While you may not think that you abuse or misuse steroids, and have been doing safely for some time, it’s also important to be aware of the dangers of long-term steroid use.
You may not even notice anything happening. But isn’t that often the case? You feel fine until you don’t?
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Some of the side effects caused by steroid use can be temporary and minor in nature.
We’re talking about headaches, tingling sensations or pain at the injection site, muscle fatigue, and for some, a surprising decline in sex drive.
Because steroid abusers often are those that have managed to buy and use the drug illegally, very few are willing to step forward and undergo clinical trials, studies, or examinations after long-term use.
However, even steroid cycles (taking a steroid for a certain amount of time, stopping, and then restarting the cycle program) can contribute to side effects and dangers after time.
The risk of dangers of long-term steroid use increases when an individual stacks or combines different kinds of steroids or other drugs such as growth hormone (HGH) with the steroids for accelerated results.
Many bodybuilders and athletes pyramid steroids and other drugs, which means starting at a lower dose and increasing the dosage as well as frequency.
They raise doses until they achieve a certain peak, and then gradually decline and taper off usage before starting again.
What is considered long-term steroid use is not specifically defined, but many bodybuilders are taking them indefinitely.
These methods (cycling, stacking, or pyramiding) do not decrease the dangers of steroid use, nor potential harmful effects on the body.
Long-term steroid use and abuse of steroids can cause swelling in the body, including the intestines and the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).
Potential liver and kidney damage, high blood pressure, and unhealthy changes in blood cholesterol levels also contribute to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
What does the science have to say about long-term steroid use?
One study reported that long-term steroid use could potentially contribute to structural and functional abnormalities in the brain. The study focused on the amygdala, the emotion regulation center of the brain.
The study determined that individuals tested (150 male weightlifters aged 35 to 55) had amygdalae that were 20% larger than nonusers, and that this enlargement is associated with aggression.
Another anomaly? Decrease in a brain sugar called scyllo-inositol, responsible for preventing neurotoxic proteins from clumping (including beta amyloid protein) and known for its role in development of dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Another danger of long-term steroid use is possible addiction. It is estimated that over one million individuals (as of 2015) in the US alone have become steroid dependent.
It should be noted that this steroid dependence is not just associated with illegal use of steroids, but medically recommended steroid prescriptions as well.
This is why steroids should always be carefully monitored by a physician.
An article published in Current Drug Safety (2010) explored “Risks of self-medication practices” and provides an interesting abstract regarding the potential for medication abuse and dependence.
According to a study in Current Psychiatry Reports from 2002 (“Anabolic steroid abuse and dependence.“) , growing numbers of individuals are being diagnosed with anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) dependence, mainly among bodybuilders and weightlifters.
It is believed that the psychoactive and myoactive effects of these drugs play a role in the development of such dependence.
Long-term steroid use, including corticosteroid and anabolic steroids, and their prescribed amount, contribute to a number of potential health risks.
Severity will depend on the form of steroid as well as its application method: injection, oral, or topical.
Some of the most common long-term effects of steroid use of any kind can include but is not limited to:
Steroids and hormones have a huge impact on physical, emotional, and mental health and wellness.
Over time, damage caused by long-term steroid use may contribute to medical issues and conditions that cannot be reversed.
Also be aware that use of different steroids or combinations of steroids and other hormones can contribute to electrolyte imbalances and increased or decreased function of endocrine hormone glands.
Development of mental and emotional issues is also possible, including depression, increased levels of aggression, moodiness, and for some, paranoia and psychoses.
Long-term steroid use, especially when combined with any other drug, has the potential to cause extremely significant side effects and interactions.
Are bigger muscles really worth the risk?