"Like all retrospective, self-report papers, there can be inherent flaws from drawing too many conclusions, especially of potentially distant events, like injuries," Goldberg said. "Some of the differences may be true, true and unrelated. Because it is a large sample, there can be statistical differences but not clinical differences."
And most studies reporting the adverse effects of steroid use do not report the dose of steroids taken nor how long the user took them, Goldberg added. "When statistical evidence exists, then a theoretical basis for this occurrence should be forwarded," he said. "Why did this happen? The authors say it may be weight but are, of course, unsure."
According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, the major side effects of anabolic-androgenic steroid abuse 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. For men, use of the substances has also been tied to shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts and an increased risk for prostate cancer.
Goldberg said that the study's finding that depression and alcohol abuse was greater among anabolic steroid users is especially interesting.
"Alcohol use and other substance abuse [tied to steroid use] have been reported in the medical literature," he said. "This bolsters the claim. Mood disturbances such as depression, hypomania (irritability), psychotic features may be dose- and particular drug-type-related. The use of steroids and the potential changes in neurotransmitters has also been noted."
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on the dangers of steroid use.
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