Symptoms and Signs of Steroid Side Effects

The Symptoms and Signs of Steroid Side Effects

It can be dangerous to use steroids without the supervision of a doctor. It’s important for beginners, teachers, and parents to understand the symptoms, signs, and side effects of steroid usage. 

Steroid abuse has been a problem in professional sports for over six decades. Even so, the discovery that testes influenced masculine behavior through releasing an unknown substance was made back in 1849 by German scientist Arnold Adolf Berthold.

It was fifty years later, in 1889, when Major League Baseball pitcher “Pud” Galvin became the first athlete to be discovered injecting steroids. Hall of Famer Galvin was a regular user of Brown-Sequard elixir.

The Rise of Anabolic Steroids in Sports

The Male Hormone Book
The Male Hormone. (Source:

It’s believed that the book “The Male Hormone” is behind the rise in testosterone use for building mass by West Coast bodybuilders during the 1940s. By the time the 50s rolled around, the bodybuilding community was filled with anabolic steroid experimentation as bodybuilders became pioneers of steroid use.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most famous bodybuilders of all time, was once believed to be completely natural. He later admitted to using steroids when they were legal, and this steroid usage no doubt influenced his being crowned Mr Olympia and Mr Universe.

A number of different steroids and banned substances are involved in sports doping controversies. These substances can enhance athletic performance. Over 100 Russian Olympic athletes found themselves banned from the 2016 Rio Olympics due to long-term steroid usage.

In December of 2016, the World Anti-Doping Agency released a report uncovering the systemic doping of Russia between 2011 and 2015, implicating over 1,000 athletes across 30 sports and government employees.

Sports governing bodies outside of the Olympics have their own policies on how athletes caught doping or manipulating their samples are sanctioned.

Yankees player Alex Rodriguez admitted to taking illicit steroids back in 2009; saying that he used steroids between 2001 and 2003 when he played for the Texas Rangers. His excuse for the steroid usage was the enormous pressure to perform.

Rodriguez’s teammate, ex-Yankee player Roger Clemens, is also suspected of steroid usage. Clemens claims that he never used steroids himself, and claimed that he felt they were ineffective anyway.

2009 saw the first MLB player to be suspended under stricter regulations when Los Angeles Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez tested positive for hCG; a substance for boosting testosterone production in men and treating delayed puberty in boys. It is commonly used by steroid users to mitigate the effects of cycling off of steroids; which was another sign Ramirez was on steroids.

One of the most well-known cases of an athlete being found guilty for using performance enhancers such as anabolic steroids is Lance Armstrong. Armstrong denied using steroids for years, before finally being forced to admit to it after another cyclist gave testimony that saw Armstrong stripped of his Olympic bronze medal and seven Tour de France titles.

The formerly-beloved cancer survivor received worldwide scorn due to his actions and resigned as the chairman of the Livestrong Foundation just a week after over 1,000 pages of evidence was released by the US Anti-Doping Agency in October 2012.

Stats and Facts

It was revealed that 4% of 12th graders admitted to taking anabolic steroids in 2013; with 41% of them adding that it was easy to obtain the steroids. Around 62% of 12th graders also recognized that steroids could be hazardous to their health.

It’s estimated that anywhere between 5% and 31% of athletes are taking performance-enhancing drugs. This includes anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs), human growth hormone, erythropoietin, creatine, amphetamines, stimulates, and beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate.

According to a recent analysis some 3-4 million Americans, almost all of them male, have used AASs during their lives.

Steroids 101

The group of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AASs) includes all the synthetic derivatives of testosterone, whether injectable or oral, along with danazol, methyltestosterone, and oxandrolone.

Common steroid street names including roids, juice, pumpers, gym candy, stackers, and gear. Anabolic steroids have medical uses such as inducing male puberty, stimulating growth and appetite, and treating degenerative conditions such as AIDs and cancer. They are also used illegally to improve appearance and boost performance.

Those that abuse AASs are typically taking them orally, injecting them straight into muscles, or applying them topically through creams, gels, and patches. They use doses up to 100x higher than the medical dose and purchase their illicit steroids at the gym, a sporting competition, or mail order. People buying these illicit steroids are running the risk of taking contaminated or adulterated products that are even more dangerous than regular steroids.

Some athletes believe that they can mitigate the harmful side effects of steroids and make the most out of them by doing the following:

  • Cycling; taking steroids for a set amount of time, stopping for a set period of time, and repeating
  • Stacking; combining several types of steroids
  • Pyramiding; slowly increasing the dosage up to a peak dose before gradually reducing the dose

Steroid Side Effects

Steroid user
Steroid user

Anabolic steroids may not trigger dopamine production, which is how other drugs cause a “high” and become addicting, but taking steroids for too long can cause them to affect neural pathways and affect serotonin and dopamine levels; affecting behavior and mood.

The short-term side effects of steroids include paranoia, acne, delusions, irritability, poor judgement, manic/hypomanic symptoms such as mood swings, suicidal tendencies and depression. There is also the matter of “roid rage”; aggressive outbursts that can quickly become violent.

Some of the more serious and detrimental steroid side effects can take a few years to manifest. This includes damage to the liver, including tumors and cysts; kidney disease; cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, enlarged heart, blood clotting, heart attack, and stroke; and musculoskeletal injuries such as tendon ruptures.

People who take steroids by injecting them are also increasing their risk of contracting and transmitting dangerous diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. Taking high doses of steroids over a long period of time can cause neuronal cell death, which can cause early onset dementia.

The side effects of steroids vary by gender and there are some side effects that are unique to teens:

  • Men: Gynecomastia (male breasts), shrinking testicles, reduced sperm count, baldness, and a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Women: Irregularities with menstruation, facial and body hair growth, male-pattern baldness, deeper voice, enlarged clitoris, and infertility.
  • Teens: Stunted growth caused by high hormone levels from steroids signalling for bone growth to stop early, and stunted height if steroids are taken before growth spurts.

Signs of Steroid Use

There are a number of physical and emotional signs of potential steroid use. The main sign of steroid use is gaining weight or muscles rapidly.

It’s also common to see feet and lower legs swell, along with tremors and shaking. Even though acne is a common problem among teenagers, parents must keep an eye out for a sudden increase in acne or oily skin. Steroids can also cause jaundice and red and purple spots to appear on the body.

The emotional signs of steroid use are aggression, irritability, paranoia and mood swings.

Steroid Withdrawal

Anabolic steroids can cause protracted hypogonadism (reduced functionality of the testes) when withdrawing from steroid use. The problem can sometimes take years to go away. The hypogonadism associated with steroid withdrawal can also lead users to becoming severely depressed and contemplate suicide.

Some users will start using the steroids again to combat the most distressing withdrawal symptoms; becoming even more dependent than before.

Body Image

GI Joe figure
GI Joe figure

The image of the ideal male body has become much more muscular over the past few decades. This trend has been reflected by male models, bodybuilding competitions, and even toys such as Action Man and GI Joe.

It’s common for adolescent men to be subjected to a wealth of muscular men thanks to magazines, advertisements, television shows, and movies. This could be one of the leading causes of the problem known as “muscle dysmorphia”, which is a body image disorder whereby people become obsessed with creating a muscular appearance.

Of the 2.2% of US males who have body dysmorphic disorder, 9-25% of them have muscle dysmorphia.

Men who suffer from muscle dysmorphia describe how they are dissatisfied with the shape and size of their body, and they constantly feel that their bodies aren’t muscular enough. These men also tend to have higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders, obsessive compulsive behaviors, substance abuse, and an inability to function properly in society and the workplace.

If you have children, then you must ensure that they have a healthy body image and boost their self-esteem. If you believe that your teen may be using steroids then you should get them the professional help they need as soon as you can.

Legal Steroids Alternatives

Given all of the side effects and dangers of taking steroids, perhaps it’s time you considered using an alternative supplement. Legal steroids aren’t as effective as a pure steroid or a controlled steroid, but they come with a major advantage; they are completely safe.

Legal steroid alternatives can still offer great results, but they don’t come with any steroid side effects. These alternatives are also commonly ingested rather than taken orally, and you don’t need a prescription to purchase them.

The best legal steroid manufacturers, such as Crazy Bulk, receive regular inspections by regulatory bodies and the FDA. It’s because of these inspections that they use only high quality natural ingredients. The result is that you are less likely to suffer from side effects. In fact; these all-natural steroid alternatives have no side effects whatsoever.

Last updated: February 24th, 2017.

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