Steroid drugs are a class of synthetic compounds that act to mimic hormones that occur naturally within the body, such as testosterone. There are three major types of steroids: anabolic, androgenic and corticosteroids. Androgenic steroids and corticosteroids are typically utilized in the treatment of a number of medical conditions. Anabolic steroids, which may be used to treat certain medical conditions, are the type of steroids abused by some athletes and weightlifters. Long-term use of steroids can have several consequences.
If steroids are taken as prescribed or abused for an extended period of time, certain people may have problems involving growth and development. Children in particular are at an increased risk of severe growth inhibition, which may delay the onset of puberty or can influence growth factors such as height.
People who take prescription steroids or abuse steroids may experience an increase in body weight. Steroids may influence the levels of salt or water that the body retains and can cause increased amount of fat to build up around the face, stomach or upper back, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Steroids can also stimulate your appetite, which may cause you to eat more food than your body needs.
Legitimate or illegal use of steroids may cause a number of behavioral changes to occur in certain people. Severe mood swings—which may include episodes of depression, irritability, hostility or aggression—may severely impact the social and work relationships of people who use steroids.
In certain people, steroid use can cause chronically high levels of blood sugar to circulate throughout the body. High blood sugar levels may lead to the development of diabetes in certain people. Diabetes is a medical condition characterized by the inability of the body to effectively regulate blood sugar levels.
Liver and Heart Damage
Long-term side effects of steroid use may include liver or heart damage in certain people, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Men and women who use steroids are at an increased risk of heart attack, high cholesterol levels and liver cancer. Certain people who take steroids may also develop high blood pressure or jaundice.
Sexual and Reproductive Disorders
Steroid use may lead to a number of sexual and reproductive disorders in both men and women. The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Diversion Control notes that men who take steroids may experience long-term side effects such as a decreased sex drive, diminished sperm count, breast and prostate enlargement, decreased hormone levels or sterility. Women who use steroids may experience irregular menstrual cycles or infertility. Some women may begin to develop masculine qualities, such as facial hair or a permanently deepened voice.