Are Steroids Really Bad for Your Health? Maybe Not
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Perhaps our pursuit of drug-free sports went a little too far. Many diseases supposedly linked to steroid use in adults simply do not occur, says Steven Kotler. Steroids are, however, great at combating HIV/AIDS and as an anti-aging too.
Steven Kotler is an award-winning journalist, a New York Times bestselling author, and executive director of Flow Research Collective. His books include the non-fiction works The Rise of Superman, Abundance, A Small Furry Prayer, West of Jesus, and the novel The Angle Quickest for Flight. His works have been translated into over 30 languages. His articles have appeared in over 60 publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, Wired, GQ, Popular Science, and Discover.
Steven Kotler: I had no interest whatsoever in steroids. I got involved in this because an editor who is a friend of mine called me up and said Jose Canseco just wrote this crazy book where he said steroids are the wonder drug of tomorrow. And I said look man, I am not much of a baseball fan. It kind of bores me and everybody knows steroids are terrible for you. Canseco’s out of his mind. There’s no way – like you’re wasting my time. And he said, you know, it was very, very convincing. He said I’ll pay you to do the research. I was like absolutely I’m in. So I started looking at it and I just started I said okay, I’m just going to read – I’m going to go back ten years and read the articles in major journals – The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, Nature – that kind of thing. I’m not even going to go that deep. Very very quickly what I started to discover is every single thing I thought I knew about steroids was wrong. Every crazy disease these drugs had been linked to have nothing to do with it. I’ll give you a phenomenal example. Steroids were linked to liver cancer, liver problems, right. It had nothing to do with the steroid. It has to do with the coating they put around the steroid so it could pass through the stomach and get into your bloodstream. That was what was causing the problems. That coating has obviously since been replaced. But Nick Evans who’s at UCLA is the only person literally in history whose ever done long-term steroid studies, right. Long term abusers. Body builders, double and triple stacking steroids for 10, 20 years at a time.
None of the things we’ve been told about are real. The only danger he found is since the heart is a muscle there is a certain point if you’re taking massive massive doses over long periods of time it can expand it, it can grow, right and grow bigger than the blood vessels and the ventricles and what not which would be a problem. And this doesn’t mean, by the way, when teenagers use steroids, right, when you’re still producing lots of these substances it’s an absolute disaster, right. That’s bad news. But in adults everything we’ve been told tends to be wrong and some of what we’ve been told costs millions of lives, right. It turns out steroids are phenomenal, phenomenal in fighting back AIDS. They’re really, really, really good. Nobody wanted to talk about it. When doctors started treating AIDS patients with it the guy who started doing this was a guy named Walter Jekot. The government jumped in and put him in jail for five years. He scared the hell out of a ton of doctors and the result of this kind of us trying to keep sports pure and, you know, preserve the competitive advantage has been millions of people died as a result. So not only is everything you’ve been told about steroids wrong, but there were a lot of consequences. The people who have been at the forefront of this and kind of pushing it forward is the life extension community, right. Our hormones decline as we age so the idea here is we can replace them. And they’ve been working on this stuff for 10, 15 years at this point with some success. It is now one of five or six different ways people are attacking aging, right, and fighting back death. But one thing seems to be sure. Since Google’s in the anti-death game, right, Peter Diamandis, my partner, in Bold and Abundance has human longevity incorporated there in the life extension game. There are big companies, massive amounts of resources getting involved and steroids are a piece of this puzzle. And I think we’re going to have to as a country rethink our position on these drugs and anti-aging stuff is going to force us to do it.