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Gear / PEDs

Let’s start by saying I, in no way, condone the use of illicit substances without the consultation and prescription from a licensed medical provider. We’re going to touch on the effects of some anabolic steroids. Anabolic refers to muscle building and androgenic refers to an increase in male sex characteristics.

Gear, Juice, ‘Roids – whatever you want to call them. Believe it or not, there ARE medical uses for many of the performance enhancing drugs that many strength athletes use. Exogenous testosterone is used for hormone replacement in men and women when there is a deficit.

When you are misusing these substances, it can lead to what we call “roid rage,” delusions, mania, extreme paranoia. These are all negative mental effects of many drugs. Long term effects of steroid use can include:

  • Renal failure

  • Hepatic failure

  • Cardiomegaly

  • Increase in risk of clots


  • Virilizing effects (male sex characteristics)

  • Facial/body hair growth

  • Decrease in breast size and tissue

  • Baldness

  • Enlarged clitoris

  • Deepened voice


  • Increased facial hair

  • Decrease in testicular size

  • Decreased sperm

  • Gynecomastia

  • Increased risk for certain cancers (i.e prostate)

Even something as seemingly harmless as testosterone replacement can have a negative effect on the body such as thickening of the blood. The risk for blood thickening while on TRT is over 300% more than if not taking it. Exogenous testosterone can stimulate growth of many things, not just muscles. It can stimulate the bone marrow due to the increases in erythropoietin released from the kidneys. Because of the huge, increased risk of thickening of the blood due to exogenous testosterone, the risk for veno-thrombotic events (VTE) also increases exponentially. The increase in red blood cells leads to increased oxygen carrying capability and hemoglobin which is the protein on the RBC that carries the oxygen. Testosterone isn’t picky about where things are growing, including the nephrotrophic effects on the kidney (this means the kidneys also enlarge).

Things like deca also contribute to these major risk factors. Deca increases risks for carcinomas, fluid retention, hepatic failure, severe bleeding as well as blood thickening due to androgen-mediated polycythemia. In fact, most androgens have the nephrotrophic effect and can all contribute to the thickening of the blood when misused or used while not under the care of a medical professional. The side effects of both test and deca are usually dose dependent, thus the higher the dose, the more risk for these unpleasant and fatal side effects. Again, ANY androgen (test, deca, dbol, halo, etc) can cause any or all of the above side effects and increased risks.

How do we get past this? Don’t do drugs unless under the care of a licensed medical professional that will run regular lab work and blood levels. Many strength athletes partake in bloodletting by process of blood donation. The American Red Cross has specific guidelines for blood donation including, but not limited to, donation no earlier than every 56 days, general good health, must be sixteen years old and at least 110 pounds. There are things that can limit blood donation such as if you recently got a tattoo. There is a waiting period for that. If you plan to partake in drug use that has a risk of increased blood viscosity, you have to think about all the ways to protect yourself as well. Maybe wait on that tattoo if you’re taking EPO and make sure you are consuming enough iron. Low iron levels can also prevent you from donating. Another option is medicinal leeches, if you’re into that sort of thing. Leeches produce a protein called hirudin which prevents clots from forming while they are also “sucking” your blood. A quick little google search will bring up all the sketchy places to purchase leeches for home use. Again, I always recommend being under the care of a licensed medical professional before partaking in anything like this, including drug use.

Natanya Gornstein-Talotti MEd, BSN, RN, CSN

Nomad Chapter

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