The Low-Down on Steroid Side Effects

Needle full of steroids

Often when the media talks about body image, it focuses on women trying to be skinnier. However, men are just as pressured to fit a certain image—open a sports or fitness magazine and you'll see extremely muscular and toned men.

Furthermore, athletes (both male and female) feel the need to be stronger. Because of these pressures to attain a certain build, by senior year about 1 in 50 high school students have used steroids at least once.

Besides trying to be more muscular for sports, girls also try these drugs to lose weight and get a toned look.

Some of the serious, long-term effects of anabolic steroid use are:

  • premature balding or hair loss
  • dizziness
  • mood swings, including anger, aggression, and depression
  • hallucinations
  • extreme feelings of mistrust or paranoia
  • insomnia
  • nausea and vomiting
  • trembling
  • high blood pressure that can damage the heart or blood vessels over time
  • aching joints
  • jaundice or yellowing of the skin; liver damage
  • urinary problems
  • shortening of final adult height
  • increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer

Specific risks for girls:

  • increased growth of facial hair
  • development of masculine traits, such as deepening of the voice, and loss of feminine body characteristics, such as shrinking of the breasts
  • menstrual cycle changes

Specific risks for guys:

  • testicular shrinkage
  • pain when urinating
  • breast development
  • impotence (inability to get an erection)
  • sterility (inability to have children)

Other risks:

Steroid users can also experience serious psychological side effects, such as roid rage—extreme, uncontrolled bouts of anger caused by long-term steroid use.

Steroid users who inject the drugs with a needle are at risk for infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that causes AIDS, if they share needles with other users. People who use dirty needles are also at greater risk for contracting hepatitis, a disease of the liver, or bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart.

If you, or someone you know, needs help now go to this hotline page for resources than can help.

National Institute on Drug Abuse