Anabolic steroids, also referred to as anabolic-androgenic steroids, are a group of powerful compounds closely related to the male sex hormone testosterone. There are very few legitimate medical uses of anabolic androgenic steroids, including treatment of severe testosterone deficiency and certain kinds of anemia. Body builders, long-distance runners, cyclists and other athletes who may use these substances illegally claim that anabolic steroids give them a competitive advantage and/or improve their physical appearance.[1]

Anabolic steroids can come in tablet, capsule or liquid form, as well as gels, creams and patches. They are taken orally, applied to the skin or injected. Athletes and other people who misuse steroids typically take them in cycles of weeks or months (called “cycling”), rather than continuously. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. In addition, people misusing steroids frequently combine several different types to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing negative effects, a process known as stacking.[2]

Steroids have a reputation for increasing lean muscle mass, strength, and the ability to train longer and harder.

Understand the risks

The minor side effects of the use of anabolic steroids include acne, oily skin, excess hair growth, and deepening of the voice. The major side effects include an increased risk of cancer, increased risk of heart and liver disease, jaundice, fluid retention, reduction in HDL-C (“good cholesterol”), high blood pressure and changes in blood clotting.

Side effects specific to men can include testicular atrophy (the shrinking of the testicles), reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, and the development of breasts. For women, side effects can include enlargement of the clitoris, changes in the body contour, growth of facial hair, disruption of the menstrual cycle, deepened voice.

An increase in androgenic (male) hormones may also lead to aggressive behavior. Research also indicates that people who use steroids often suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.

Teens who misuse steroids are at a significant risk of suffering irreversible side effects, including stunted growth, accelerated puberty changes and abnormal sexual development.[2]

Identify & address use

Signs of use include acne, deepening of the voice, excess hair growth and disruption of menstrual cycle (in females). If you’re concerned your child may be misusing steroids or other substances, the following can help you address the behavior more effectively.

Table of common steroids

Generic Drug Composition Brand Name
Oxandrolone Oxandrin
Methyltestosterone Testred, Android, Methitest
Oxymetholone Anadrol
Fluoxymesterone Androxy, Halotestin