Are the side effects of steroids reversible and what are some of the common side effects from long term use.
There is no doubt that prolonged use of any chemical that we put into our body will eventually have side effects. Anabolic steroids have been used for decades, in spite of known issues, they will continue to be a staple among bodybuilders and athletes.
We all know what steroids can do. If someone has the right genetics and adequate amounts of androgen receptors, you can turn an average guy into a muscular monster. Over the last decade, bodybuilders keep on getting bigger and stronger.
Old school bodybuilders used to compete in a weight range of 190 -230 lbs, modern day bodybuilders easily exceed 260-300 pounds, this is all possible with the use of anabolic steroids.
From a personal perspective I have never understood why so many men are obsessed with getting huge, especially if they are not going to compete, I guess it could be an ego thing. If you are someone who is considering anabolic steroids or have been a long-term user, in this article, I will discuss some findings of possibly reversing the damage long term steroid use has caused.
I should note that steroids can have several benefits when used for therapeutic health issues, however, most side effects happen when steroids are used beyond the recommended doses and over a long term period.
Steroid side effects
When you take steroids there are several physiological things that happen to your body, testosterone especially, thickens the blood and suppresses natural testosterone production. Taking oral testosterone pills can cause liver damage. Other less severe side effects include hair loss, acne and man boobs. (gynecomastia).
No one can dispute the symptoms, but what most men don’t know is what happens after they stop taking steroids?
There have been very few studies on recovery from steroid use or abuse. One particular study sheds some light on long-term use. To come to a realistic conclusion on definite side effects and recovery from long-term steroid use there are still many variables.
The only reputable study that has been published is one done by the National Institute of Health. The is called (Reversibility of the effects on blood cells, lipids, liver function and hormones in former anabolic-androgenic steroid abusers). You can view the full study here.
Background of the study
The study was performed on 32 male bodybuilders and powerlifters. 15 of those subjects which we will call (Group A) had not used AAS for a period range of between 12-43 months. During that time they used (a dose of 700 mg for 26 weeks per year over 9 years). 17 of the subjects, which I will call (Group B) were still using AAS (750 mg for 33 weeks for over 8 years).
What the study found
The current steroid users (Group B) had lower levels of HDL cholesterol, the values were extremely low (<.9mmol/L) in 15 of 17 of the subjects. This could represent plaque build up in the arteries during use. (group A) After 1 year of not using steroids, HDL levels were lower in all but one of the 15 subjects tested. The study supports the fact that during steroid use, HDL cholesterol levels are lower but after a year of non-steroid use, cholesterol levels begin to creep back into normal ranges.
This study notes that each of the subjects tested filled out a questionnaire describing the steroids they used. All of the subjects self-administered the steroids without a medical prescription or supervision.
The injectable steroids used included boldenone, drostanolone, formebolone, methenolone, nandrolone, stanozolol, testosterone enanthate, and Sustanon 250.
Oral steroids used included 4-chlorodehydromethyltestosterone (Oral Turinabol), fluoxymesterone, mesterolone, methenolone, methandrostenolone, oxymetholone, oxandrolone and stanozolol.
From (Group A) 5 of the subjects used HGH (human growth hormone) on occasion at a dosage of 2-16 IU daily. 6 of the subjects from (Group B) used a similar dose. Other steroids used by both groups included Clenbuterol and anti-estrogens.
Blood cell variables
There were noticeable changes in blood cell count of (group B) an increase of hemoglobin (5%) and hematocrit(9%). These levels may indicate an increase in oxygen levels in the blood which would reflect and improvement in performance.
The downside to this is that it may cause thickening of the blood due to elevated levels of red blood cells. This is most likely the reason some bodybuilders have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. These symptoms do seem to be reversible after the subjects stop taking steroids.
Elevated liver enzymes
In both groups liver enzymes were high. All of the current steroid users in (group B) had elevated AST (aspartate transaminase) and ALT (alanine transaminase) this indicates to some degree a strain on the liver. This is most likely due to the oral steroids being processed by the liver. In spite of the numbers, there was obvious impairment of liver function.
This is where the study gets interesting, testosterone levels under (group B) were very high, this is obvious due to elevated amounts of synthetic testosterone currently being used. (Group B) showed low levels of gonadotropin which were around 91-94%. This makes it clear that during steroid use there is an obvious lack of testosterone of existing steroid users.
The subjects in (Group A) had very low testosterone levels, 13 of the 17 subjects in (Group A) had levels of 20% which is way below the normal levels of an average man.
What this suggests is that is that testosterone levels may not bounce back to within normal range even after years of not using steroids.
A few other issues concerning steroid use that were found in the study include elevated levels of Thrombocytes (cells involved in blood clotting). This was prominent in current steroid users. Other issues from both groups of steroid users included Gynecomastia (man boobs) which is not serious but in order to correct would require surgery.
It seems that most of the positive health markers are restored after the subjects discontinue steroid use with the exception of testosterone. If you dig deep into some of the lives of most former bodybuilders you will find that most of them usually end up on a long term TRT regimen for the rest of their lives. This may be a high price to pay for a short-lived career in bodybuilding.
Urhausen A, Torsten A, Wilfried K. Reversibility of the effects on blood cells, lipids, liver function and hormones in former anabolic-androgenic steroid abusers. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2003; Feb;84(2-3):369-75.