Anabolic Steroids Can Lead to Suppressed Testosterone Years After Stopping
By: Robbie Durand
Coming off anabolic steroids is associated with a decrease in muscle size and strength in conjunction with psychological issues such as depression as well. It is well known that natural levels are suppressed after use of anabolic steroids, but a new study suggests that it may be longer than lifters think. Scientific data on anabolic steroid withdrawal are limited, but symptoms and signs of hypogonadism such as testicular atrophy, low plasma testosterone levels, impaired spermatogenesis (i.e. low sperm production), erectile dysfunction, fatigue, decreased libido and depressive symptoms; and is considered to resolve spontaneously within 6 to 12 months.
A recent study published in PLOS titled, “Former Abusers of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids Exhibit Decreased Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadal Symptoms Years after Cessation: A Case-Control Study” suggests that withdrawal of anabolic can take years for natural testosterone levels to recover. This study had a cross-sectional case-control design and involved 37 current anabolic steroid abusers, 33 former anabolic steroid abusers elapsed duration since anabolic steroid cessation: 2.5 years and 30 healthy control participants. All participants were aged 18–50 years and were involved in recreational strength training. Reproductive hormones (FSH, LH, testosterone, inhibin B and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH)) were measured using morning blood samples. Symptoms of hypogonadism (depressive symptoms, fatigue, decreased libido and erectile dysfunction) were recorded systematically.
2-Years Later and Testosterone Still Depressed
The results were shocking in that former anabolic steroid abusers exhibited significantly lower median total and free testosterone levels than control participants (total testosterone: 14.4 (11.9–17.7) nmol/l vs. 18.8 (16.6–22.0) nmol/l). Overall, 27.2% of former anabolic steroid abusers exhibited plasma total testosterone levels below the lower reference limit (12.1 nmol/l) whereas no control participants exhibited testosterone below this limit. Gonadotropins were significantly suppressed, and inhibin B and AMH were significantly decreased in current anabolic steroid abusers compared with former anabolic steroid abusers and control participants. The group of former anabolic steroid abusers had higher proportions of participants with depressive symptoms, erectile dysfunction, and decreased libido than the other two groups.
Results from the study:
The key findings of this study were that the group of former anabolic steroid abusers exhibited significantly lower plasma total and free testosterone, smaller testicular sizes, and featured a higher proportion of participants with depressive symptoms, fatigue, erectile dysfunction and decreased libido than the control group more than two years after anabolic steroid cessation.
Rasmussen JJ, Selmer C, Østergren PB, Pedersen KB, Schou M, Gustafsson F, Faber J, Juul A, Kistorp C. Former Abusers of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids Exhibit Decreased Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadal Symptoms Years after Cessation: A Case-Control Study. PLoS One. 2016 Aug 17;11(8):e0161208.
Nieschlag E, Vorona E. MECHANISMS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY: Medical consequences of doping with anabolic androgenic steroids: effects on reproductive functions. European journal of endocrinology / European Federation of Endocrine Societies. 2015;173(2):R47–58.
Rahnema CD, Lipshultz LI, Crosnoe LE, Kovac JR, Kim ED. Anabolic steroid-induced hypogonadism: diagnosis and treatment. Fertil Steril. 2014;101(5):1271–9. Epub 2014/03/19.