What are steroids? Steroids are drugs that mimic certain natural hormones in the body that regulate and control how the body works and develops. There are two main groups of natural steroids - anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. It is the anabolic steroids that tend to be misused, mainly because they are similar to the male hormone testosterone and they can improve endurance and performance and stimulate muscle growth.
Some people take the anabolic steroids to help build muscles or to try and look more ‘manly’. Other people take them to improve how they perform at sports, such as sprinting and cycling.
The key effects of anabolic steroids include:
- They may help sports players train harder and longer.
- If taken alongside a strenuous exercise regime, they may help with faster recovery times and with the building up of muscle mass.
- They can make some users feel paranoid, irritable, aggressive or even violent, and they can cause dramatic mood swings.
- They can sometimes cause unwanted changes in appearance.
Anabolic steroids are available as tablets or as a liquid for injection.
In medicine, they can be used to treat anaemia and muscle weakness after surgery.
They’re used by some bodybuilders, athletes and other sports people because of the performance enhancing effects, and these users may consume 10-100 times the medical dose. Some younger people use them to try and look more attractive, despite risking the negative effects on their looks.
Anabolic steroids cost approximately £20 for 100 tablets but prices can vary from region to region.
What are the effects of steroids?
Sports players and body building enthusiasts have claimed that anabolic steroids:
- Make them able to train harder and longer.
- Help them to recover from strenuous exercise faster.
- Build muscle mass, when taken alongside a strenuous exercise regime.
- Anabolic steroids can make some users feel paranoid, irritable, aggressive or even violent, and it can induce mood swings.
- They can sometimes cause unwanted changes in appearance like acne or shrunken testicles.
What are the risks of steroids?
Taking anabolic steroids does involve risks. There’s the harms you can do to your own body and health. But also, because anabolic steroids can make you feel paranoid, aggressive and violent for no reason, it’s not that unusual for anabolic steroid users to lash out or attack family and friends.
Here’s what else steroids can do to you:
- If you're young, anabolic steroids can mess up how your body develops, stopping you from growing properly.
- If you're male, regular use can lead to erection problems, growing of breasts, becoming sterile, loss of hair and development of acne. It can also make your testicles shrink.
- If you're female, you can develop more masculine characteristics - with extra facial hair, loss of hair on the head, a deeper voice, shrinking breasts, and an enlarged clitoris; as well as risking acne, an increased risk of menstrual problems and changes in sex drive.
- Steroids can also give you high blood pressure and increase your risk of illness and death due to liver failure, stroke or heart attack.
- Regular users may find that they start having trouble sleeping. They may get paranoid, or may experience dramatic mood swings; and even violence can occur alongside strong feelings of aggression.
- Injecting any drug, even steroids, can damage your veins and cause ulcers and gangrene, particularly with dirty needles or poor injecting technique. Sharing needles, syringes and other injecting works can help spread HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.
There are worries about the quality and safety of anabolic steroids that are sold on the black market, with falsified, substandard and counterfeit anabolic steroids not being uncommon.
Some of these counterfeit anabolic steroids may not have the effect that the buyer wanted. Some have no active ingredient at all.
Can you get addicted to anabolic steroids?
You can easily become psychologically dependent on anabolic steroid use (meaning you develop an increased tendency to keep taking the drug even in spite of possible harmful effects).
Withdrawal symptoms have been reported soon after stopping, including headaches, lethargy and depression.
Anabolic steroids and the law
- Anabolic steroids are Class C drugs to be sold only by pharmacists with a doctor's prescription.
- It's legal to possess or import steroids as long as they're for personal use. Importation or exportation of steroids for personal use can only be carried out in person. Importation or exportation of steroids for personal use using postal, courier or freight services is now illegal.
- Possession or importing with intent to supply (which includes giving them to friends) is illegal and could lead to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Many sporting organisations have banned the use of certain steroids. These organisations carry out tests for the banned steroids. If someone tests positive they can be disqualified from competing for certain periods of time, or even banned for life.
Did you know?
- A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries – for example the United States – and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.