Can Anabolic Steroid use cause Erectile Dysfunction?
In the aim to create the perfect body image, many men hop into the gym and start bodybuilding, usually following a weight lifting regime that best encourages anabolic muscle growth. This type of exercise is good for men as over time it increases the amount of natural testosterone the body makes, making it stronger, leaner (increased muscle mass) and potentiating (increasing) a man’s sex drive.
In the aim for something "greater" than this, some bodybuilders will use anabolic steroids. The way they work generally is they increase the amount of testosterone in the body, adding to what’s already there (adding "exogenous" testosterone to the body's own level of "endogenous" testosterone). The idea being MORE TESTOSTERONE = MORE MUSCLE. The use of anabolic steroids is usually cycled i.e. there is a period where the man is using followed by abstinence then cycled again until their goal is reached. The period where the bodybuilder isn’t “using” is to get the body back to “normal” function.
This sounds great….what’s the problem?
- Firstly the use of anabolic steroids without a prescription is ILLEGAL. They are classed as a schedule 4 controlled drugs in the UK and on the street they are a CLASS C banned substance. They are banned in sports and most athletes are tested for their use. It is widely known that they are used illegally with there also being some high profile cases of athletes being found to use them every year (most recent one being Brock Lesnar in the UFC 2016)
- They reduce a man’s ability to make his own testosterone. This can be short term or long term and dependent on how frequently and how much anabolic steroid was used. This is the main reason why erectile dysfunction occurs in men who use anabolic steroids. The excess testosterone in the body causes the body to down-regulate (decrease) its own testosterone production and men who use anabolic steroids usually, but not always, feel the effects of this after they have finished using the steroid i.e. the time in the cycle when they’re off steroid use. As well as erectile dysfunction, lowering the body’s own ability to manufacture testosterone can cause shrunken testicles, infertility (inability to have children) and a reduced sperm count.
- Anabolic steroids are addictive and can cause dependence. They can also cause some serious psychological effects to the person taking them. These include aggressive behaviour, mood swings, manic behaviour and hallucinations. Stopping them suddenly can result in quite serious psychological withdrawal symptoms. These can include depression, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, headaches and decreased sex drive. Most of these compound the physical side effects of anabolic steroid and can worsen erectile problems.
If I have used anabolic steroids and experienced ED what can I do?
- STOP USING ANABOLIC STEROIDS. This is probably a given but needs to be pointed out anyway. This is the most important thing to do, especially if you’re addicted to them. The damage done by steroids can vary but generally it takes 3-12 months for testosterone levels and sperm count to return to normal level after stopping. If you feel you are addicted and would like support to quit then you can find help at a local substance misuse support centre. There are many now with experts in anabolic steroid addiction and they can be very helpful and supportive in helping you to come off them. It is important to seek help from a healthcare professional if you are finding it difficult stop. Finding your nearest centre is easy via google.
- VISIT YOUR GP. This might be obvious but many men do not and this is because they worry about what the GP will say. Your GP is fully clued up on why you would abuse steroids. But they are also fully clued up on your anatomy and how your body works. They can’t help you if you don’t talk to them.
- Prescribed PDE-5 inhibitors such as Viagra (Sildenafil), Cialis, Spedra, Levitra etc can help in the short term allowing you to return to a normal life while stopping steroids. They help with the physical problems with ED. The psychological issues will have to be addressed separately. If taking tablets is a problem then using a prostaglandin cream like Vitaros can help in the same way and is unlikely to interact with any other medication you might be taking. They do not offer a permanent solution and still require you to be sexually stimulated for them to work. To review and purchase treatment for Erectile Dysfunction click here.