There is no controversy for men who have decrease in libido, decrease in energy levels and a blood test that confirms the diagnosis of low testosterone or low T. These men can be helped with hormone replacement therapy consisting of testosterone injections, application of topical gels containing testosterone or the use of testosterone pellets inserted beneath the skin. Treating men with low testosterone levels, who have symptoms of low T, is good medical practice, and the men who are treated are most grateful that testosterone has been prescribed. These men who are receiving testosterone replacement therapy must have a regular follow-up and have a prostate examination, a test consisting of blood count, a PSA level and perhaps a testosterone level.
Men with Normal Testosterone Levels
I don’t know of any physicians who would condone the use of anabolic steroids, or testosterone like medications, in men with normal testosterone levels, whose only complaint is desire to increase their muscle mass or their athletic performance. The use of anabolic steroids in young men is fraught with danger and can result in permanent hormone deficiency and permanent infertility. Testosterone was first identified in 1935 as responsible for its masculinizing effects, along with the effect of increasing lean muscle mass.
Recently, the illicit use of performance enhancing drugs has become an issue for athletes and those men wishing to increase their athletic performance, their strength and their muscle mass. It is estimated that there are three million anabolic steroid users and abusers. And now, we have found that nearly five to six percent of middle and high school students have in the past or are currently using anabolic steroids. These anabolic drugs are now identified to negatively affect the pituitary (small pea-sized gland at the base of the brain) gland hormones that stimulate the testicle to produce testosterone. These drugs result in prolonged reduction of natural testosterone production and may cause a decrease in production for many months and maybe even permanently in men who have used and abused anabolic steroids.
Most men will return to baseline natural production of testosterone in one to two years, after discontinuing the use of anabolic steroids. There are numerous reports of profound suppression of testosterone in nearly half of all men who have used anabolic steroids. Because anabolic steroids can have a profound reduction in sperm production, men should understand the consequences of anabolic steroid use. That is, if they want to father a child, they need to stay farther away from anabolic steroids.
Bottom Line: Anabolic steroid abuse can affect a man’s production of testosterone and may cause permanent reduction in testosterone production by a man’s testicles. I suggest that all men who might consider using anabolic steroids to take this into consideration before making a bad choice that may affect their health and well-being forever.
Dr. Neil Baum is a physician at Touro Infirmary. He can be reached at (504) 891-8454 or via his website, www.neilbaum.com