The use of Steroids and Image Enhancing Drugs (SIEDs) is nothing new, with research showing that even at the beginning of civilisation there were those willing to go to extremes to improve their physique.
Steroids have become a common method used by both men and women to build muscle, but despite their proven benefits their use or should I say abuse comes with a variety of risks.
This article will look at the common side effects of steroid abuse, as well as some real-life horror stories that may make you rethink your use of them.
Common Side Effects of Steroid Abuse
Steroid abuse can affect many different parts of your body, lets look at some issues that can arise from the use of anabolic steroids (AAS):
Users of anabolic steroids have been shown to be more aggressive, with high doses even being shown to cause psychotic episodes and high levels of anxiety.
Other common issues include extreme mood swings, sleep disturbances, paranoia and depression.
Certain steroids can cause your body to retain high levels of water, which will leave you looking “round faced” with puffy cheeks.
Female users of steroids often experience a deepening of their voice and more masculine features.
Acne of both the face and body is another common side effect of steroid abuse.
It has been shown that long term steroid use can cause damage to your eyes, which could lead to a higher risk of eye infections, cataracts and glaucoma.
When you use steroids, especially in high doses the testosterone produced may convert into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
This can cause your hair follicles to shrink, resulting in fine hair. Eventually these hair follicles will die, causing permanent baldness.
Both men and women steroid users can suffer from this side effect.
Steroid abuse can cause a build up of bad cholesterol or LDL cholesterol that can lead to heart disease.
This build up of cholesterol can also build up in your arteries, which can increase the risk of stroke.
Another issue associate with steroid abuse is that it can cause an increase in blood pressure. This can disrupt blood flow to your heart, which can cause a heart attack to occur.
A bloated feeling, or feelings of nausea followed by bouts of vomiting with blood are signs that steroid use is causing problems in your stomach.
Your kidneys are used to eliminate waste materials from your blood, they also help regulate both salt and water levels as well as your blood pressure.
Some oral steroids can cause your kidneys to have to work harder to filter your blood.
Steroid use coupled with a high protein diet can lead to kidney stone, which can cause a blockage in your urinary tract, which can subsequently cause problems with urinary excretion.
The high blood pressure we have previously mentioned can also impact your kidneys, as the reduced blood supply and filtration caused by the thickening and narrowed blood vessels can damage them.
Oral steroids are difficult to metabolise, which makes it difficult for your liver to do its job properly; to filter harmful toxins from your blood.
This can lead to irreversible liver damage, leading to issues such as hepatocellular jaundice (a condition that causes a yellowing of the skin and eyes) that occurs when your liver is unable to effectively filter your blood.
Man boobs or to give its technical term gynecomastia is a common side effects of steroid use, especially if the steroids have been used in a long cycle or at high doses.
In men gyno is the formation of breast tissue that usually appears under the nipple area. Often the only solution to this side effect is surgery.
Female steroid users may experience the opposite side effects, as their breast tissue will shrink in size.
Steroid abuse is popular amongst younger males (sometimes late teens/early twenties) who may not have fully grown yet.
The use of steroids can impair bone growth, which will result in these users being shorter in height than they should have been.
Muscle and tendons:
Using steroids may lead you to think that you are stronger than you really are, resulting in you lifting heavier weights than you can manage.
This can increase the risk of injury, both to your muscles but also to your tendons too.
Of course if you want to build muscle then small muscle tears are essential, but major muscle tears or ruptured tendons are a whole other matter.
Steroid use can affect the pores of your skin, which can cause roughness.
Acne is also likely amongst steroid users, as well as stretch marks that can appear due to the rapid muscle growth.
Your prostate is used to produce prostatic fluid, which is used to maintain sperm activity.
Steroid use can cause an enlargement of your prostate gland, which can negatively affect sexual activity, with abnormal sperm or a lower sperm count a possibility.
When you use anabolic steroids the synthetic testosterone can cause your testes to stop producing its own testosterone.
Once you stop using the steroids it may take a while (if ever) for your pituitary gland to start signalling your testes to produce testosterone again.
If you are not producing testosterone naturally then you may find that impotence may become an issue.
Steroid Abuse in Pictures
We have spoken about the common side effects of steroid abuse, but reading about these issues is not the same as seeing the effects in real life.
Below are some stories and images of the results of steroid abuse. If these do not put you off using steroids then nothing will:
#1: Early Death
While the cause of death is still undetermined, bodybuilder and Instagram star Rich Piana’s death in August 2017 at the age of 46 has led many to believe it was due to steroid abuse.
Rich Piana had freely admitted to using steroids since his teenage years. He knew the risks and advised others not to use them:
“If you have the choice to stay natural or do steroids, stay natural.”
“There’s no reason to do steroids, you’re only hurting your body, you’re hurting yourself.”
#2: Masculine Features
Candice Armstrong, a barmaid from Walthamstow in London, developed an addiction to Trenbolone after joining the gym to work on her physique.
She now has muscle gains that most men would be proud of, however it has come at a price.
Not only has body hair began to sprout from her upper lip, back and chest, but her clitoris has swollen to such an extent that it now resembles a mini penis.
Christopher Michael Benoit was a Canadian professional wrestler popular in the WWE.
In 2007, Chris Benoit murdered both his wife and son, before committing suicide.
While tests were undertaken on his brain, discovering that it resembled that “of an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient”, toxicology reports also found that Benoit had elevated testosterone levels likely caused by a synthetic form (steroid) of the hormone in his system.
#4: Exploding Arms
Greg Valentino has become infamous for his biceps, which were incredibly large.
However, he did not achieve this mass naturally and after years of steroid abuse and injections his arms became pin-cushions.
After becoming careless he began to reuse needles and failed to make sure they were sterile.
Unsurprisingly, his arm became infected and blew up like a balloon, filled with pus.
Now at this point a normal person would make a visit to their local hospital, but not Greg. After stabbing his arm for around 20 minutes he ended up in hospital regardless.
#5: Severe Acne
Pictured above is an image of a 21-year old amateur bodybuilder from Germany who after becoming addicted to anabolic steroids developed severe acne on his chest and upper back.
Doctors unsurprisingly ordered the patient to stop using steroids and to undergo a course of antibiotics.
After two months the acne was gone, as well as any muscle gained through the steroid use. He was left with scaring that is likely to be seen for the rest of his life.
#6: “Bitch Tits”
Ronnie Coleman is one of the most successful bodybuilders of all time. He was certainly one of the biggest too.
It is likely from looking at the image above that Ronnie used steroids during his career, which led to him developing gynecomastia. He literally grew breasts.
#7: The Turtle Belly
This is an issue and complaint many have with the state of current bodybuilders. Many now have a distended “turtle belly”, which is said to be because of their use of HGH and other steroids.
Take Markus Rühl for example, he has competed in bodybuilding competitions since the age of 23, and has supplemented his training with the use of steroids.
There is no doubt that he has gained an immense amount of muscle, but his stomach ruins his overall aesthetics.
While the use of steroids will benefit your muscle building, leading to faster gains and a host of other benefits, you cannot escape the fact that using steroids is a risky pursuit.
If you value your long-term health then I would recommend avoiding the use of steroids.
While slower, there are certainly many natural methods you can use to build muscle effectively.