What do Anabolic Steroids Do?

What are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic and man-made substances that replicate the male sex hormone, testosterone. The proper term for these substances is anabolic-androgenic steroids. “Anabolic” refers to muscle building, and “androgenic” refers to increased male sex characteristics. Some common names for anabolic steroids are Gear, Juice, Roids, and Stackers.

Steroids can be prescribed to people that have hormonal imbalances, for example delayed puberty or they can be used to treat diseases that may cause muscle loss due to AIDS or cancer. Some athletes may misuse steroids to enhance their performance or improve their physical appearance.

Anabolic Steroids and the Body

Designer Steroids

What do Anabolic Steroids Do?

A group of steroids that can be particularly dangerous include designer steroids. These types of steroids have been illicitly created to not be detected by a drug test. Athletes will use them to enhance their performance and there is no medical use for them. From Mayo Clinic, “Because of this, they haven’t been tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and represent a particular health threat to athletes.”

Risks of Designer Steroids

Both men and women can experience the following:

  • Severe acne
  • Inhibited growth and development, and risk of future health problems in teenagers
  • Infections or diseases such as HIV or hepatitis if you’re injecting the drugs
  • Dependence to drugs
  • Psychiatric disorders, such as depression
  • Aggressive behaviors, rage or violence
  • Increased risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture
  • Heart and blood circulation problems
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Liver abnormalities and tumors
  • Increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol)
  • Decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol

Men can experience

  • Prominent breasts
  • Prostate gland enlargement
  • Infertility
  • Shrunken testicles

Women can experience

  • Infrequent or absent periods
  • A deeper voice, which may be irreversible
  • Baldness, which may be irreversible
  • Increased body hair
  • An enlarged clitoris, which may be irreversible


The Androstenedione steroid is used to help increase athletic performance by increasing the hormone testosterone. It can also increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, keep red blood cells healthy, increase sexual desire and increase energy.

“Androstenedione gained popularity as the supplement used by the baseball homerun hitter Mark McGwire and other professional sports players. In January 2005 legislation went into effect in the United States called the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004”

Risk of Androstenedione

Possible Side Effects for Men and Women

  • reduced sperm production
  • shrunken testicles
  • heart disease
  • behavioral changes
  • painful or prolonged erections
  • breast development

Women May Experience

  • facial hair
  • deepened voice
  • male-pattern baldness
  • coarse skin
  • delayed menstrual period
  • depression

Human Growth Hormone

The Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a hormone that is naturally occurring and produced by the pituitary gland. The hormone is important for cell regeneration, growth and cell reproduction.

“HGH helps to maintain, build, and repair healthy tissue in the brain and other organs. This hormone can help to speed up healing after an injury and repair muscle tissue after exercise. This helps to build muscle mass, boost metabolism, and burn fat.”

Another benefit of HGH is it is said to improve the appearance of skin, slow down the aging process and treat disease that is related to age.


  • increase exercise capacity
  • reduce body fat
  • build muscle mass
  • improve bone density

Side Effects of HGH

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • nerve, muscle, or joint pain
  • fatigue or sleepiness
  • swelling of the arms and legs from fluid retention (edema)
  • high cholesterol levels
  • enlarged breasts in men (gynecomastia)
  • mood changes, dependency, and withdrawal
  • numb and tingling skin
  • an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • growth of cancerous tumors
  • growth of facial features, hands, and feet (acromegaly)
  • an enlarged heart
  • low blood sugar
  • damage to the liver

Health Effects of Steroids

People use steroids for the effects of an enhanced physique and increased performance during sports or other athletic activities.

With steroids can come short-term effects including:

  • Acne
  • Mood swings
  • Weakness
  • Decreased sperm count
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness/ agitation
  • Decreased appetite

Long-term effects including:

  • Anger and aggression (“roid rage”)
  • Blood-borne diseases from injection use
  • Tumors in the liver
  • Kidney failure
  • Paranoia
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Delusions

Steroid Addiction

Steroids are not a highly addictive substance compared to others such as cocaine or alcohol, but people still do become addicted and suffer health consequences when frequently using them. “Substance use disorders are defined by continued use despite adverse consequences; for steroid users, these may include physical or psychological problems such as breast growth (in men), sexual dysfunction, high blood pressure, excessive fats in the blood, heart disease, mood swings, severe irritability, or aggressiveness.”

When a person develops a tolerance to steroids, then they may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using them. From a recent study, it showed that approximately 32% of people who used anabolic steroids became dependent on using them and may have experienced some withdrawal symptoms. Someone who needs more and more of a particular drug to achieve the same results may be experiencing a tolerance to the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Suicidal (extreme cases)

Treatment for Steroid Addiction

Steroid addiction treatment should be treated similarly to any other substance abuse problem. Although it is not as addictive and does not produce a “high” feeling it still causes changes in the body and dependency to occur. People with these addictions can get the help they need in an inpatient or outpatient program with medical professionals.

“Treating a steroid addiction may involve supervised detox, comfort medication, and behavioral therapy.”

Inpatient Detox and Rehab

An effective and proven way to treat a steroid addiction is with detoxification and behavioral support therapy. Inpatient rehab is a common approach to help support a person through the treatment process. The inpatient treatment program allows a person to be outside of their normal environment where they typically use drugs. Most treatment centers will offer services such as one-on-one counseling, mealtimes, family visits, support groups, activities and sometimes even chores.

Ongoing Treatment to Prevent Relapse

Steroid users who develop a problem or substance abuse disorder that is mild to moderate may be a candidate for outpatient rehab treatment, allowing them to continue with their everyday life including going to work, school and living in their home. Some outpatient treatment centers are different than others and offer different services that are necessary for each individual case.

Frequently, outpatient care proceeds an inpatient treatment program. It allows the person to transition out of treatment in a safe environment and allows them to be comfortable living their sober lifestyle.

If you are someone you know is having problems with steroids, please contact someone for help right away.


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