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Arch Hellen Med, 26(5), September-October 2009, 601-610


Anabolic steroids: A review of the literature

"N.S. Cristeas" Laboratory for Experimental Surgery and Surgical Research, University of Athens, School of Medicine, Athens, Greece

Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone. The use of anabolic steroids has spread considerably over recent decades, attracting the attention not only of professional athletes but also of the wider population. Anabolic steroids are used not only for the enhancement of athletic performance, but also for cosmetic and recreational purposes. The uncontrolled use of these compounds exerts deleterious effects on the health of the users, who in many cases are unaware of their hazards. Despite the clandestine atmosphere surrounding their use, during recent years the therapeutic value of anabolic steroids has been recognized by the medical world for several pathological conditions. This literature review presents the most commonly used compounds, their mechanisms of action at different levels and the physiological effects that anabolic steroids exert on the organism. Epidemiological data show that the problem of the massive consumption of anabolic steroids may have been underestimated. The therapeutic indications for these drugs are presented, and the most common side effects are reported, which affect most of the systems, and in multiple ways. The aim of this review is to provide information about the use of anabolic steroids in order to help the physician to recognize this specific group of disparate patient-users (body builders, teenagers, professional athletes) and to be able to detect health problems associated with abuse of anabolic steroids. The incorporation of evidence based arguments in the efforts of persuading these patients to discontinue the use of these compounds is the safest way to deal with this public health issue.

Key words: Anabolic steroids, Doping.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine