Dangers of Anabolic Steroids

Physical Effects

Musculoskeletal System

  • Bones stop growing

Cardiovascular system

  • Enlarged heart – increased risk of heart attack
  • Water and salt retention = high blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Blood clotting disorders


  • Balding
  • Acne (really bad acne!) on the back, shoulders and chest
  • Oily skin
  • Puffy cheeks

Gastrointestinal system

  • Liver cysts / liver cancer

Increased chance of injury to tendons, ligaments and muscles
Jaundice, trembling, aching joints
Bad Breath
Users can become addicted


  • Gynocomastia (grow breasts)
  • Testicular atrophy
  • Lower sperm count
  • Sterility, impotence
  • Prostate Growth
  • More 



  • Male-type body hair (e.g, beard)
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Deepened voice
  • Breast shrinkage
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • More

Psychological Effects

  • “Roid Rage” – increased aggressiveness, anger and hostility, and possibly violence
  • Reckless behavior
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Restlessness
  • Psychosis
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression and sometimes suicidal thoughts
  • Mood Swings
  • Psychological addiction


Steroids and the Heart

Nat's Geo HeartsAccording to researchers, long-term use of anabolic steroids appears to weaken the heart, but it’s not clear if this weakening is reversible.

In an effort to better understand the impact of long-term anabolic steroid use on the heart, cardiologist and researcher Aaron L. Baggish, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital performed heart function testing on weightlifters – steroid users and non-users. (The study appears in the 4/2010 issue of the American Heart Association journal, Circulation: Heart Failure.)

12 weightlifters that took steroids
7 weightlifters that did not take drugs

Average age: 40
Average length of steroid use: 9 years
Duration of weightlifting, total physical activity level and weight: Groups were similar
Muscle mass: Steroid users had more than the non-users

A healthy left ventricle – the heart’s main pumping chamber – pumps 55% to 70% of the blood that fills the heart. This measurement is known as ejection fraction. When Doppler echocardiography ultrasound was used to examine blood flow through the heart, most of the steroid users showed evidence of weakness during contraction in the left ventricle.

  • 10 of the 12 steroid users had ejection fractions of less than 55%, which has been linked to an increased risk for heart failure and sudden cardiac arrest
  • 1 of the 7 weightlifters with no history of steroid use had a low ejection fraction
  • The steroid users also showed evidence of impaired diastolic function, which is the ability of the left ventricle to relax and fill with blood following contraction
  • Left ventricle relaxation was reduced by almost 50% among steroid users compared to non-users


Steroids and the Kidneys

Leal Herlitz, MD, Assistant Professor of Pathology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York recently conducted the first study describing injury to the kidneys following long-term abuse of anabolic steroids. (Review the full study at Renal & Urology News.)

10 male body builders with highly muscular physiques who used steroids for many years and experienced proteinuria of 1g/day or greater and severe reductions in kidney function.

Caucasians: 6
Hispanics: 4
Years of steroid use: 8-20 years

It is well known that focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) typically occurs when the kidneys are overworked. The kidney damage observed in this group of bodybuilders had similarities to that seen in morbidly obese patients, but appeared to be even more severe. Renal biopsy revealed:

  • FSGS in 9 of the 10 patients
  • 4 of the 9 patients also had glomerulomegaly
  • 1 patient had glomerulomegaly alone
  • 3 biopsies showed collapsing lesions of FSGS
  • 4 had perihilar lesions
  • 7 of the 10 men had tubular atrophy of 40% or greater and interstitial fibrosis

The researchers proposed that extreme increases in muscle mass require the kidneys to increase their filtration rate, placing harmful levels of stress on the kidneys. “As in obese patients, the increased strain on the kidney from the elevated body mass leads to hyper-filtration injury,” Dr. Herlitz explained.

It is also likely that steroids have direct toxic effects on the kidneys. “Numerous animal models have shown adverse effects of androgens on the kidneys and we believe that the anabolic steroids themselves may be directly nephrotoxic,” she said.