Some people take anabolic steroids to boost muscle growth. But new research suggests that among other unwelcome side effects, steroids can affect the memory of users, making them forgetful.

It is estimated that nearly 38 percent of regular gymgoers – such as weightlifters and bodybuilders – take steroids to build muscles. The study conducted at Northumbria University in England assessed whether long-term intake of anabolic-androgenic steroids by such users affects their memory.

Dr. Tom Heffernan of the psychology department studied a group of 100 men 18 to 30 years of age. All the subjects regularly worked out at the gym, and half of them took steroids for muscle building or enhanced sport performance.

Heffernan found that those who were using steroids had less prospective and retrospective memory functioning than nonusers. Steroid users had a 39 percent deficit in prospective memory, that is, the ability to remember things they planned to do in near future.

On the other hand, steroid users were found to be 28 percent more forgetful when remembering the things that happened in the past. In addition, as compared to the nonusers, the men who took steroids suffered a 32 percent deficit in mental executive functioning. Mental executive functioning refers to the cognitive processes that helps a person in planning and executing tasks, paying attention and coordination gathered information.

"Long-term use of anabolic-androgenic steroids have a significant impact on an individual's everyday memory and ability to remember," concluded Heffernan in a statement.

"This could affect many spheres of life, including interpersonal, occupational, educational and health-related aspects, given the ubiquitous nature of everyday remembering."

The complete study findings were published in the Open Psychiatry Journal.