Anabolic steroids can not only lead to severe side effects while using, which include depression and heart, failure, but can carry on being harmful years after quitting, according to 2 studies that looked into the effect of anabolic steroids in individuals who had previously used them.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones mimicking testosterone, the naturally-occurring sex hormone, and are used for boosting athletic performance and increasing muscle mass.
Anabolic steroids are used as performance-enhancing drugs and have harmful side effects in men such as erectile dysfunction, reduced testosterone levels, hair loss, and breast growth, and an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and kidney or liver failure. There is however not much known about the effects after their use has been discontinued.
In one study, 64 healthy men who participated in recreational strength training were assessed. The men were between 18 and 50 years old, and 28 of them were making use of anabolic steroids, 22 had previously used steroids, and 14 had never made use of steroids.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
The researchers evaluated how much blood flowed to the heart muscle while exercising and resting, making use of a PET-CT scan with Rubidium-82, the radioactive tracer, and observed that both current and former users had weak blood flow to the heart.
The results suggest that individuals who had previously used steroids have more chance of developing heart disease in comparison to individuals who have never made use of them.
Prior studies have demonstrated that the heart function more or less normalizes after discontinuation of anabolic steroid use, but the study indicates that men who had previously used anabolic steroids have a greater heart disease risk years after quitting as the blood flow through the circulatory system’s smallest vessels known as cardiac microcirculation appears to be persistently impaired. The prior use of anabolic steroids could be another cardiovascular disease risk factor.
In another study, questionnaires and blood samples for measuring testosterone levels were obtained from 3 groups of men between the ages of 18 and 50 years: 89 men currently using anabolic steroids, 61 men who had formerly used steroids, and 30 who had never made use of steroids.2✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
They found that men who had previously used anabolic steroids reported poorer mental and physical health quality, which included emotional well-being, social functioning, and fatigue, in spite of quitting years before. The same group also had reduced testosterone levels in comparison to men who had never made use of steroids.
Prior studies have demonstrated that men experience withdrawal symptoms immediately after they stop using steroids, which include depression and low motivation, and have reduced levels of testosterone.
These 2 studies reveal that an impaired quality of life in men who had previously used anabolic steroids appears to persist years after quitting and could be due to both withdrawal or/and hypogonadal symptoms as a result of a sudden drop in levels of testosterone in the blood. Unfortunately, a reported poorer quality of life might be a reason for men who had previously used these steroids to start reusing again.
Both studies included only a few users of anabolic steroids, former users, and non-users. The initial results reveal that men who had previously used anabolic steroids have more chance of developing heart disease but these results need to be confirmed with larger studies.
Steroid side effects in men who had previously used them appear to continue for much longer than thought.
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