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Drug Information


About Steroids

"Steroids" refers to the class of drugs used to treat a wide variety of conditions/ailments - from supporting reproduction (e.g., estrogen) and regulation of many aspects of metabolism and immune function, to increasing muscle and bone mass and treating inflammation and asthma (e.g., cortisone).1

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

"Anabolic" steroids the class of steroids used to increase muscle and bone mass.  These drugs are manufactured in a laboratory to imitate the male sex hormone, testosterone. Despite the fact that there are various types of steroids, teens tend to abuse the "anabolic" muscle-building kind. 

While anabolic steroids are available legally by prescription, they are most often prescribed to treat conditions that occur when males produce abnormally low amounts of testosterone, which can result in delayed puberty, osteoporosis (weak bones), and impotence. They are also prescribed to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass.2   However, abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible.  All anabolic steroids are schedule C-III controlled substances in the United States

Why Are Steroids Dangerous to Teens?

As a parent, you have the challenge of explaining to your teen why steroids are so serious.  What is so bad about something that makes people strong, muscular, and powerful? 

First, it's important to understand that even when steroids are used to treat medical conditions like cancer, there are still health risks.  Typically, in those situations, the benefits of steroid use under a physician's supervision outweigh the risks, and they can improve the patient's quality of life. 

Second, both men's and women's bodies produce a certain level of testosterone.  When teens take steroids, they are adding more testosterone to their growing bodies, which throws off their hormonal balance.  As a result, teens may experience the following health effects from anabolic steroids3:

•Stunted growth
•Mood swings and rages
•Ruptured tendons
•Suffer delusions

•Have an oily scalp and
•Jaundice (yellowing of the skin from liver dysfunction)
•Liver disease or cancer

•Enlarged heart or heart attack
•High levels of "bad" cholesterol

Click here for additional information about health effects.

Third, since steroids are often taken by injection, there is also increased risk of HIV and/or hepatitis infection from an unsterile needle or syringe.

While there are many reasons teens take steroids, there are natural opportunities to talk to your child about all the reasons they should stay far away from steroids.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • When your teen gets more involved with competitive sports
  • If you find your teen is growing more preoccupied with body image, such as wanting to gain more muscle or appear leaner
  • If you notice your child's friends are hitting their growth spurts and "filling out"

Make sure your teen understands that the cumulative effects of steroid abuse may include: sterility; damage to the cardiovascular system and liver; increased risk of injury, such as a spontaneous Achilles tendon rupture; and disease, such as increased levels of cholesterol in a person's system, which causes thickening of arterial walls and could ultimately be life threatening.4 In addition, anytime there is a rapid increase in muscle mass and strength, which is common among steroid users, it is NOT accompanied by a proportionate increase in tendon and ligament strength.

Signs & Symptoms

If you have reason to believe your teen is abusing steroids, look out for these specific signs and symptoms:

  • Noticeable weight gain, particularly more muscle
  • Hair loss and premature balding
  • Severe acne
  • Mood swings, from depression to aggressiveness
  • Increased injuries, specifically to tendons
  • Yellow tinge to the skin (indicates abnormal liver function)
  • Needle marks in large muscle groups
  • Needles or syringes among your teen's personal effects

If you notice any of the above, talk with your teen immediately and be very clear that any drug use is not allowed - and discuss the serious health risks with him.  It's also important that you speak with a family physician.  Some health effects are reversible, like acne and mood swings, while others (such as baldness and stunted growth) are not.

Where Do Teens Get Steroids?

Since anabolic steroids are available only by prescription, and because they are regulated like narcotics, anabolic steroid abusers often obtain the drugs illegally. Some of the ways abusers can get steroids include: purchasing steroids manufactured within an illegal drug laboratory (not subject to FDA standards and regulations), smuggling from other countries, purchasing through Internet sales, or illegally diverting from U.S. pharmacies.5

Forms of anabolic steroid precursor supplements containing androstenedione or "andro" can be purchased legally without a prescription through many commercial sources, including health food stores. As mentioned above, an anabolic steroid is a steroid, such as testosterone, that induces muscle growth.  An anabolic steroid precursor is a steroid that does not itself cause muscle growth, but can be converted by the body into such a muscle-building steroid.6 Because of the way precursors convert in the body into active hormones, there is evidence that they may increase the risk of serious, long term health problems.

How Are Steroids Used?

There are several ways for an anabolic steroid to enter the bloodstream. Anabolic steroids can be taken in the following ways:

  • Injection directly into the bloodstream
  • Orally, as tablets or capsules
  • Ointments or patches (through the skin)
  • Preparations that are placed between the cheek and gum of mouth

Doses taken by abusers can be up to 100 times more than the doses used for treating medical conditions.7

Health Effects

Although steroids do not produce a medically intoxicating effect, abuse of steroids by a growing teen can lead to serious consequences:

Short-term Effects

  • Effects vary by individual, but general short-term negative effects for both sexes include hostility, aggression, and acne.8
  • Steroids can have a magnified effect on teens since their bodies are still growing. Any unnatural substances, such as anabolic steroids, that are designed to physically alter a body before adulthood, can result in stunting height, and this can be permanent. This means that adolescents risk remaining shorter than they naturally would for the remainder of their lives if they take anabolic steroids while they are still growing.9
  • Males may experience shrunken testicles, difficulty, or pain in urinating, become infertile or impotent, development of breasts, hair loss, and increased risk for prostate cancer.10
  • Girls can experience an excessive growth of body and facial hair, male-pattern baldness, decreased body fat and breast size, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, and a deepened voice.11

Long-term Effects

The long-term effects for both males and females are similarly related to extreme stresses to the body.  Long-term effects include:


•High blood pressure

•Liver cysts and cancer


•Increased risk of blood clotting

•Kidney cancer


•Increases in LDL (bad cholesterol)

•Fluid retention


•Decreases in HDL (good cholesterol)

•Severe acne12


•Jaundice (yellowish skin color, tissues and
 body fluids)


Mental Effects

While steroids are not taken as mood-altering drugs, they do have potentially negative psychological effects when abused. Scientific research has shown that aggression and other psychiatric side effects may result from abuse of anabolic steroids. Many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic steroids, but researchers report that extreme mood swings also can occur, including hyperactivity or agitation, and uncontrolled aggression (known as "roid rage"), which can lead to violence.13

What Is Steroid Withdrawal?

Many steroid abusers feel strong and "happy" when they are using.  When they stop, they can experience feelings of depression, which can result in dependence. Researchers also report that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.14

Street or Slang Terms for Steroids

Arnolds, Gym Candy, Juice, Pumpers, Stackers, Weight Trainers

Click here to see an extended list of drugs and their street names.

Helpful Links

  • Visit National Institute on Drug Abuse's steroids-specific Web site for further information on the effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids and information on healthy alternatives.


  1. NIDA InfoFacts: Steroids (Anabolic-Androgenic), National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2005.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2005, June 2006
  5. NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin - Anabolic Steroids, National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2000
  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.  March 2004.
  7. NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin - Anabolic Steroids, National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2000.
  8. NIDA InfoFacts: Steroids (Anabolic-Androgenic), National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2005.
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. Ibid
  13. Ibid
  14. Ibid
Courtesy of TheAntiDrug.com


• Reduce binge drinking and prescription drug abuse among teens.
• Reduce other high-risk behaviors and negative consequences for teens.
• Increase/build infrastructure to address substance abuse.
Mike Womack, Executive Director
P.O. Box 1412
Athens, TN. 37371-1412
MADCAT #: 423-920-6555