steroids are drugs such as
testosterone or substances that work like
testosterone. Doctors prescribe them to treat problems such as delayed
puberty and other medical problems that cause the body
to make very low amounts of testosterone. Steroids make muscles bigger and
bones stronger. They also may cause puberty to start and can help some boys
who have a
genetic disorder to grow more normally.
Common anabolic steroid medicines include fluoxymesterone (such as Halotestin)
and nandrolone (such as Durabolin). In the United States, you need a
prescription to get any anabolic steroid. Illegal anabolic steroids are those
that people get without a doctor’s prescription.
Some people take
legal dietary supplements that have certain steroid hormones also made by the
human body. One such drug is dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). The body can turn
DHEA into other steroid hormones, including testosterone,
cortisol. People use it to try to make their muscles
bigger. Whether such products actually work has not been proved. But if you
take them in large amounts, they can cause the same side effects as anabolic
Why do some people abuse anabolic steroids?
Some adults and teens use illegal anabolic
steroids to lower body fat, get bigger muscles, and increase strength. They use
the drugs because they are seeking to improve how well they play sports or how
The dose of illegal anabolic steroids is 10 to 100
times higher than the dose a doctor prescribes for medical problems. People
often use more than one of these illegal drugs at the same time. This is called
stacking. Or they may take the drugs in a cycle from no drug to a high dose
over a period of weeks to months. This is called pyramiding.
Anabolic steroids may be taken as a pill, as a shot into a muscle, or as
a gel or cream rubbed on the skin.
What problems can abusing anabolic steroids cause?
Anabolic steroids can
cause serious side effects. Some of these effects can be permanent.
In men, anabolic steroids can:
Reduce sperm count.
Cause you not to be able to father
Enlarge the breasts.
In women, anabolic steroids can:
Increase body hair.
Decrease breast size.
Deepen the voice.
In both men and women, anabolic steroids can
Bone growth to stop before it is complete in a teen. The teen
may not reach his or her full adult height.
A heart attack or
stroke, even in a very young person.
Higher levels of bad cholesterol
(LDL) and lower levels of good cholesterol
Liver disease and possibly liver
cancer. The chance of these problems is higher when steroids are taken as a
Oily skin and acne.
Skin infections that can become severe if the drug was
tainted with bacteria.
Irritability, rage, uncontrolled high
energy (mania), or false beliefs (delusions).
People who abuse anabolic steroids can have
withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them.
Symptoms include having mood swings, being extremely tired, having no desire to
eat, and craving steroids.
How is anabolic steroid abuse diagnosed?
A doctor can often spot a person
who is abusing anabolic steroids when that person walks through the door. This
is because the medicine makes muscles unusually large. Your doctor may also ask
questions about your fitness activities and what kinds of dietary supplements
and other substances you use. The doctor may do a physical exam and order urine
and blood tests.
How is it treated?
Treatment for abuse of
anabolic steroids has not been studied much. Doctors
Treatment in a program that includes medicines
for withdrawal symptoms and other health problems.
Treatment in a
hospital, if withdrawal symptoms are severe.
Individual or family
Other Places To Get Help
Hormone Health Network
8401 Connecticut Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815-5817
The Hormone Health Network is a nonprofit organization
started by the Endocrine Society. The organization promotes the prevention,
treatment, and cure of hormone-related conditions through public outreach and
KidsHealth for Parents, Children, and
Nemours Home Office
10140 Centurion Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32256
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: Anabolic Steroid Abuse
6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-9561
This website provides links to information on anabolic
steroid abuse. Information includes health consequences of using steroids and
ideas for athletic training without steroids.
NIDA for Teens: Anabolic Steroids
6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD 20892-9561
This organization provides information for teens about
anabolic steroids. It includes facts, stories about people who have taken
steroids, a glossary, and places to get help.
Other Works Consulted
Hagen TJ (2007). Performance-enhancing substances and nutritional supplements section of Medical aspects of sports medicine. In PJ McMahon, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Sports Medicine, pp. 25–27. New York: McGraw-Hill.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2006). Research Report Series—Anabolic Steroid Abuse. Available online: http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/RRSteroids.pdf.
Pope HG, Brower KJ (2008). Treatment of anabolic-androgenic steroid-related disorders. In M Galanter, HD Kleber, eds., American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment, 4th ed., pp. 237–245. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Pope HG, Brower KJ (2009). Anabolic–androgenic steroid-related disorders. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1419–1431. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.