THE USE AND ABUSE OF ANABOLIC STEROIDS HAS SEVERAL WELL-DOCUMENTED ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES.
Hair loss is the least of the side effects. Use of anabolic steroids – to improve athletic performance, or for many men, to simply alter their appearance – has several well-documented adverse consequences. They include high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, severe acne, fluid retention, liver damage and jaundice, sexual disorders, testicular atrophy, decrease in sperm production, prostate enlargement, decreased hormone levels, mood swings, poor judgment due to feelings of invincibility, depression, anxiety, irritability, delusions, hostility and aggression. Also, the use of injection needles for any purpose risks transmission of hepatitis and HIV.
These unintended effects can and do kill. From 1997 through 2007, 65 professional wrestlers died before their 50th birthdays. According to Dave Meltzer, editor of Wrestling Observer Newsletter and someone with 30 years experience covering the sport, the vast majority of these premature deaths are due to drug overdose, suicide, heart attack, and liver or kidney failure – each common side effects associated with anabolic steroid use. An exact cause-and-effect relationship is disputed and there are many variables (physical dangers in the sport, lifestyle influences in pro wrestlers, etc.). But the morphing of professional wrestlers’ physiques – like many seen in professional baseball and football – is fairly obvious. Of note: professional wrestlers are not subject to drug testing.
Use of steroids is widespread, even among high school athletes. Blame evolving aesthetic standards for the male physique – in 1972, 18 percent of men disliked their upper torso, but by 1996 that had risen to 38 percent. We’ve done a great job at becoming more insecure in recent years.
And now, with testosterone replacement therapy advertising on TV, Solvay Pharmaceuticals is telling middle-aged men that declining energy, libido and physical prowess can be addressed with AndroGel, available by prescription. The company says that 13 million American men are its target market. My bet is almost anyone over the age of 40 can identify with the symptoms cited in the commercials.
In other words, dude, the pressure is on. What are you going to do?
Steroids and hormone replacements … you’re messing with nature
Jim Occhiogrosso, a Doctor of Naturopathy and author of Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life sees men aged 50+ in his practice that focuses on erectile dysfunction, prostate enlargement and prostatitis. Is erectile function important to older guys? “Definitely,” he told me. “Having a healthy sex life matters to them very much.” And while the bulk of his patients have had prostate enlargement or cancer, some patients had complete erectile dysfunction (ED) due to use of anabolic steroids. Their testicles were shrank “to the size of raisins,” a degree of atrophy that is difficult and likely impossible to reverse.
Occhiogrosso, an avid racquetball player who also does light resistance training, interacts socially with guys at his gym and is deeply concerned with what he sees. He once witnessed a heavy steroid user drop dead in the workout area. Among other guys who use steroids, he says there is much denial. “’That won’t happen to me,’ is what they say,” he says.
The recent introduction of AndroGel to a mass market via television advertising is an ominous development as well, Occhiogrosso notes, particular because it’s being sold as a way to spark up one’s love life. “Most guys I see don’t even have low testosterone,” he says. ED and libido are largely rooted in psychology and endothelial dysfunction, he says, and “many are super nutrient deficient.”
One person I spoke with for this story reports her father took DHEA, an androgen supplement, in combination with testosterone shots to stave off aging. “He had a terrible reaction that threw him into a manic state,” she told me. “I’m talking full-on batshit crazy.”
The natural alternative to steroids and Testosterone
Which brings us to the natural solution. Occhiogrosso says he’s seen patients turn around their ED within two months, just by improving their diet. And he concurs with other fitness professionals that the key is smart exercise along with good nutrition.
What constitutes smart exercise for anyone interested in building larger muscles – which, it should be noted, has the effect of increasing naturally-produced testosterone? In a nutshell, it’s resistance training that challenges the muscles to a greater degree than ever done previously. For specific tips, see other articles about exercise and nutrition on this website. By definition your exercise program should be strenuous, consistent, engage the whole body and be symmetrical.
Which is another way of saying it ain’t easy. Much like other things in life: the more work required, usually the more satisfying and healthy it is – no additional hair loss required.