A number of unhealthy and damaging effects may result from the use of anabolic steroids that can lead to both emotional and physical problems. Studies have shown that abuse of steroids can increase aggressive behavior, cause mood swings, and impair judgment. Other reported effects include male-pattern baldness, acne, and liver damage. Using steroids can increase the risk of heart disease, stimulate the growth of certain cancers, and worsen other medical problems.
Steroids taken orally (by mouth) have been linked to liver disease. Steroids taken by injection (by needle) can increase the risk of infectious diseases such as hepatitis or AIDS. In one study, 25% of steroid users shared needles.
Equally troubling, anabolic steroids can prevent a person from reaching their natural height. Young, developing bodies are particularly sensitive to anabolic steroids, and some of the side effects may be permanent. In addition to stunting height among growing adolescents, these steroids can trigger the growth of breasts in males. This can happen because the chemical structure of certain anabolic steroids is converted to the female hormone estrogen by a chemical reaction in the body.
On the other hand, females may develop a deeper voice, an enlarged clitoris, and facial hair growth caused by the masculinizing effect of testosterone-like hormones. Women and girls also may experience the loss of scalp hair as well. These are potentially permanent side effects. Although long-term studies are scarce, experts believe that some harmful effects may not appear until many years after the abuse of these drugs.