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What effects do anabolic steroids have on men?

      High doses of anabolic steroids can lead to temporary
 sterility, testicular atrophy, and the development of female sex
 characteristics in the normal male.(1-4) 
 One case of prostate cancer has been associated with steroid abuse
 in an athlete.(5,6)  The severity of these effects
 depends on how much of the steroid has been taken and how long the
 steroid user has been taking the drug.(1)

      In the normal male, the testes secrete testosterone and make
 sperm.  The pituitary gland in the brain monitors the amount of
 testosterone in the male's bloodstream.  If the level is too low,
 it secretes the hormones FSH ("Follicle Stimulating Hormone") and
 LH ("Luteinizing Hormone") to cause the testes to secrete more
 testosterone.  If there is too much testosterone, the pituitary
 cuts back on FSH and LH, and the testosterone level drops.  In this
 way, the body controls the amount of testosterone needed to produce
 sperm and to maintain male sexual characteristics.  

      When a male takes steroids, the pituitary gland detects the
 sudden high quantity of anabolic steroids and sends chemical
 signals to shut down testosterone production in the testes.  The
 longer a person takes anabolic steroids, the longer the testes
 remain inactive.  The sperm cells begin to have abnormal shapes,
 and are fewer in number.(1)  If anabolic abuse continues
 long enough, the male becomes infertile.(1,2)  The
 testes of male athletes who have been stacking and cycling steroids
 for years decrease in size.(3)  If the adult male stops
 taking anabolic steroids, testicular function will probably return
 to normal.(2,7)  However, it may take four months to a
 year or more for him to regain normal sperm cell shape and

      In two cases, long term use of anabolic steroids may have led
 to lasting sterility and loss of libido with impotence due to a
 permanent effect on the pituitary.(4)  However, more studies
 need to be done to determine whether steroids caused the pituitary
 damage or whether each of these men had pre-existing pituitary

      When there are large amounts of anabolic steroids in the body,
 part of them are metabolized to form conjugated estradiol and
 estrone, female hormones.(1,8-11)  In some anabolics abusers,
 this results in breast growth, known medically as "gynecomastia."
 (7,11)  Breast growth is an irreversible side effect of anabolic 
 steroid abuse and may accumulate from one cycle of use to the next.(12)  

      The use of alcohol while taking anabolics increases the
 likelihood of breast growth.(11)  The body changes a portion
 of the anabolics to conjugated estradiol and estrone, female sex
 hormones, by a chemical process called "aromatisation."(6) 
 Ordinarily, the liver quickly deactivates most of these female
 hormones before they can have effects on the body.  Alcohol
 prevents the liver from deactivating them, allowing them to promote
 breast growth.  Bodybuilders are more likely to drink alcohol to
 excess than others of their age.(13)  

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REFERENCES 1. Knuth UA, Maniera H, Nieschlag E. Anabolic steroids and semen parameters in bodybuilders. Fertility And Sterility 1989 Dec;52(6):1041-7. 2. Yesalis CE, Wright JE, Bahrke MS. Epidemiological and policy issues in the measurement of the long term health effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids. Sports Medicine 1989 Sep;8(3):129-38. 3. Creagh TM, Rubin A, Evans DJ. Hepatic tumours induced by anabolic steroids in an athlete. J Clin Pathol 1988;41:441-3. 4. Jarow JP, Lipshultz LI. Anabolic steroid-induced hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Am J Sports Med 1990 Jul- Aug;18(4):429-31. 5. Roberts JT, Essenhigh DM. Adenocarcinoma of prostate in 40- year-old body-builder. Lancet 1986 Sep 27;8509:742. 6. Hickson RC, Ball KL, Falduto MT. Adverse effects of anabolic steroids. Med Toxicol Adv Drug Experience 1989 Jul- Aug;4(4):254-71. 7. Johnson MD. Steroids. Adolescent Med 1991 Feb;2(1):79-93. 8. Wagner JC. Abuse of drugs used to enhance athletic performance. American Journal Of Hospital Pharmacy 1989 Oct;46:2059-67. 9. Wilson JD. Androgen abuse by athletes. Endocrine Reviews 1988;9(2):181-99. 10. Gluud C. Testosterone and alcoholic cirrhosis. Danish Med Bull 1988 Dec;35(6):564-75. 11. Giannini AJ, Miller N, Kocjan DK. Treating steroid abuse - a psychiatric perspective. Clinical Pediatrics 1991 Sep;30(9):538-42. 12. Huang QF, Gebrewold A, Altura BT, Altura BM. Cocaine-induced cerebral vascular damage can be ameliorated by Mg2+ in rat brain. Neurosci Let 1990;109:113-6. 13. Brower KJ, Blow FC, Young JP, Hill EM. Symptoms and correlates of anabolic androgenic steroid dependence. British Journal Of Addiction 1991 Jun;86(6):759-68. 14. Johnson MD. Anabolic steroid use in adolescent athletes. Pediatr Clin North Am 1990 Oct;37(5):1111-23. (c) 1992 University of Maryland Office of Substance Abuse Studies. All Rights Reserved.
Disclaimer: Steroid use is illegal in a vast number of countries around the world. This is not without reason. Steroids should only be used when prescribed by your doctor and under close supervision. Steroid use is not to be taken lightly and we do not in any way endorse or approve of illegal drug use. The information is provided on the same basis as all the other information on this site, as informational/entertainment value.

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