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FDA Steps Up Warnings for Testosterone, Other Steroids

Testosterone and other steroids can not only cause heart attacks, but people can easily abuse them, the FDA says.
Vials of testosterone medication
Vials of testosterone medicationFrank Rumpenhorst / dpa/AP file

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it’s stepping up warnings about testosterone and other steroid drugs.

Not only can the drugs cause heart attacks, personality changes and infertility, but people can easily abuse them, the FDA said.

“The new warning will alert prescribers to the abuse potential of testosterone and the serious adverse outcomes, especially those related to heart and mental health that have been reported in association with testosterone/anabolic androgenic steroidabuse,” the FDA said in a statement.

Related: Steroids Carry Addiction Risk

“Reported serious adverse outcomes include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, depression, hostility, aggression, liver toxicity and male infertility. Individuals abusing high doses of testosterone have also reported withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, decreased libido and insomnia,” it added.

It said testosterone labeling will also be revised.

The FDA has previously warned against over-promotion and overuse of testosterone replacement products, saying they can raise the risk of heart disease. They are approved to treat men will medically diagnosed low levels of testosterone.

Related: Testosterone Replacement Can Raise Blood Clot Risk

The FDA does not approve the use of testosterone to treat the effects of aging. But it's already a $2 billion industry, with millions of men buying gel, pills or getting injections.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of testosterone. They are legally prescribed to treat conditions such as delayed puberty and diseases that cause muscle loss, such as cancer or AIDS.

“But some athletes and bodybuilders abuse these drugs to boost performance or improve their physical appearance,” the National Institute on Drug Abuse says.

Related: Testosterone Gives Some Men back Their Pep

“Long-term steroid abuse can act on some of the same brain pathways and chemicals — including dopamine, serotonin and opioid systems — that are affected by other drugs. This may result in a significant effect on mood and behavior.”

Long-term abuse of anabolic steroids can cause a range of health effects, including shrinking testicles, kidney failure and baldness.