Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) have a reputation for producing unpleasant side effects, which is a reason their use is banned in many countries. Research shows that the undesirable effects they could produce include inability to remember things.
In a study which was conducted at the Northumbria University in the UK, scientists found that male gym users who used steroids had considerable memory issues. They experienced a greater decline in both prospective and retrospective memory functioning, compared to those who didn’t use the illegal steroids. They also suffered more deficits in their executive functions.
Prospective memory has to do with the ability to remember what needs to be done. Retrospective memory, on the other hand, refers to the ability to recall past information and events.
Anabolic steroids such as Deca Durabolin, Anavar, Winstrol, and Anadrol are commonly used these days to increase muscle growth and lean muscle mass as well as to boost performance. They became popular for these purposes among professional bodybuilders and athletes in the 1960s.
The compounds are now used on a wider scale today. Some estimate has it that about 2, or more, in every 5 professional bodybuilders and weightlifters use them. Even people who don’t belong to the original groups of users now use these substances.
Gym steroid users often use the compounds in doses that are way higher than what is typically used for medical purposes. This, of course, exposes them to unpleasant side effects.
The Northumbria study that reported memory issues from steroid use by gym-goers appeared in The Open Psychiatry Journal.
Assessing the effects
It is already well-known that AAS abuse, as is commonly the case among gym users, can lead to awful side effects, both physical and psychological. Among these are water retention, kidney problems, liver damage, depression, high blood pressure, violent behaviors, and heart problems.
However, not a lot was known about how illicit substances could adversely impact memory and learning.
An earlier study by researchers at Harvard University showed some effects that steroid use can have on long-term users. They found that such people fared considerably worse, compared to non-users, in visuospatial memory task that required recalling visual patterns previously seen.
The Northumbria University research took things further by investigating the effect on memory in a sporting context as well as how daily activities may be impacted.
The researchers surveyed online almost 100 male, regular gym goers whose ages fell in the range 18 to 30 years. Half of these participants used steroids, while the other half didn’t.
Those who used the compounds had done so regularly for an average of four years. Some had used AAS for up to eight years.
Each participant was required to complete three questionnaires measuring retrospective memory, prospective memory, and executive function.
“Overall the health-related risks of long-term steroid use are fairly well documented but we know much less about what the everyday consequences of their use may be,” said Tom Heffernan of the Department of Psychology at Northumbria University.
Steroid users in the study reported being about 28 percent more forgetful when considering retrospective memory. They were even more forgetful (39 percent) in terms of prospective memory – that is, they found it harder remembering things they needed to do.
The subjects who used steroids also reported about a 32 percent decline in their executive function. They found it more difficult to process information, pay attention and perform tasks.
Heffernan stated the findings suggested that long-term AAS use could have undesirable effects on many spheres of life. It may affect job performance, interpersonal relationships, health and performance at school.
The researchers hoped the study and the previous one done at Harvard may encourage future research in this direction.
- Taking gym steroids can affect your learning and memory (http://theconversation.com/taking-gym-steroids-can-affect-your-learning-and-memory-44327)