Cause of death steroids users usually means recreational drugs
When steroids users die young and unexpectedly, their death is usually not just the result of having taken muscle-enhancing substances. And no, only a fraction of steroids users who die young have participated in bodybuilding competitions. Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia discovered this and much more.
Deceased steroids users
The Australians have published an article in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in which they summarise the results of 24 post mortems performed on deceased steroids users. The post mortems took place in Sydney between 1996 and 2012.
All of the deceased were men. Their average age at the time of death was 31. Two-thirds of them were in paid employment. Many of those who died had worked as security agents or earned their money as a personal trainer. A few were still studying.
In two-thirds of the cases the post mortem showed that the men had died from accidental drug toxicity. In one of every three cases, the death was the result of a fatal combination of steroids and stimulants such as cocaine [chemical structure on the right], amphetamines or XTC. In thirty percent of the cases it was a combination of steroids and opiates that was the cause of death.
In almost all other cases the men had died as a result of crime or suicide.
Ninety percent of the deceased were extremely muscular. "Muscular overdevelopment was present in almost all cases, with half having BMIs in the obese range", the researchers write. "These high BMIs were not due to obesity, but to muscle volume and density."
Poly drug use
Of the 24 deceased steroids users 23 were polydrug users. In addition to their steroids they had also used mainly stimulatory recreational drugs, but also sleeping pills and sedatives, opiates, alcohol and occasionally also antidepressants.
While doing the post mortems the pathologists noticed damage to the organs in many of the deceased, which was probably the result of substance abuse. Almost half of the steroids users no longer produced sperm for example [Arrested spermatogenesis], had undersized testicles [Testicular atrophy], or had testicles in which healthy tissue had been replaced by connective tissue [Testicular fibrosis].
Interestingly, the pathologists also found crystals [birefringent material] in the lungs of a quarter of all of the deceased. This was probably evidence of material that the deceased had ingested via injections or the oral route.
No acne, prostate enlargement or gynaecomasty was recorded.
"In summary, the typical case in this series was a male polydrug user, aged in their early thirties, with drug toxicity the being most common cause of death", the researchers summarize. "Extensive cardiovascular disease was a particularly notable feature."
J Forensic Sci. 2014 Jul;59(4):1025-8.
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