Side effects of anabolic androgenic steroids: pathological findings and structure-activity relationships

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2010;(195):459-84. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-79088-4_19.


Side effects of anabolic steroids with relevance in forensic medicine are mainly due to life-threatening health risks with potential fatal outcome and cases of uncertain limitations of criminal liability after steroid administration. Both problems are typically associated with long-term abuse and excessive overdose of anabolic steroids. Side effects may be due to direct genomic or nongenomic activities (myotrophic, hepatotoxic), can result from down-regulation of endogenous biosynthesis (antiandrogenic) or be indirect consequence of steroid biotransformation (estrogenic).Logically, there are no systematic clinical studies available and the number of causally determined fatalities is fairly limited. The following compilation reviews typical abundant observations in cases where nonnatural deaths (mostly liver failure and sudden cardiac death) were concurrent with steroid abuse. Moreover, frequent associations between structural characteristics and typical side effects are summarized.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anabolic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anabolic Agents / chemistry
  • Anabolic Agents / metabolism
  • Anabolic Agents / pharmacology
  • Androgens / adverse effects*
  • Androgens / chemistry
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Androgens / pharmacology
  • Biotransformation
  • Doping in Sports*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Psychoses, Substance-Induced / psychology
  • Steroids / adverse effects*
  • Steroids / chemistry
  • Steroids / metabolism
  • Steroids / pharmacology


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens
  • Steroids