My Story: Life ON Finasteride

3 days on Finasteride - first side effects

Within 3 days of popping my first quartered pill, I experienced my first side effects – a dull aching in my prostate area, mild discomfort in my right teste, decreased ejaculate and mild erectile dysfunction.

As a typically horny young guy, I’d seen my fair share of porn over the years. 3 days after starting Finasteride, I went to watch some and take care of business.

Still horny, I noticed I was having difficulty getting an erection… I thought to myself, “this is really weird, I never have problems getting it up… it’s usually up in anticipation and excitement, even!”… I continued to work at it and it eventually got hard but there was just something different – it felt like I had lost some sensitivity, particularly along my shaft… a strange tingling feeling seemed to permeate my penis and scrotum.

I continued to work at it and eventually came – only, instead of shooting a huge load as I had always done, this time only about half of what I usually ejaculated oozed – yes, oozed -- out of my penis with no force whatsoever. I was a bit scared but I remembered the manufacturer's literature stated some men may experience such symptoms as their body gets used to the drug… so I wasn’t too concerned at that point, and I continued to take the quartered Proscar daily, thinking this initial experience was par for the course of starting and adjusting to the drug.

 

First month – horny as hell, testicular ache

Over the next month my sex drive became extremely high, beyond what it normally was. I was so horny I didn’t know what to do with myself, yet frustratingly was starting to have mild difficulties with getting erect, and would often wind up with a floppy, wet-noodle erection. Besides the fluctuating dull prostate aches, I also began to experience a strange and constant testicular discomfort as if I'd been kicked in the balls… particularly in the right testicle. But I attributed this all to getting accustomed to the drug, and paid it no heed.

I would later find out through research that the prostate aches were likely due to Finasteride atrophying/involuting (loss of function) the prostate, and that the high libido/testicular ache was a common scenario for many men as their hypothalamus-pituitary axis adjusted to the drug by upregulating testicular Testosterone production, to compensate for the Finasteride-induced inhibition of DHT (due to negative feedback on the axis). I also noticed that my hair loss had increased significantly, but this was expected as many users mentioned a “shed” of old hairs at the beginning of treatment.

 

Months 2-5 – sex drive fluctuations, loss of morning/nocturnal/spontaneous erections, watery ejaculate

Over the next 3 months, my hairloss came to a standstill and for that I was grateful. I could tug on my hair in the shower and nothing would come out, whereas prior to Finasteride I was pulling out at least 20-30 hairs at once.

At the same time, my sex drive was up and down from one week to the next, and correspondingly, my ability to get turned on enough to attempt a decent erection. When I was able to get it up, after working at it for some time, my penis wouldn’t stay up on its own and my ejaculate had pretty much turned clear and watery, with a few drops oozing out of my penis rather weakly. Needless to say I was starting to get concerned, but continued on regardless since it was all supposed to go back to normal either while on the drug or if I were to quit someday, according to the manufacturer.

During this time, I also noticed I was no longer getting morning, nocturnal or spontaneous erections… while alarming, I convinced myself to soldier on as I was under the impression this was par for the medication. Since I was eager to halt my hairloss, I decided to stick with the treatment for at least a year, as hair growth cycles generally take a minimum of 6-12 months for visible results.

Looking back, and after having researched things since quitting, I now understand that the loss of morning/spontaneous/nocturnal erections was a warning sign of declining Free Testosterone levels, most likely due to an increase in SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin), Albumin, Prolactin, or even more likely Estradiol (which was to become a major problem for me, as evidenced in the next log).

Unfortunately, your penis needs nocturnal and spontaneous erections. They provide a fresh supply of oxygenated blood to prevent collagen deposits and fibrous plaques from forming (which can lead to Peyronie’s Disease (penis curvature/plaques) – interestingly enough, a condition afflicting a number of post-Finasteride users). Yet here I was without erections, unless obtained through physical stimulation.

Interestingly, the FDA’s statistical review for Propecia approval correlated a significant loss of morning erections (which are actually just nocturnal erections upon waking) in men taking Finasteride, compared to placebo: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/97/20788_PROPECIA%20TABLETS,%201MG_STATR.PDF  --- see page 30.

 

Months 6-9 – start of gynecomastia, weight gain, brain fog, sleep issues, slurring of speech, memory impairment, emotional blunting, moodiness/agitation

Besides the aforementioned sexual dysfunction issues, things took a significant downturn during this period.

Gynecomastia & weight gain
First, the beginnings of gynecomastia (male breasts) – I distinctly remember how one day, about 6 months in, my chest began to ache for about a week and became sore to the touch, particularly around the nipple. And it wasn’t just a dull ache either, it was as if my chest muscles were being ripped from the bone. I thought maybe I had injured myself unknowingly, but couldn’t place how. Having lifted weights over the years (naturally, no steroids) I also knew what chest muscle soreness a day or two after a workout felt like… but this was different and beyond any type of chest muscle pain I had ever felt in my life -- it was extreme.

I basically ignored the pain and chalked it up to some transient body issue. After about a week, the pain passed. But over the next 5 months, my chest changed from being lean and muscular to heavy and fat, with the nipples becoming increasingly “areola-like”, puffy and protruding. Additionally, I noticed I was getting a puffy face and putting on weight around my stomach, hips, and buttocks -- ie, female fat distribution patterns -- and was generally losing muscular definition.

I would later come to understand that Finasteride’s upregulation of Testosterone/lack of DHT can cause excess Testosterone to aromatize into Estradiol, disturbing the male androgen/estrogen ratio in favor of Estrogen, thus leading to breast development in the male. I was on my way to developing gynecomastia and feminizing myself, and I didn’t realize it at the time, because it came on so slowly and insidiously.

Brain fog & Cognitive Decline
Then came the brain fog and cognitive decline. No matter how much I slept, I'd always wake up feeling completely out of it, like being drunk or in that perpetual daze of “I just woke up” type of feeling for most of the day.My mind constantly felt heavy, cloudy, and unable to think clearly at all times. I was starting to have extreme difficulty processing information and concentrating, and was constantly blanking out in social, work and at-home settings. My mind (which was once razor sharp) and thoughts (which once came to me lighting fast) began to experience rapid cognitive decline, to the point of being pathetically mentally slow in terms of comprehension, problem solving, and information recall. I literally was feeling and becoming dumber by the week.

Sleep Issues
It seemed that no matter how much I slept, I always felt tired. Even after a full night’s sleep, I would never wake up feeling "refreshed". Coupled with this was a noticeable decrease in sleep quality, as I started to have episodes of constant waking throughout the night, and found I was no longer dreaming (loss of REM sleep due to Finasteride's inhibition of nitric oxide production and effects on GABA-A receptors in the brain, both of which are implicated in sleep/wake cycles and dreaming). These sleep issues would only continue to get worse as the months went on.

Slurring of Speech
I began to have progressive difficulty with my speech. Coupled with the aforementioned difficulty in processing thoughts came the occasional mess up on a word here and there (ie, instead of "big dog" it would come out as "dig bog"). Unfortunately within a few weeks this progressed to me stuttering, often as I found myself "waiting" for my slow thoughts to make it to my mouth in terms of speech -- which ended with me being tongue tied and constantly tripping over my words.

By month 10-11, these issues would degenerate into actual slurred speech which would happen daily on more than one occasion. I was literally losing motor control of my tongue as it began to feel heavy and numb, as it could no longer keep pace with me trying to formulate words. I had never experienced anything like this in my life, yet I couldn't stop it from happening.

Memory Impairment
During this period I also began to notice my short-term memory starting to suffer. I started having major problems remembering names, places, things, and events that before the drug I was able to instantly recall without issue, and found myself constantly forgetting things almost daily, like locking my keys in the car 3 times a day or forgetting to turn the stove off after cooking numerous times. My mental acuity and ability to recall information began to suffer severely, likely as a result of decreased Allopregnanolone synthesis due to Finasteride (Allopregnanlone is a vital neurosteroid, low levels of which may be implicated in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's Disease).

Emotional Blunting
On top of this, there was a feeling of being disassociated from myself. I was spacing out a lot and just generally feeling out of touch with reality, as if I were viewing life through a dim filter. Worst of all, I was becoming emotionally flat. Things that once gave me great pleasure and defined my character and personality -- like listening to and playing music, having fun with friends, sports etc. – were no longer appealing to me. Instead, I was content to literally just sit around and do absolutely nothing – and I didn’t even care (due to Finasteride-induced depression -- another unlisted side effect, due to the drug's inhibition of Progesterone --> Allopregnanolone neurosteroid metabolism in the brain -- more on this later).

Extreme moodiness, agitation
Finally, I was beginning to experience bouts of extreme moodiness, agitation and anger on an almost daily or weekly basis. Little things which normally would not bother me would suddently make me agitated, sometimes to the point of snapping at others or going into a quick-tempered rage. This was so unlike me, as I am usually a very calm and collected person that generally shys away from violence and anger. Nonetheless, these feelings and mood swings were undeniable, as both friends and family noticed I seemed to be heavily brooding on a continous basis and commented many times about how I seemed to have changed in this regard.

 

Months 10-11 – Anxiety, digestion problems, paranoia, depression, impotence and beginnings of penile/scrotum shrinkage

In my last two months on the drug, all of the previously mentioned symptoms got progressively worse until I could no longer handle them, in addition to the below, forcing me to quit.

Anxiety/panic attacks
For the first time in my life, I experienced emotional anxiety and panic attacks... it was like I was always on edge, never calm, feeling overwhelmed and panicky at all times, ready to snap or breakdown and cry. I was also becoming extremely emotional… I could literally, LITERALLY feel emotions welling up from deep inside me, swirling around in my chest and leading to what felt like lumps in my throat (like when you want to cry).

Through studies, I would later come to understand that Finasteride can cause anxiety/panic symptoms by interfering with GABA[A] receptors in the brain, due to Finasteride's blockade of Deoxycorticosterone ---> THDOC (a critical anti-anxiety 5AR-reduced neurosteroid) metabolism. In addition, blood tests taken after I quit the drug would confirm I had elevated Estrogen (Estradiol) levels, which were also probably partly responsible for the emotional, moody and wanting-to-cry feelings, weight gain and gynecomastia.

Depression
At this stage I also began to experience severe bouts of [Finasteride-induced] depression, with overwhelming feelings of melancholy, hopelessness and sadness on a near-daily basis -- even though I had nothing to be sad about.

I went from being outgoing and full of energy, happy and talkative before the drug to feeling like crying, having a negative view on life and not wanting any contact with people – not even friends or family -- while on it. I no longer had any ambition to go out and do things; instead, I was literally content to just sit in my room and stare out the window. I became completely passive, feeling glum, not caring about life passing me by. I recall a few times I even had fleeting thoughts of suicide -- something I would NEVER, EVER, EVER have considered prior to using the drug. In short, I started to feel like a lobotomized walking zombie – alive on the outside, but dead on the inside.

At the time I never put two and two together, and couldn’t figure out WHY I was feeling this way.. but through research found that Finasteride usage has been linked to depression, due to it's inhibition of 5AR2-reduced Allopregnanolone synthesis. In fact, as of December 2010, Merck has now added "depression" as a possible side effect for both Propecia and Proscar. Looking back it all makes perfect sense, as the depression lifted within a month after quitting the drug.

Paranoia
Towards the end of my usage of the drug, I began experiencing "noise" in my head… it was like I had frantic, short-circuiting, criss-crossed wires going through my mind at all times and multiple fleeting thoughts happening all at once, but couldn’t grasp or concentrate on any one thought in particular. All my thoughts seemed fuzzy and haywire.

This rapidly developed into paranoia, as I began to feel like the world was against me and that I couldn’t trust people anymore, particularly my coworkers, family and friends… I started thinking and believing they were saying things behind my back, trying to get rid of me, looking for ways to cause me harm (since quitting the drug I now realize how far off I really was).

Surprise, surprise though -- turns out the same neurosteroid metabolism that Finasteride interferes with (ie, 3a, 5a-THP and 3a, 5a-THDOC -- aka, Allopregnanolone and THDOC) are also involved in mental disorders like schizophrenia.

Digestion Problems
Concurrent with all this I began experiencing feeling generally ill, with numerous bloating symptoms, indigestion and constipation daily. My abdomen began to hurt (particularly around the liver area, where Finasteride is extensively metabolized), I began to feel nauseous after eating meals and had constant stomach aches throughout the day. When I went to the washroom my stool came out in what I can only describe as “poo pellets”, like a rabbit (after quitting, these problems went back to normal -- but I also still had an elevated TSH level of 4.54 even 3 months after quitting, and constipation is a symptom of hypothyroidism).

Muscle Twitches
During my last 2 months on the drug, I began getting fasciculations (muscle twitches) all over my body which would not abate for days on end, which were visible to the naked eye and often, through clothing. Meanwhile, I began to notice the appearance of dark circles under my eyes and the fact that my skin and scalp was becoming extremely dry -- they had lost all oilyness, and I realized I no longer experienced acne. By this point, it was starting to become clear to me that my entire system was out of whack thanks to the effects of this drug, due to the continued effects of androgen/neurosteroid deprivation.

Impotence
When it came time to perform, I would often cum extremely quickly (sometimes half-flaccid, if I could get it up at all), I would only be floppy hard (unable to penetrate), or I would get hard enough to penetrate but then quickly lose the erection soon after penetration.

By month 11 I was experiencing bouts of COMPLETE impotence. At this point, I couldn’t get it up even if Pamela Anderson wanted to bone. And quite frankly, I was sick of the embarrassment of not being able to satisfy women like I should have been, when almost a year prior I was able to go multiple rounds, have my soldier spring up at the drop of a hat, and never had problems going limp after penetration.

Numb Genitals
During the final two months I noticed that both my penis shaft and scrotum sensitivity had gotten progressively worse to the point where I could no longer feel either of them if touched (you know when you wake up and your arm is asleep and you can’t feel it? That’s how it feels – numb). The tingly feeling I described in my initial weeks/months on the drug had now been replaced with complete loss of sensitivity in scrotum and penis, particularly along the top and underside of the penile shaft – interestingly the same area that does not close/develop correctly in male fetuses with genetically defective 5AR2 enzymes, preventing proper virilization during gestation.

Constantly flaccid
By month 11, I noticed my penis had become constantly flaccid at all times, no matter if I was exposed to erotic stimuli or women. Obtaining erections was extremely difficult, if not impossible.

 

The decision to quit

All of this combined – the mental, sexual, and physical side effects – had taken their toll on me, and lead me to my decision to finally quit the drug. It was a decision that did not come easily, as I was starting to grow some nice, thick hair on it. But all of this was just too much, and it was becoming increasingly obvious my body was silently screaming at me to stop.

The gynecomastia was starting to become a big problem towards the end, as it was obvious I now had the beginnings of “male breasts”. With the gyno came a definite weight gain not only on my chest but also my stomach and other female fat patterns. I also found myself in the last two months my sleep quality deteriorated to the point where I would constantly wake up gasping for air in the middle of the night, often with feelings of extreme anxiety and panic (due to Finasteride's inhibition of THDOC, an anti-anxiety neurosteroid). Interestingly by this point I had no more seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff or pimples (seems Finasteride had destroyed my body’s sebum production – which is still pretty much non-existant since quitting).

My verdict: Finasteride is pure poison for some young men in their sexual, mental and physical prime
So let’s tally it up here: Erectile dysfunction, a diminished sex drive, the inability to think and speak clearly, memory problems, lack of morning/nocturnal/spontaneous erections, ejaculate volume decrease, inability to function properly in daily life, depression, disconnection from social relationships, emotional blunting/lack of drive, digestion problems, muscle twitching, constipation issues, anxiety/paranoia/panic attacks, weight gain, body feminization and gynecomastia, and everything else I experienced while on this drug -- was it all worth it to screw up my body, just to grow back a few extra hairs on my head? I realized at this point, HELL NO.

“Fuck it”, I said… “I’d rather be bald than go through this anymore. I’ll just quit and within 2 weeks everything will be back to normal, just like the drug company said it will”. 

That was what I thought, and was expecting... but like so many other men before me, found I awaited a hellish nightmare of permanent side effects and devastating hormonal aftermath, as experienced by a subset of men who quit the drug. >