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Why are anabolic steroids harmful?

Understand what makes anabolic steroids dangerous.

Anabolic steroids have become a controversial subject because of their effects and risks, especially in baseball. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Anabolic steroids have become a controversial subject because of their effects and risks, especially in baseball.

Anabolic (protein-building) steroids are drugs that mimic the effects of testosterone and other male sex hormones. They can build muscle tissue, strengthen bone and speed muscle recovery following exercise or injury. They are sometimes prescribed to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women and some types of anemia.

Some athletes use anabolic steroids to build muscle strength and bulk, and to allow a more rigorous training schedule.

The drugs are banned from most organized competitions because of the dangers they pose to health and to prevent an unfair advantage.

Adverse effects include hypertension, acne, edema, and damage to liver, heart and adrenal glands. Psychiatric symptoms can include hallucinations, paranoid delusions and manic episodes. In men, anabolic steroids can cause infertility, impotence and premature balding. Women can develop masculine characteristics, such as excessive hair growth, male-pattern balding, disruption of menstruation and deepening of the voice. Children and adolescents can develop problems in growing bones, leading to short stature.

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