During the last decade, prescription testosterone abuse hit record highs in the United States and Canada. The drug is mainly used to combat fatigue, low sex drive and decreasing muscle mass that comes with aging.

Prescription Testosterone

Millions of men have used testosterone to treat biological, age-related changes. As men get older, a testosterone decrease impacts muscle mass, sexual functions, bone density, moods, energy, and libido. Additionally, testosterone is often used by athletes and bodybuilders to improve performance.

Numerous testosterone therapies are available over-the-counter and by prescription. While herbal supplements do exist in pharmacies, synthetic testosterone products come in multiple forms, such as:

  • Nasal gel
  • Buccal tablet
  • Pellet implant
  • Intramuscular solution
  • Transdermal cream
  • Transdermal gel
  • Transdermal ointment
  • Transdermal patch
  • Transdermal solution

Safety Alert: Testosterone Abuse Risk

The FDA approved testosterone therapies to treat hypogonadism, delayed puberty, or metastatic breast cancer in women. According to the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990, testosterone is a schedule III drug with a high abuse potential. The act equates criminal penalties for athletes and coaches who illicit use of anabolic steroids. 

On Oct. 25, the regulatory agency released a safety communication and updated the ‘Abuse and Dependence’ section of prescription testosterone labeling. When patients discontinue testosterone abuse, symptoms of withdrawal may occur, including:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased libido
  • Insomnia

Additional Risks

Studies illustrate that testosterone can heighten the chances of developing thromboembolism, a combination of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).  Thromboembolism occurs when a blood clot forms in the leg and travels to the lungs.

One study, led by Dr. Carlos Martinez of the Institute for Epidemiology, Statistics and Informatics GmbH in Frankfurt, Germany, found a 63 percent higher risk of developing blood clots in the legs during first three to six months of testosterone use. The study included data gathered from 19,000 male patients with blood clots in the U.K. between 2001 and 2013.

“Abuse of testosterone, usually at doses higher than those typically prescribed and usually in conjunction with other AAS, is associated with serious safety risks affecting the heart, brain, liver, mental health, and endocrine system,” the FDA reported.

Testosterone influences appearance, performance, and sexual functions. The drug can cause a number of side effects, including:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Liver toxicity
  • Impotence

Natural Alternatives

There are available alternatives to prescription testosterone. However, it is important to note that natural testosterone supplements may also cause side effects. 

Aerobic exercise and weightlifting have shown to increase testosterone levels. Getting an ample amount of sleep, protein, carbs, and fat are also believed to contribute to overall hormonal wellness.

Additionally, one oft-forgotten low-t boost comes in the form of a vitamin found in food. Foods that contain large contents of zinc include spinach, lentils, seeds, shellfish, red meat and chicken. Researchers recommended a dose of eight to fourteen milligrams of zinc to optimize testosterone levels.