affects the male and female reproductive system
Anabolic steroid abuse has been subject to increasing interest, especially after certain studies conducted in the USA that showed a frequent consumption of these substances for non-medical purposes.
The anabolic steroid prototype is the masculine testosterone hormone. There are many other synthetic analogues, such as mesterolone, methenolone, nandrolone, and stanozolol. The development of new anabolic steroids has been aimed at obtaining drugs that can be administered orally and to attempt to separate anabolic and androgenic actions. Although it has been possible to obtain oral drugs, separating the androgenic and anabolic functions has not been possible.
One of the main non-medical uses of anabolic steroids is in the sports world to increase physical performance. However, its consumption has spread among those non-professional athletes who wanted to increase their physical performance, have more muscle mass or simply improve their body image. This is not limited to men, since the use of these substances for these purposes has also been observed among women, who use them to reduce body fat or improve their body image.
Anabolic steroids are administered orally or by injection, and athletes often take them in cycles of weeks or months, rather than continuously, following patterns called “cyclical use”. This use consists of taking several doses of steroids over a certain period, stopping for some time and starting again. Additionally, different types of steroids are often combined to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing adverse effects. This process is known as stacking.
The systemic side effects that can occur from anabolic steroid abuse include:
- Modification of sexual characteristics: testicular atrophy and increase in breasts in men, as well as decreased breast size, increased clitoris size, voice changes, and the growth of facial hair in women.
- For adolescents: Stunted growth due to premature skeletal maturation and accelerated changes in puberty.
- In men, sterility can be caused due to a decrease in seminal quality; while women have shown an alteration in menstrual cycles.
The abuse of anabolic steroids alters the hormonal production involved in reproduction and may have either reversible or irreversible changes in the subjects, depending on the dosage and the duration of their consumption.
In women, they have shown to have menstrual cycle alterations, having cases of amenorrhea (lack of periods), which combined with a hyper-androgenic environment may have effects on oocyte quality, and generate infertility issues due to anovulation.
In men, changes to their spermiogram have been observed, with a drop in the number, mobility, and morphology of sperm cells, which also results in infertility issues. The administration of exogenous androgens causes a drastic reduction in the production of testosterone. As normal spermatogenesis requires an adequate concentration of intratesticular testosterone, men who use steroids have shown to have significantly lower sperm production and azoospermia (absence of sperm) can often be observed. The scope and reversibility of the side effects on sperm production depend on the dose and the duration of the use of steroids, which could result in a permanent problem.
Therefore, it is necessary to make a serious assessment, mainly because the consumption of anabolic steroids by athletes is frequently based on self-designed treatment schemes, while some are advised by a partner, their trainer, or these are guided by recommendations published in generalist magazines that lack scientific rigor. Participants in this sort of training and who consume these substances to improve their performance and body image, are not aware of the dangers it may entail for their overall health and, in particular, the changes to their reproductive function, which can lead to infertility, depending on the dose and duration of their consumption.