The increased mortality risk of the average steroid user
How deadly are steroids exactly? We already had research among elite-powerlifters [Int J Sports Med. 2000 Apr;21(3):225-7.] and a study among steroid users [Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Jul 1;152:87-92.] who had come into contact with the law, and both studies came up with some disturbing conclusions. However, those studies may not tell us much of the risks the average steroid user faces. Henrik Horwitz of the University of Copenhagen will soon publish a study in the Journal of Internal Medicine that will make us wiser.
In Denmark, 342 fitness centers and gyms are participating in an anti-doping program, that implies that visitors with an
impressive suspicious physique can be tested for doping. When they are positive, their gym membership is suspended for 2 years.
In the period between 2006 and 2018, the program caught about 1,200 Danes. The researchers, who by the way were paid by Anti Doping Denmark, followed 545 steroid users for about ten years, and kept track of how many of them died. The study was exclusively about men.
The Danes then compared mortality among steroids users with mortality among comparable Danish men.
The chance that a user died in a period of roughly 10 years was a factor 3 higher than the chance that a typical Danish man died.
In 2015, Swedish criminologists reported in a similar study that steroids use increased the chance of death by a factor of 19. [Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015 Jul 1;152:87-92.] However, those steroids users were tested by the police and prisons. This group may not be representative of the average steroid users. The users in the new Danish study probably do, the researchers think.
Nevertheless, the Danish study can underestimate the health effects of steroids use. The average steroids user in the researchers' database was 26 years.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the abuse of steroids takes its toll in middle and older age.
"Androgenic anabolic steroids users have an increased risk of dying and significantly more hospital admissions than their nonuser peers, and a high rate of side effects related to the pharmacodynamic properties of these drugs", the reserachers conclude. "Based on the high prevalence of androgenic anabolic steroids abuse, these side effects are a public health concern."
J Intern Med. 2018 Nov 20. doi: 10.1111/joim.12850. [Epub ahead of print].
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