Scientific Statement

Adverse Health Consequences of Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Full Statement: Adverse Health Consequences of Performance-Enhancing Drugs: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement
Endocrine Reviews, Volume 35, Issue 3, June 2014

Harrison G. Pope, Jr., Ruth I. Wood, Alan Rogol, Fred Nyberg, Larry Bowers, Shalender Bhasin


Despite the high prevalence of performance-enhancing drug (PED) use, media attention has focused almost entirely on PED use by elite athletes to illicitly gain a competitive advantage in sports, and not on the health risks of PEDs. There is a widespread misperception that PED use is safe or that adverse effects are manageable. In reality, the vast majority of PED users are not athletes but rather nonathlete weightlifters, and the adverse health effects of PED use are greatly underappreciated. Figure 3 - Adverse Health Consequences of Performance-Enhancing Drugs: An Endocrine Society Scientific StatementThis scientific statement synthesizes available information on the medical consequences of PED use, identifies gaps in knowledge, and aims to focus the attention of the medical community and policymakers on PED use as an important public health problem. PED users frequently consume highly supraphysiologic doses of PEDs, combine them with other PEDs and/or other classical drugs of abuse, and display additional associated risk factors. PED use has been linked to an increased risk of death and a wide variety of cardiovascular, psychiatric, metabolic, endocrine, neurologic, infectious, hepatic, renal, and musculoskeletal disorders. Because randomized trials cannot ethically duplicate the large doses of PEDs and the many factors associated with PED use, we need observational studies to collect valid outcome data on the health risks associated with PEDs. In addition, we need studies regarding the prevalence of PED use, the mechanisms by which PEDs exert their adverse health effects, and the interactive effects of PEDs with sports injuries and other high-risk behaviors. We also need randomized trials to assess therapeutic interventions for treating the adverse effects of PEDs, such as the anabolic-androgen steroid withdrawal syndrome. Finally, we need to raise public awareness of the serious health consequences of PEDs.

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Scientific Statements educate basic scientists, clinical scientists, and clinicians on the scientific basis of disease and on how this knowledge can be applied in clinical practice. These publications provide an evidence-based overview of basic and clinical science topics and identify areas that require additional research. Topics are selected on the basis of their emerging scientific impact on disease and their clinical relevance to the general population. Scientific Statements are developed by a multidisciplinary Task Force of experts with representation from several committees within the Endocrine Society.

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