Rehab 4 Addiction

Anabolic steroids, what’s the craze?

It’s been a staple in bodybuilding for decades, and professional athletes have been caught with the banned substance when being randomly tested for drugs time and time again.

But, why are fitness enthusiasts, both professional and amateur alike, so drawn to anabolic steroids?

Is it really worth the damage it does to the body, the growth stunts, and damage to internal organs, just to see greater muscle development?

Well, for some athletes it is.

What Draws Bodybuilders and Lifters to Abuse Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are considered Class C drugs (UK); they are banned from professional and amateur competitions in the US and internationally.

Although it is legal to purchase and use, only licenced pharmacists can legally sell anabolic steroids to consumers.

In turn, this naturally means a prescription would be required to purchase these steroids.

The draw to a bigger, bulkier, more vascular physique, has made its way to the forefront of the bodybuilding industry.

Larger muscles and greater visibility of veins are an indication that builders are stronger.

Although this isn’t necessarily true, this is one of the primary reasons that bodybuilders, and those who lift in general, are drawn to the use (and abuse) of anabolic steroids.

In fact, abuse and overuse are higher than other drugs, including heroin, and is just as dangerous at the levels at which some bodybuilders are utilising these products.


Many people who aren’t in the bodybuilding circle might not be familiar with this term. It is basically the opposite of anorexia.

It is the belief that lifters have that they need to look bigger, their muscles have to be better developed, and they have to follow certain guidelines, in order to ensure they achieve their success in competition.

This mental disorder is a side effect of anabolic steroid abuse in many circles.

People notice that they are getting bigger, they are able to lift more weight, and they continue to abuse anabolic steroids, in order to keep growing.

It’s not only dangerous for most, but it can lead to other developmental issues which most people who are abusing steroids aren’t aware of.

Some of the beliefs that people with bigorexia have include

  • The need to be at the gym constantly
  • The desire to put in two or three workouts per day
  • Following strict dietary restrictions to meet goals
  • A belief that they don’t have control of their physique and can only maintain it by using steroids

Similarly to people who suffer from anorexia, those who suffer from bigorexia also have complexes of how their body looks.

They believe their clothing is too baggy, they don’t fill it out well, or they are lacking in muscle development in certain areas of the body.

This mental disorder tends to get worse, the longer a person is abusing anabolic steroids to help them achieve the desired look.

And, it is harder for those who are abusing steroids, to eventually stop the vicious cycle when they go down that path.

Are Anabolic Steroids Illegal?

Yes, anabolic steroids are listed under WADA and USADA banned substances list (World Anti-doping Agency and U.S. Anti-doping Agency).

Additionally, collegiate sports ban the use of anabolic steroids for their athletes.

It is also banned in other professional sports, due to the competitive advantage users have, over their competition who are not using the same drugs to develop their body.

Testosterone, synthetic derivatives, and danazol are a few of the many anabolic steroids that are listed on the banned substances list.

Although they are illegal, there are still many professional athletes who tend to use these during off-seasons.

This is why, in recent years, drug testing has become more randomised.

It helps to preserve the competitive nature in sports, it helps dissuade the use of anabolic steroids, and it also helps professional agencies determine which athletes should be banned from particular competitions, to ensure the fairest level of competition in professional and in collegiate sports.

Anabolic Steroid Abuse Outside of Sports

It’s not just in professional competitions that people are abusing these drugs.

Today, the need to feel accepted, to view yourself as attractive, and to appear a certain way in society, there are many people who rely on the use of anabolic steroids to help them achieve a specific physique.

Not only men, but women as well, who feel their bodies do not appear a certain way, or that they don’t fit in with what ‘societal norms’ dictate as the best-looking bodies, are often pushed towards using anabolic steroids and other illegal substances to help them achieve a particular figure.

Power, athletic performance, attractiveness, and fitting in, are just a few of the many reasons that many are turning towards the use of illegal steroids, to help them achieve the desired look.

Men and women want to achieve a desired fit or appearance.

And, with so many publications promoting a specific appearance, as the most attractive, it draws more and more people towards the use of anabolic steroids, in order to try to achieve that (unattainable) figure.

How do People Get Illegal Steroids?

As noted above, it is necessary for pharmacists to have a license to sell anabolic steroids legally.

With this in mind, it means that people who are using anabolic steroids, necessarily need a prescription in order to purchase it from those pharmacies.

But, it is impossible for so many people to get a hold of a prescription. So, how are they purchasing steroids?

The black market of course.

Gym goers and people on the street can easily get their hands on illegal steroids.

Although they do come at a premium price, they are often sold through black market channels, to individuals who are trying to develop their physique.

Steroids go by many names on the illegal and black markets. They go by juice, gym candy, roids, and other names.

Additionally, the black market is not monitored, therefore sellers are often selling doses which are much higher than any doctor would prescribe to a patient.

Not only does this make it more dangerous for buyers, but it also leads to greater epidemics where mental and physical ailments are taking place.

And, in many cases, buyers on the black or illegal markets, often overdose which can lead to death in certain cases.

But, What are the Dangers?

There are many dangers which are linked to the use of anabolic steroids, even if they are purchased legally through a pharmacist with a prescription.

Many people suffer from mental and physical ailments.

Some people who use anabolic steroids tend to suffer from paranoia or mood disorders.

Because their hormones aren’t well regulated, and because they are not thinking clearly, they oftentimes don’t know what is going on around them.

Additionally, there are several physical conditions and side effects that some people complain of and suffer from when they’re using anabolic steroids.

Some of these include blood clots, stroke, liver disease, kidney disease, and other developmental issues.

Some people suffer from chronic conditions, high blood pressure, alterations of their cholesterol levels, infertility, irregularities in periods (women), shrinking testicles (men), and in some cases, death.

Because the dosage is so high on these illegal drugs that are being sold through illegal channels, it is impossible to know exactly what is in the mix.

Therefore, it is impossible for those who are using these illegal drugs, to know exactly what they are putting into their body.

Since there are no dangers for sellers on the black market, they inform their buyers that they are not liable for the potential dangers associated with use.

And, because buyers are purchasing these drugs illegally, many are oftentimes afraid of reporting the symptoms, or talking to a doctor, if they do feel any of these side effects.

Prevention? What’s Being Done

The epidemic is one which isn’t shrinking; but, over time, there are new programmes that are put into place to educate those who are considering the use of illegal steroids.

Furthermore, teachings, weight-training programmes, and showing people the alternatives to anabolic steroids, are some of the things that many professionals in the industries (as well as medical professionals) are trying to force onto the fitness culture, to try and push those who are considering the use of anabolic steroids, to move in a different direction to help them achieve their desired appearance.

Although it is never going to end completely, the proper tools, training, teachings, and introduction of different mentalities in the fitness industry, can help future generations move away from steroid use.

Not only are these teachings and mentalities safer than anabolic steroids, but they are also going to help rebuild the fitness industry, and reframe it, to a “normal” that more people can achieve.

Understanding the dangers, threats, and imbalance that steroids cause is the first step in fighting and pushing people away from using.

But, the right approaches have to be taken to educate and introduce alternatives, for those who are considering using anabolic steroids, in order to help them achieve the desired appearance which is not sustainable by most everyday gym-goers.

The Effects of Anabolic Steroids on the Cardiovascular System

Steroids are ideally meant to be prescribed by qualified health providers to treat issues related to muscle loss e.g. AIDS, cancer and in some cases issues related to delayed puberty.

However, some bodybuilders and athletes end up misusing them while seeking to improve their appearance and physical energy.

Anabolic steroids are among the most commonly abused steroids owing to their ability to boost the male sex hormone known as testosterone.

This commonly happens among people aged between 18 and 40 years of age and is less common among women.

Individuals who misuse anabolic steroids often do so by injecting them directly into their muscles or taking them orally.

In most cases, the dosages used for recreational benefits are usually up to 100 times higher than the medically recommended ones.

Unfortunately, such huge quantities of steroids can cause irreparable damage to different parts of the body in the long-run.

One of the short term benefits of taking these steroids is that they improve the rate at which blood is pumped to different parts of the body.

The long-term effect of this is that the heart is weakened.

In particular, the left ventricle of the heart which is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood throughout the body weakens and widens with prolonged anabolic steroid use.

Ordinarily, a healthy left ventricle is supposed to pump anywhere between 55% and 70% of blood out of the heart.

But when it weakens, it pumps less than the 55% threshold and this can lead to heart failure or even cardiac arrest.

Another negative effect of steroid use on heart health is that it leads to an impairment of diastolic function.

Also known as diastolic dysfunction, this is a scenario where the two parts involved in the pumping action in one’s heart lose their rhythm causing blood to “dam up” in some parts of the body.

The Effects of Anabolic Steroids on the Hormonal System

Anabolic steroids are called so because they are associated with high levels of testosterone, a major male hormone, in the body.

So, if taken by a female user, it can lead to higher-than-normal quantities of androgens in their blood system which could further see them develop male-like bodily features.

Even among male users, higher-than-normal levels of testosterone can be detrimental.

In fact, some researchers have alluded to the fact that testosterone-boosting drugs can lead to a shut-down in the systems involved in the natural production of testosterone.

Although it’s rare to come across male individuals suffering from higher-than-normal testosterone levels, when that occurs, it can increase the risk of:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Testicular tumour
  • Adrenal tumour
  • Precocious puberty

In some cases, anabolic steroids can actually cause behaviour change.

In particular, doctors link them to mood changes including poor judgment, irritability, paranoia, and rage.

The Effects of Anabolic Steroids on the Liver

It is important to note that anabolic steroids are nothing but synthetic alternatives of testosterone. In other words, they are chemical substitutions of natural testosterone that are meant to increase potency.

When taken orally, anabolic pills have to be absorbed through the digestive system eventually ending up in the liver.

Scientists observed that anabolic steroids are slowly cleared by the liver and that makes them highly hepatotoxic.

Over time, this can lead to a myriad of health conditions one of them being cholestasis.

Cholestasis is linked to obstruction of the flow of substances produced by the bile (commonly associated with intense itching).

Besides that, these synthetic substances can also increase your chances of developing hepatic tumours besides increasing the risk of vascular injury.

However, to this end, there isn’t much scientific evidence addressing the cause-and-effect relationship between anabolic steroids and liver cancer.

The Effects of Anabolic Steroids on the Skin

The use of anabolic steroids is often associated with higher-than-normal levels of free fatty acids in the body and a rise in skin surface lipids.

It is for this particular reason that a severe form of acne known as Acne conglobate is commonly cited as a side effect of these steroids.

Besides that, if you are one of those people who prefer to inject your steroids, chances are that you might end up with a skin infection or abscess at the injection sites.

Things can get even worse if you use unsanitary techniques or even happen to share needles.

Sharing of needles alone can lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS or even hepatitis.

And lastly, one can suffer from a condition known as endocarditis which might arise as infections due to improper injections.

How Do Anabolic Steroids Affect The Brain?

There’s no doubt that steroids affect the hormone system. These effects are also felt in the brain where dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters are the ones that take the hit.

As you probably are aware, dopamine is an important hormone in appetite control, emotional control, and learning.

It is also associated with positive reinforcing effects which is exactly why the word “dope” is used to describe good feelings in street language.

Serotonin, on the other hand, is directly linked to appetite control, sexuality and the regulation of sleep patterns.

Therefore, when the levels of these two crucial neurotransmitters are affected, the entire body is likely to pay the price for that. Yet anabolic steroids do exactly that.

For instance, steroids change the entire dopamine system response triggering it to support the release of intoxicants. This, in turn, reduces the effectiveness of dopamine in delivering pleasure.

Even worse, these artificial steroids can lead to the malfunction of the serotonergic nervous system.

And that significantly alters your behaviour patterns – changes that can, in some cases, be irreversible.

Anabolic Steroids Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are addicted to anabolic steroids, chances are high that you will experience withdrawal effects if you suddenly stop taking them.

Likewise, withdrawal symptoms may arise if one drastically reduces their dosage.

The key reason behind such effects is that anabolic steroids tend to cause hormonal imbalances.

Besides that, the continued use of these chemicals creates unnaturally high levels of the hormone in the body and that alone reduces the body’s ability to produce testosterone naturally.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with steroids include:

  • Bouts of depression
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Decreased sexual appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea

Fortunately, the majority of the steroid withdrawal effects have very little risk of injury or death. That, however, depends on how long one has been using them and the average regular dose that’s taken.

In addition, one’s mental health and medical history may play a role in influencing their ability to cope with the resulting effects.

What Is Stacking, Cycling, and Pyramiding?

Stacking, cycling, and pyramiding are three common terms used by those who indulge in steroid and supplement use.

In this context, stacking simply means combining two or more anabolic steroids that perform different roles.

Some people believe that combining several supplements can increase their effectiveness although there isn’t much scientific research to prove that for now.

Cycling, on the other hand, refers to the habit of taking steroids for some time combined with frequent breaks meant to prevent tolerance buildup.

Note that some steroid users go off-cycle for a few days as a strategy to reduce internal organ damage and to give the body the chance to produce its own testosterone.

Pyramiding is simply the habit of starting with a small dose of a steroid and gradually increasing that over time before tapering off to complete a cycle.

There is a widespread belief that pyramiding enhances the overall effects of these drugs although, once again, more scientific studies need to be done to confirm the authenticity of this notion.

What Is Estrogen Rebound?

Estrogen is a hormone found in large quantities in the female body. However, it is produced in small quantities within the male body.

When an individual decides to take steroids to boost their testosterone levels, they often end up suppressing the production of the female hormone.

Once they stop taking the hormone, the steroid production that had been suppressed is likely to rebound. The rebound effects of estrogen can be dire.

As the walls come tumbling down, one is bound to face an increased risk of breast cancer.

Another common effect of estrogen rebound is the formation of female-like features on the male body.

For instance, some men report the formation of fatty tissues around their breasts also known as “man boobs.”

Dangerous Drug Combinations

As we have explained so far, anabolic steroids can significantly change your personality and even physical health. In pretty much the same way, steroids can affect how one perceives the effects of other drugs.

For instance, if you normally take 3 bottles of beer, once you start taking these hormones, your tolerance to the drink is likely to rise such that you end up taking even more beer to “get high.”

This can cause you to take dangerously high levels of certain drugs.

Besides alcohol, other drugs popularly abused by steroid users include:

Most people, however, fail to realise that mixing these drugs and stimulants only ends up piling up even more pressure on their cardiovascular system.

What’s more?

Abusing the drugs can lead to long-term negative effects on your health including self-control issues, the inclination to commit crimes and so forth.

Effective Treatments

There are huge health risks in taking anabolic steroids without a doctor’s prescription.

Not only are steroids dangerous to one’s health but they also are addictive.

The good news, however, is that it’s possible to recover from this behaviour with the right kind of support and timely medical intervention.

If you would like to access help in your path to recovery, our treatment centre is open for you.

We are not here to judge or blame you for your current situation but to educate you and hold your hand on this journey.

Get in touch with our helpful team right now to explore the various options available at your disposal.


Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.