Activities Sports & Athletics The Myths and Dangers of Anabolic Steroid Usage What are steroids? How do steroids work? Why are steroids dangerous? Share PINTEREST Email Print Sports & Athletics Bodybuilding Training & Routines Basics Health & Safety Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Golf Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Swimming & Diving Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Hugo Rivera Hugo Rivera is a nationally ranked competitive bodybuilder. He has written several books on fitness and bodybuilding, including "The Body Sculpting Bible." our editorial process Hugo Rivera Updated March 08, 2017 There are a lot of misconceptions about what steroids are, how steroids work, and why steroids are dangerous. If you are curious about the subject of steroids, let's eliminate certain misconceptions that surround these drugs. I have never experimented with steroids and do not endorse their usage but this unbiased and researched report is intended to provide you with objective information of what these drugs are and what they can and cannot do. What are Anabolic Steroids? Anabolic steroids are a synthetic copy of the hormone testosterone. They have been the subject of much debate over the last few decades as well as misinformation. Athletes, especially bodybuilders, may feel lured towards them as these drugs do increase muscle size, strength, and stamina. Steroid Myth #1. Taking Any Kind of Steroid Will Result In Death The first thing that we need to understand is that steroids are drugs. Even Tylenol and Aspirin can cause serious problems if you take them in large quantities. All drugs when misused and abused have the potential to kill; its not only steroids. However, since taking steroids is against the law, issues of product purity and authenticity as well as innaccurate information surrounding their usage add serious risks to steroid experimentation. Steroid Myth #2. Steroids are Easy to Get Another misconception about steroids is that they are easily obtained. As far as accessibility, the truth is that they are illegal substances without a medical prescription, so your accessibility will be through the black market (good luck as far as quality). In addition, if you get caught in their possession without a prescription you may face up to 5 years in a federal prison. Steroid Myth #3. All Steroids Are Pills On the issue of variety, there are many different types of steroid out there. There are injectable steroids and oral steroids. The injectable kind are generally more androgenic (provide male characteristics like hair growth and aggression) in nature and less damaging to organs like the liver. The oral versions are more anabolic in nature and cause more side effects than their injectable brothers as they have to be processed by the liver. Different steroids have different properties so there are some that have more tendencies to build muscle mass while others have a tendency to increase strength. As their properties vary, so do their side effects. Usually the stronger the steroid (especially if oral), the more side effects you can expect. The Good Side of Steroids? Steroids do increase size and strength. In fact, they do so very significantly. In addition to gains in strength and muscle mass they also seem to provide you with more energy and aggressiveness, things that are conducive to good workouts (but not so in interpersonal relationships). Depending on the steroid used, you may also get cell voluminizing effects that promote a bigger pump. Aside from even just the legal risks of steroids, the "good side" comes at a high price. The Psychological Effects of Steroids Based on the fact that steroids give you all of these good effects that bodybuilders constantly look for, it is no surprise that they cause a psychological dependence. Think about it. If you have been taking them for the past 8 weeks, assuming good diet and training, chances are that you got very big and strong quick. You feel unstoppable after the 8 weeks of use. Suddenly you taper them off, up until you completely stop their use. A week later after cessation of use you notice that you are not getting good pumps, that your strength is diminishing regardless of your best effort and that your muscle mass is shrinking! Add to that the fact that for the first few weeks after cessation of use you will feel depressed due to low testosterone levels and it is no wonder that there are people out there that never get off from them. Depression Effects of Steroids Due to the post cycle low period of testosterone along with the fact that your estrogen levels will rise, depression at this time will be very real. In order to minimize this, you would need to get with a doctor and jump on many post cycle drugs that will re-establish your natural testosterone production along with supressing your estrogen levels. If you have an understanding doctor that is willing to help, he may prescribe you with the medications you need. However, chances are that your medical insurance will not cover these drugs due to the fact that the condition was caused due to illegal steroid use. If you do not get these medications, then expect a very bad depression and total loss of gains. If you do not know what you are doing (i.e. you used steroids with the most side effects, you abused the dosage, etc) then not only will you get bad side effects during the period of use, but you also will also get worst side effects after the use. Again, the degree of side effects is directly proportional to the dosage and type of the steroid and also dependent of the genetic propensity of the subject to get such side effects. Therefore, it would be impossible for me or anyone else to exactly predict what kind of side effects a user might encounter during a period of use. However, one thing is for certain. If you abused the drugs by using super high dosages and for very long periods of time, you may never be able to re-establish natural testosterone production, so you will then need to get with an endocrinologist and possibly stay on low dose testosterone therapy for life. Steroid Users Risk: 1) Increased Liver Function.2) Depression of Natural Testosterone Production.3) Increase in Cholesterol Levels and Blood Pressure (Not conductive to good cardiovascular health).4) Altered Thyroid Function.5) Headeches.6) Nose bleeds.7) Cramps.8) Development of breastlike tissue in men (Gynecomastia).9) Insulin Insensitivity (Even though Deca Durabolin improves the insulin metabolism).10) Androgenic Side effects such as thinning hair, enlarged prostate, oily skin, water retention, increased body hair, aggressiveness.11) Stunted growth if you are a teenager.12) Oral Steroid specific side effects: In addition to the above, the orals also tend to cause nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting.13) May accelerate the growth of tumors. Again, keep in mind that different steroids offer different side effects and that everything is dosage dependent, so the list above is a generalized list of side effects.I am not even going to go into the kind of side effects that females encounter when they decide to use these drugs, especially the androgenic ones like testosterone. That could be a whole article by itself, but I think that most people could imagine what happens when you start introducing abnormal amounts of hormones from the opposite sex into your body. (Note: For a better idea of what each particular steroid does, please visit the following link at Mesomorphosis.com:http://www.mesomorphosis.com/steroid-profiles/index.htm) Medical Uses of SteroidsI think anabolic steroids have their rightful place in medicine. For instance, I can see their use in patients with extreme muscle wasting conditions like AIDS, for instance. Also, some steroids can be used to eliminate severe anemia. Finally, I have read alot of European research on the positive effects of low dosages of anabolic steroids like testosterone and deca-durabolin on males suffering from clinically low levels. This is called Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), and I personally see value in it, as in this case you are just replacing a necessary hormone that the body is no longer producing. This is done all of the time. For instance, if your thyroid is not functioning well, then the doctor prescribes you with thyroid medication. However, again keep in mind that you are still introducing a foreign substance to the body and HRT does not come without risks. Your Doctor can educate you more on that subject.My Message To TeenagersSteroids are not the magical substance that some people make them up to be. Training, diet and rest is what will get you the body that you want. I've seen people that are on steroids and train badly, do not diet and hardly rest, and as a result, are still small. Don't expect to take steroids and look like a champion bodybuilder in two weeks because it will not happen.Teenagers especially should not even think about the use of these drugs as teens already have their testosterone levels at a level equivalent to the one a 300 mg shot of testosterone would increase them to. Alot of complex processes occur on a teen's body that we yet do not even understand so introducing these drugs at this age would interrupt these processes, in addition to killing the best natural production of testosterone that you will ever get. My message to teens is: Eat big, train big and you will get big. These are the best years for good natural growth so do not waste or jeopardize them.ConclusionHaving said all of the above here is where I will put my two cents worth (here comes the subjective part of this article). I am not going to say: "If you touch these drugs you will die for certain" as by now you should know better. And besides, for your information, there are drugs that are prescribed on a daily basis far more dangerous than steroids, in my opinion. However, keep in mind that unless you are using them under medical supervision for HRT purposes, or for any other medical purpose that your Doctor sees fit, then you are breaking the law and you are exposing yourself to whatever you got from the black market and to possible legal issues.I don't intend to sound mean, but the truth is that most people do not even have the expertise to self administer these powerful agents, and thus, end up risking their health and making those around them miserable. When hormones are introduced into the body certain chemical reactions begin to occur, and if the subject does not have an extremely thorough understanding of what is happenning inside the body, then he/she is just playing with fire. At best, you get big for a few weeks, assuming that training, diet and rest are in order, but then it goes away; so what is the use? Besides, is it worth risking jail in order to gain a few pounds of muscle? Also, if you get the drugs from the black market, how can you be assured that the quality is good? How will you know that what you are putting into your body is steroids at all? How can you be sure that if you are using an injectible steroid you will be able to always inject it correctly and without causing either an infection on the site or pinching a nerve perhaps? These are all things that you should think about if there ever comes a time when you are tempted to use the drugs. Building the body is a lifetime commitment that has to be practiced eagerly day in and day out with the utmost persistence. There are no shortcuts to a championship body; not even steroids I'm afraid. Only hard work combined with a smart training and nutrition system will take you where you want to go.About The AuthorHugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men", "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook", and his successful, self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering". Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Learn more about Hugo Rivera.