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Thomas O’Connor, a doctor who founded a men’s health clinic and wrote a book called “America on Steroids,” said that many of his patients are anabolic steroid users who turned to SARMs because they were told that they were safe and nontoxic. He said that since 2010 has seen “hundreds, maybe over 1,000 men on SARMs” from all walks of life: police officers, defense workers, amateur athletes, accountants and others.

It’s hard to determine the precise impact of SARMs because many people who use them combine them with other drugs, supplements and substances, Dr. O’Connor said. But one thing he often sees among people using SARMs is that their cholesterol profiles worsen and their liver enzymes rise, a sign of increased strain on their livers. Some also experience diminished sex drive, hair loss, acne and irritability, though it’s often difficult to know whether it’s the SARMs causing these symptoms or some other unlisted ingredients in the products.

As a longtime power lifter, Dr. O’Connor said he relates to a lot of his patients and understands their desire to be bigger, stronger and fitter. But he counsels them to give up the drugs they are using because they are jeopardizing their health.

“I always tell them the same thing,” he said. “These are illicit agents. They’re not supported by expert guidelines and they’re dangerous. So don’t take them.”

The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement industry trade group, launched a campaign on social media, #SARMSCanHarm, and is working with sports clubs, fitness groups and coaches around the country. The military and federal government also have an awareness campaign about risky products called Operation Supplement Safety.

Patricia Deuster, a professor of military and emergency medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, said SARMs are popular among some soldiers because they are easier to access than anabolic steroids, but she warns them there are hazards, citing one soldier who suffered liver damage and could not deploy with his unit because he was hospitalized after using a product containing SARMs and other ingredients.

“We try to tell them that there are other ways that they can achieve their goals without risking their health or their ability to maintain their deployment status,” Dr. Deuster said. “We are trying to educate them.”

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www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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