Adverse health effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids

Jan van Amsterdam*, Antoon Opperhuizen, Fred Hartgens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetic drugs derived from testosterone. Illegally, these drugs are regularly self-administered by body builders and power lifters to enhance their sportive performance. Adverse side effects of AAS include sexual dysfunction, alterations of the cardiovascular system, psyche and behavior, and liver toxicity. However, severe side effects appear only following prolonged use of AAS at high dose and their occurrence is limited. Occasionally, AAS abuse may be linked to certain social and psychological traits of the user, like low self-esteem, low self-confidence, suffered hostility, childhood conduct disorder, and tendency to high-risk behavior. The overwhelming stereotype about AAS is that these compounds cause aggressive behavior in males. However, the underlying personality traits of a specific subgroup of the AAS abusers, who show aggression and hostility, may be relevant, as well. Use of AAS in combination with alcohol largely increases the risk of violence and aggression. The dependence liability of AAS is very low, and withdrawal effects are relatively mild. Based on the scores for acute and chronic adverse health effects, the prevalence of use, social harm and criminality, AAS were ranked among 19 illicit drugs as a group of drugs with a relatively low harm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-123
JournalRegulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • Anabolic steroids
  • Illicit drugs
  • Risk assessment
  • Aggression Hepatotoxicity

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