic who enjoys staying active at the gym.
“Although there are occasions when doctors will prescribe certain forms of steroids to treat a medical condition – this isn’t what we’re discussing here. We’ll talk about anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which can only be obtained by prescription from a physician,” he said.
Danger Associated with Anabolic Steroid Use
Anabolic steroids are the type typically taken by athletes to help increase strength and endurance. And while people who take them usually notice an improvement in muscle mass and strength, there are several adverse side effects.
For one, this type of steroid use often leaves tendons open to injury. Physicians see tendon ruptures in patients who use steroids. Other issues include tendinitis, liver tumors, high blood pressure, heart problems, increased “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), decreased “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein), severe acne, aggressive behavior, baldness in both men and women, feelings of rage or violence and infections as a result of drug injections.
Depression and other psychiatric disorders have been reported as well.
“Men sometimes experience shrunken testicles, infertility, prominent breasts, impotence and enlargement of the prostate gland,” Dr. Wu said.
Conversely, women who use anabolic steroids are more likely to develop an increase in body hair, deeper voices and infrequent or absent periods.
For men and women, the use of anabolic steroids worsens medical conditions like sleep apnea and increases red blood cell counts.
Risks Tied to Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
HGH is sometimes taken to improve muscle mass and performance, but as with other anabolic steroids, it comes with serious health risks. In fact, illnesses like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are associated with HGH use, as well as joint pain, fluid retention, vision problems, muscle weakness and enlarged hearts.
The bottom line is this: Staying in top physical condition means taking care of your entire body. While you may improve muscle mass or strength by using steroids, the stress that they put on things like your heart, joints and tendons doesn’t allow the total-package wellness that is necessary. The risks associated with taking steroids far outweigh the benefits.