The side effects of steroids have for decades been a constant and never ending issue of debate. It is the side effects of steroids that is largely responsible for the hormones being classified as controlled substances in the U.S. Itís often stated that the reason for control is to keep them out of sports and to discourage children from using them, however, the real issue always comes back to side effects. Throughout their history, the side effects have largely been blown out of proportion. In fact, may of the reported side effects of steroids are actually impossible. This does not mean adverse effects do not exist and it doesnít mean there are not possible serious negative effects, but the truth is far different than what youíve been told.
Before we go any further, letís clear up a couple of important issues revolving around the side effects of steroids. Children should not supplement with anabolic steroids. The damage it can cause to an underdeveloped androgen system can be severe, and often irreversible. Anabolic steroids should really only be used by healthy adults, primarily men. Women can supplement with specific anabolic steroids, however, they must do so with extreme caution as many steroids will promote masculine like symptoms. With all of this in mind, we want to take a direct look at the true side effects of steroids. We also want to do so while keeping the issue of probability in mind. When it comes to the side effects of steroids, most of them fall into the possible category, not guaranteed. In fact, most healthy adult men can avoid complications if they take the proper preventative measures and supplement responsibly. Part of responsible supplementation means you will not use these compounds if any of the following apply to you:
∑ You liver isnít healthy (this pertains to steroids that are C17-alpha alkylated, which will normally be oral steroids and a few injectable compounds)
The estrogenic side effects of steroids are some of the most common among male anabolic steroid users. This is primarily due to the aromatase enzyme, which causes testosterone to convert to estrogen through the aromatase process. High levels of estrogen can lead to gynecomastia (male breast enlargement) and excess water retention. If water retention gets out of hand, this can also promote high blood pressure. Steroids that do not aromatize will normally not cause such related symptoms. However, steroids that do not aromatize yet carry a progestin nature can lead to gynecomastia due to progesterone increasing the stimulating effect of estrogen on the mammary tissue.
You have two options when it comes to controlling the estrogenic side effects of steroids, Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMís) and Aromatase Inhibitors (AIís). You do not need both, choose one, but many will need an AI over a SERM. SERMís offer protection in their ability to bind to the estrogen receptors, thereby, preventing estrogen from binding, but this is not always enough protection. AIís function by inhibiting aromatization from occurring, and they further lower the bodyís total estrogen levels. Unfortunately, AIís can have a negative impact on cholesterol, as can anabolic steroids to a degree. The effect of an anabolic steroid on cholesterol will be dependent on the steroid in question. For this reason, if an AI is needed you will need to put some effort into controlling your cholesterol levels. A healthy diet with plenty of omega fatty acids is a great place to start. However, if you can get the job done with SERMís this is the best way to go, as SERMís will have no negative impact on cholesterol.
The androgenic side effects of steroids will be based on the steroidís specific androgenic activity. This issue in regards to testosterone or testosterone based steroids is related to the testosterone hormoneís ability to reduce to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) through the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. Steroids that are DHT derivatives are not affected by the 5-alpha reductase enzyme as they are already DHT compounds. In either case, the common androgenic side effects of steroids include acne, body hair growth and accelerated hair loss in those predisposed to male pattern baldness. They also include virilization symptoms in women, which include body hair growth, a deepening of the vocal chords and clitoral enlargement.
In order to protect from the androgenic side effects of steroids, some men will choose to use a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor like Finasteride. This can offer significant protection when using testosterone based steroids, but it wonít do a lot for DHT based as the 5-alpha reductase enzyme is not involved. In either case, keeping the skin clean is the best protection against acne. Those who are genetically sensitive to acne to begin with will have the largest concern. When the issue of hair loss is at hand, men who are predisposed and want to buy some time may want to use Finasteride. However, if theyíre using a DHT compound this wonít offer much protection. Itís also important to keep in mind the level of androgenicity of a steroid plays a massive role. For example, steroids like Dianabol, although androgenic have been structurally altered to minimize androgenic effects, thereby making related effects very rare. Understand the androgenicity of the steroid in question, and then youíll understand how best to combat such issues or if they need to be combated at all.
Then weíre left with virilization. Women who wish to avoid virilization symptoms must choose anabolic steroids that not only carry low androgenic ratings, but ones that display very little androgenic activity. If they do so and supplement with low doses such related virilization effects should be avoided. There is, however, always the issue of individual response. Some women will have issues even with low doses due to a poor response. This may seem unfair but such is life. If for any reason virilization symptoms begin to show, if you discontinue use at their onset they will fade away rapidly. If the symptoms are ignored they may become irreversible.
The hepatic side effects of steroids refer to its effects on the liver, specifically hepatotoxicity. The majority of anabolic steroids do not carry a hepatotoxic nature, and as a result, will present no stress or damaging effects on the liver. Steroids that are hepatic most commonly include oral steroids. Most oral steroids have been C17-alpha alkylated (C17-aa). This refers to a structural change of the hormone at the 17th carbon position that allows it to survive ingestion and the first pass through the liver. Without this change the body would largely destroy it before any significant benefits could be obtained. Unfortunately, this also makes it toxic to the liver. There are oral steroids that are not C17-aa steroids, oral Primobolan and Proviron being the prime examples. Most injectable steroids are not C17-aa steroids, with injectable Winstrol being the primary exception.
The level of hepatotoxicity of a C17-aa steroid will vary greatly from one to the next. Some are quite mild, while others heavily toxic. The use of most C17-aa steroids will result in an increase in liver enzyme values. An increase in values is not directly related to damage; however, it is an indicator of stress. Once the use of all C17-aa steroids is discontinued, assuming the liver was healthy to begin with and proper steps were followed, liver enzyme values will return to normal shortly after and no damage will be done. In order to achieve this, you will need to limit all C17-aa steroid use to no more than 6-8 weeks and 4 weeks with extremely hepatic steroids. You should also wait at least 6-8 weeks at minimum before using C17-aa steroids again once a course is complete. During use, you will need to avoid excess alcohol consumption, as this is extremely stressful to the liver. In fact, avoiding all alcohol consumption isnít a bad idea. Last but certainly not least, you should limit the use of over the counter medications; many over the counter medications carry strong hepatic natures, and in some cases, stronger than many anabolic steroids. Failure to abide by these rules may lead to liver damage, which could include cholestasis most commonly, cholestatic jaundice, intrahepatic cholestasis and peliosis hepatis in very rare cases.
The use of anabolic steroids will suppress the production of natural testosterone. This is something all men need to be aware of, but it is not an issue of major concern for women. You must also understand the rate of suppression will vary from one anabolic steroid to the next, but in most cases, it will be significant enough to warrant exogenous testosterone therapy. For most men, this will be easy as theyíre already using testosterone. For many men, this may be the only anabolic steroid theyíre using. For other men, testosterone may not be the primary anabolic steroid; they may desire to rely on other compounds for their foundation. In such cases, you need to ensure you provide enough exogenous testosterone to meet your bodyís needs. The form of testosterone you choose is inconsequential, all that matters is your body has enough to stave off what would otherwise be an unhealthy and quite bothersome low testosterone condition.
Due to testosterone suppression, all men who supplement with anabolic steroids will experience testicular atrophy. This occurs due to testosterone being produced in the testicles, and when production is suppressed they shrink. They will not disappear but rather lose some of their fullness. When it comes to the side effects of steroids, testosterone suppression and testicular atrophy are interconnected.
Once the use of all anabolic steroids has come to an end and all the exogenous hormones have cleared your system, your natural testosterone production will begin again, and your testicles will return to their normal size. In order to facilitate a more efficient recovery, it is often recommended you implement a post cycle therapy (PCT) plan. This will include the use of a SERM and the possible use of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This will stimulate natural testosterone production, and it will put you on the path to a more effective and efficient recovery. It should be noted, natural testosterone recovery assumes no prior low testosterone condition existed. It also assumes no damage was done to the Hypothalamic Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA) during steroid use due to improper and irresponsible supplementation practices.