Prescription testosterone has exploded in Sweden – but there is much that the healthcare system does not yet know.
Now senior doctors warn of what can happen to the body in the long term.
– Then you go into depression, you lose your desire, you lose your potency, says Mikael Lehtihet.
Approximately 25,000 men are currently legally prescribed doping-classified and performance-enhancing testosterone in Sweden. This means a sharp increase compared to 2006, when 8,000 men received testosterone supplements.
The largest increase is accounted for by middle-aged men, aged 45 to 64.
Chief physician Mikael Lehtihet at St. Göran’s hospital calls the increase “dramatic” and believes that roughly half of the prescriptions issued are completely unjustified.
– Testosterone deficiency in an otherwise healthy man is extremely rare. It is not a public disease, he says.
Prescriptions can hide addiction
Mikael Lehtihet explains that to suffer from a testosterone deficiency, it is either necessary that the testicles do not work, that there is something wrong with the pituitary gland, or that you use medications that can affect testosterone secretion.
Many men use testosterone supplements to achieve results in training and many of the legal prescriptions are used to hide a doping addiction.
In the short term, it does not mean any life-threatening side effects, but in the long term it can be dangerous, warns the chief physician.
– The problem is that you have effects when you take testosterone. When he raises the level from a normal physiological dose to a super physiological dose, you usually feel better, says Mikael Lehtihet.
– But then we have to know, what is this in the long term? Does it increase the risk of prostate cancer? Does it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease? There are no such studies published. Precisely when it comes to the long-term consequences of testosterone, we have extremely poor knowledge. It may be dangerous.
Impotence and depression
Another problem is what happens in the body if you either have to or want to stop using testosterone supplements. In that case, it can take a long time before own production starts again.
– That period is often when you feel the worst. Then you go into depression, you lose your desire, you lose your potency. The muscles you built up will disappear, says Mikael Lehtihet.
– You are often back at square one, it’s just that you feel worse.
Studies are currently being conducted regarding the long-term effect of the supplements on the body and the risks it entails, but they are not expected to be published until 2025 at the earliest.