What does it look like?
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.
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.
They’re used by some bodybuilders, athletes and other sports people because of their performance enhancing effects, and these users may consume 10 to 100 times the medical dose.
Some younger people use them to try and look more attractive, despite risking the negative effects on their looks.
How does it make you feel?
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
However, they can also sometimes cause unwanted changes in appearance like acne or shrunken testicles.
How does it make people behave?
Anabolic steroids can make some users feel paranoid, irritable, aggressive or even violent, and it can induce mood swings
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other drugs you may have also taken.
How long will it be detectable?
If taken orally, steroids can show up in a urine test for up to 14 days.
If injected, steroids can show up for up to 1 month.
How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.
Physical health risks
Taking anabolic steroids does involve risks to your body and health.
Here’s what 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.
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.
Mental health risks
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.
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.
What is anabolic steroids cut with?
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?
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.
This is a Class C drug, which means it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
Possession can get you up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.
If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.
Additional law details
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.