The link between anabolic steroid use and male fertility

The term “anabolic” refers to the body’s process of using energy to promote physical growth and regulate metabolism. “Androgens” are important for the development of male sex characteristics (think muscle growth, hair growth, deep voice, etc.).

 

Anabolic-Androgen Steroids (AAS) are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone that are often medically prescribed to treat hormone imbalance conditions such as hypogonadism (low T), impotency, delayed puberty, breast cancer in women and other conditions.

 

However, for decades people have been misusing and abusing anabolic steroids to gain a boost in the gym and improve athletic performance. And lately androgen misuse has become a serious global public health concern due to a transition from use for strictly sport to a much wider spectrum of the population. The effects of anabolic steroid abuse on reproductive fertility has been well documented in the past and suggests that the recent increments seen in androgen misuse over the world may have contributed in part to the global decline in male fertility.

 

The Olympics banned steroid use in 1974 and all anabolic steroids were subsequently classified as DEA Schedule III drugs. But those bans did not stop the underground market for steroids as a growing population of both professional and non-professional athletes, such as weightlifters, bodybuilders, baseball players, soccer players and wrestlers started using these image- and performance- enhancing drugs in their regular lives. An estimated 3-4 million Americans, most of which are likely to be non-professional male athletes between 20 and 30, are using anabolic to increase muscle mass and performance for sport, or for cosmetic purposes such as enhancing their physical appearance.

 

These drugs are often obtained from the internet and other dubious sources meaning that they haven’t undergone proper testing and may potentially have been contaminated (cut) with unknown chemicals. Moreover, users are highly likely to consume them at high doses and combined with concomitant illegal drug use, which increases the probability of the user engaging in health risk or problem behaviours, such as drinking and driving, carrying a gun, STDs and suicide.

 

In addition anabolic steroids have a tremendous negative impact on fertility. Steroids raise men’s testosterone levels so much that it suppresses the body’s natural production of FSH and LH, and in turn natural testosterone which hinders or halts the creation of sperm. Steroids also can lead to testicular atrophy (ie your  balls get smaller), erectile dysfunction, gynecomastia (man boobs) and acne. In women, steroids often disrupt ovarian function as well as propagate hirsutism, acne and deepening of the voice.

 

In addition to the risks described above, male steroid users tend to have lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression, more suicide attempts, poor knowledge and attitudes about health and might have great concerns regarding weight gain, eating disorders and substance abuse. If you’re a steroid user, or considering starting a steroid regiment, we urge you to think twice. There’s more to life than big delts and chiseled calves. But if you do decide to do it, please do it under the care of a medical professional to minimize the risks to you and your health.