But they can produce a variety of dangerous side effects, including heart trouble.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, the major side effects can include high blood pressure; increases in LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol); liver tumors and cancer; kidney tumors; severe acne; and trembling. There are also some gender-specific side effects:
- For men -- shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, and increased risk for prostate cancer.
- For women -- growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, a deepened voice.
- For teens -- growth halted prematurely through premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes. This means that adolescents risk remaining short for the remainder of their lives if they take anabolic steroids before the typical adolescent growth spurt.
"For males in the U.S., heart disease is the number one cause of death, and steroid abuse makes heart disease even worse," Dr. Linn Goldberg, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University, and an expert on steroid abuse, told HealthDay following the 2004 heart-attack death of Caminiti, who had admitted to abusing both steroids and cocaine.
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and medical director of the Women's Heart Program at New York University School of Medicine, said steroids raise almost all heart disease risk factors.
"One, steroid use raises blood pressure," she told HealthDay. "Two, it can also alter your sugar metabolism, so you have an increased risk of diabetes. Three, it makes the arteries vulnerable since, because of elevated cholesterol, you get cholesterol plaque buildup."
Steroid abuse can also cause a dangerous thickening of heart muscle called hyper
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