Anabolic steroids: dependence and complications of chronic use

Intern Emerg Med. 2009 Aug;4(4):289-96. doi: 10.1007/s11739-009-0260-5. Epub 2009 May 26.


Anabolic steroids are widely used for doping, in professional and domestic sports. The mechanism of action is not completely understood. It may differ somewhat depending on the specific molecule due to structural differences that influence the specificity of binding with steroid receptors. When used by athletes in training, they can improve performance to levels that cannot be attained by almost any combination of sophisticated nonchemical support by modern sport science. The severity of the undesired effects of anabolic steroids depends on a variety of factors, from the type and combination of them, the dose and duration of administration, as well as the gender of the person taking the drug. Younger individuals and women show greater effects caused by anabolic steroids in terms of performance, but are also at greater risk of side effects. This paper presents a review of the literature concerning the major adverse effects of anabolic steroids, focusing the attention on possible situations of addiction from this category of drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology
  • Contraindications
  • Doping in Sports
  • Humans
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • Anabolic Agents