The Lingering Harm of Anabolic Steroids Even After Discontinuation

Anabolic steroids have the potential to produce severe side effects when taken orally, such as depression and heart failure, but can continue to harm individuals long after quitting them according to two studies which investigated their impact in people who had previously taken them.

Anabolic steroids, or synthetic hormones that mimic testosterone, the naturally-occurring male hormone, are used to enhance athletic performance and build muscle mass.

Anabolic steroids are performance-enhancing drugs with potentially serious adverse side effects for men, such as erectile dysfunction, low testosterone levels, hair loss and breast growth, an increased risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney or liver failure as well as an increase in stroke risks. There is little known about their after effects.

One study involved 64 healthy men aged 18-50 participating in recreational strength training who were assessed. Of the 64 subjects assessed, 28 used anabolic steroids; 22 previously utilized them and 14 never consumed such compounds.

Researchers evaluated blood flow to the heart muscle while exercising and resting using a PET-CT scan with Rubidium-82 as the radioactive tracer, finding that both current and former users had weak heart blood flow.

These results indicate that individuals who have previously used steroids have a greater chance of heart disease compared to individuals who have never utilized such compounds.

Previous studies have demonstrated that heart function typically returns to normal after cessation of anabolic steroid use, yet the present research demonstrates otherwise: former users appear to have increased heart disease risk years after quitting anabolic steroids as their cardiac microcirculation continues to be impaired despite withdrawal. It could be another risk factor contributing to cardiovascular disease.

In another study, questionnaires and blood samples to measure testosterone levels were taken from three groups of men between the ages of 18-50 years: 89 men who currently used anabolic steroids, 61 who had formerly taken them, and 30 who had never used steroids before.

Researchers found that men who had previously taken anabolic steroids reported poorer mental and physical health quality overall – such as emotional well-being, social functioning and fatigue – even years after ceasing their use. Furthermore, this group experienced lower testosterone levels compared with men who never made use of anabolic steroids.

Studies have demonstrated that men experiencing withdrawal symptoms immediately upon stopping use of steroids experience depression and low motivation as well as lower testosterone levels.

These studies reveal that men who had previously used anabolic steroids experience reduced quality of life even years after discontinuing use, which may be related to withdrawal symptoms or hypogonadal symptoms caused by sudden decreases in testosterone levels in their blood. Unfortunately, this poorer quality of life might tempt some former users of such steroids back into taking them again.

Both studies involved only a limited sample of users, former users, and non-users of anabolic steroids. Their initial results show that men who have previously used these supplements have an increased chance of heart disease but further study will need to confirm these initial results.

Steroid side effects in men who had previously taken them may persist for longer than expected.

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