What are anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic (man-made) versions of testosterone. Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. It is needed to develop and maintain male sex characteristics, such as facial hair, deep voice, and muscle growth. Women do have some testosterone in their bodies, but in much smaller amounts.
What are anabolic steroids used for?
Health care providers use anabolic steroids to treat some hormone problems in men, delayed puberty, and muscle loss from some diseases. But some people misuse anabolic steroids.
Why do people misuse anabolic steroids?
Some bodybuilders and athletes use anabolic steroids to build muscles and improve athletic performance. They may take the steroids orally, inject them into muscles, or apply them to the skin as a gel or cream. These doses may be 10 to 100 times higher than doses used to treat medical conditions. Using them this way, without a prescription from a health care provider, is not legal or safe.
What are the health effects of misusing anabolic steroids?
Misuse of anabolic steroids, especially over a long period of time, has been linked to many health problems, including:
- Stunted growth in teens
- High blood pressure
- Changes in cholesterol
- Heart problems, including heart attack
- Liver disease, including cancer
- Kidney damage
- Aggressive behavior
In men, it can also cause:
In women, it can also cause:
- Changes in your menstrual cycle (period)
- Growth of body and facial hair
- Male-pattern baldness
- Voice deepening
Are anabolic steroids addictive?
Even though they don't cause a high, anabolic steroids can be addictive. You can have withdrawal symptoms if you stop using them, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
- Decreased sex drive
- Steroid cravings
- Depression, which can sometimes be serious and even lead to suicide attempts
Behavioral therapy and medicines can be helpful in treating anabolic steroid addiction.
NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Are Steroids Worth the Risk? (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- Drug Facts: Anabolic Steroids (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Also in Spanish
- Performance-Enhancing Drugs: Know the Risks (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Steroids (Nemours Foundation)
- Steroids (Drug Enforcement Administration)
- Teens and Steroids: A Dangerous Combo (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Anabolic-androgenic steroid use is associated with psychopathy, risk-taking, anger, and physical...
- Article: Suicidal tendencies and psychiatric symptoms as consequence of anabolic androgenic steroid...
- Article: Nutritional and Non-Nutritional Strategies in Bodybuilding: Impact on Kidney Function.
- Anabolic Steroids -- see more articles
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- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)