The nitrogen-retaining eﬀect of ANDROGEN, a steroid hormone, is responsible for the larger muscle mass of the male. This is called an anabolic eﬀect. Attempts have been made to separate the anabolic eﬀects of hormones from their virilising eﬀects (see VIRILISATION), but these have been only partially successful. Thus, anabolic steroids have the property of protein-building so that when taken, they lead to an increase in muscle bulk and strength. All the anabolic steroids have some androgenic activity but they cause less virilisation than androgens in women. Androgenic side-eﬀects may result from any of these anabolic compounds, especially if they are given for prolonged periods: for this reason they should all be used with caution in women, and are contraindicated in men with prostatic carcinoma. Jaundice due to stasis of bile in the intrahepatic canaliculi is a hazard, and the depression of pituitary gonadotrophin production is a possible complication.
Anabolic steroids have been used to stimulate protein anabolism in debilitating illness, and to promote growth in children with pituitary dwarﬁsm and other disorders associated with interference of growth. Stimulation of protein anabolism may also be of value in acute renal failure, and the retention of nitrogen and calcium is of probable beneﬁt to patients with OSTEOPOROSIS and to patients receiving corticosteroid therapy. Anabolic steroids may stimulate bone-marrow function in hypoplastic ANAEMIA.
They have been widely abused by athletes and body-builders aiming to improve their strength, stamina, speed or body size. However, there are considerable doubts over their eﬃcacy, with little experimental evidence that they work. Dangerous adverse eﬀects include precocious myocardial infarction (see HEART, DISEASES OF – Coronary thrombosis), DIABETES MELLITUS, liver disease, precocious carcinoma of the prostate, acne, and severe psychiatric disorders. Anabolic steroids should not be used by athletes, who face bans from oﬃcial competitions if they take them.
The anabolic steroids in therapeutic use include nandrolone and stanozolol.