Anabolic Steroid Facts – Effects and Health Risks

Anabolic Steroid Facts – Effects and Health Risks

Anabolic steroids are not new, but it appears that they are as popular as ever, with heightened use across the board, and if the many news articles and tabloid press releases are to believed, it is at epidemic levels.

LAST UPDATED: March 2019 by Ben.

Ben has also tried prohormones and steroids in the past to see how they made an impact on his training.

What makes steroids so popular and what are the associated effects and risks?

Many men want that super hero body.

The ripped and toned physique which dominates the press, the movies and advertisements the world over is a cachet.

Plus, let’s face it, we are programmed by nature to be attracted to people that look healthy, strong and able to pass down a strong gene pool.

Many males think that a strong, ripped physique is more attractive, and thus it is what many men strive for.

It also displays an image of dominance. With a physically big and muscular physique comes the alpha effect.

So, we eat well, train hard and try to make as many muscular gains as possible.

However, there reaches a point whereby sometimes a persons genetic make-up will not allow for further impressive feats.

There is a limit, which can actually be accurately calculated to show our natural growth limitation.

Therefore, if a person feels their natural limitations are met and they want to grow further, or at a quicker rate, anabolic steroids are proven route.

Use of anabolic steroids may be down to a number of reasons, such as the ones already mentioned but it can be due to wanting an advantage in sports.

Additionally, use could be because someone is suffering from body dysmorphia, this is when a person does not see themselves as being big enough.

However, there are many misconceptions, myths and rumors that surround anabolic steroids.

This article looks to dispel those myths and provide the facts about anabolic steroids.

We will cover the following, so you can be more informed:

  • What they are
  • How they work
  • How they are taken
  • Side effects and risks

What are anabolic steroids?

bodybuilder injecting

Steroids are commonplace throughout medicine.

These are called corticosteroids and are not the same as anabolic steroids.

However, these can be administered due to illness. What we are discussing is anabolic steroids that are used for performance enhancement.

This classification of performance enhancing anabolic steroids are effectively just synthetic versions of the naturally occurring male sex hormones which are known as androgens.

If you take synthetic androgen hormones you will experience heightened and enhanced changes or developments to your body.

This is because these manufactured hormones are produced to mimic the effects of testosterone, but on a larger scale.

How do anabolic steroids work?

#1 Androgenic effects include enhancement of male characteristics such as additional hair growth, heavier skull and bone structure and a depper voice.

#2 Anabolic effects which is a number of process that increase growth through a synthesis of complex molecules which can result in an increase of muscle growth, mass and strength. [1]

This increased amount of testosterone has its advantages.

One of the male characteristics is increased muscle and decreased body fat.

Its outcomes also include additional strength as well as energy, power and endurance, not withstanding libido increases. [2]

So, most importantly, for us, the take away point here is that anabolic steroids increase muscle mass and strength.

How are anabolic steroids taken?

The most common ways to administer anabolic steroids is through injection or orally, by taking pills.

However, there are other forms of administration such as creams or gels that are absorbed in to the blood stream through the skin.

Each and every administration process includes its own risks, as well as varying ways to continue with administration.

The termed ‘cycling’ is often refereed to the process of taking the steroids for a period of time before having a break period before restarting the administration process.

There’s also the term ‘stacking’ which refers to when two or more different types of anabolic steroids are used in conjunction to reap the benefits and different effects that each can offer.

However, this also increases the risks. [3]

Pyramiding is another phrase coined by users and those who sell the drug.

This is a process of both cycling and tacking the drugs but by starting off with a lower dose and over time working up to a much larger and maximum dose before then taking a rest period before re-starting.

Many people prefer to use the pills as it is seen as being potentially safer, or physiologically feels a less risky form of administration. [4]

Side effects and risks

female bodybuilder

While it is known that anabolic steroids can provide many physical benefits and positive effects, in particular performance enhancements.

Besides these positives, there are also many health risks associated with anabolic use and abuse.

Particularly among people who are not educated with the risks, administration practices and legalities. [5]

However, there are more physiological risks that can put the user’s health in to jeopardy.

These risks also effect women, too.

They are not adverse to negative side effects yet tend to experience different physical effects than their male counterparts.

For men, the physical risk include but are not limited to the following:

  • Infertility
  • Baldness
  • Breast development (gynecomastia)
  • Impotency
  • Acne
  • Prostate growth
  • Testicle size decrease

Women, can experience the effects whereby the male characteristics become more prominent:

  • Facial hair growth
  • Breast reduction
  • Acne
  • Deepened voice
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Rougher skin that has less fat
  • Changes in bone structure

Yet, there are deeper side effects that can happen under the skin to both sexes, these risks can lead to a variety of major health complications that can increase the chances or premature mortality. [6] [7]

These risks include:

  • Cardiovascular ill-health
  • Organ tumors
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Blood clots
  • High cholesterol

Final Word on Anabolic Steroid Use

Anabolic steroids are used around the globe by men and women who are looking to enhance muscle mass, muscle strength, recovery while improving athletic and aesthetic performance.

However, many studies have demonstrated that there are many adverse effects.

These can include negative cardiovascular effects from anabolic steroid abuse.

As such, the health and legal risks are there, and well documented.

They are effective. They do increase muscle size and reduce fat, but they can cause issues.


[1] Structural characteristics of anabolic androgenic steroids contributing to binding to the androgen receptor and to their anabolic and androgenic activities. Applied modifications in the steroidal structure. Fragkaki AG, Angelis YS, Koupparis M, Tsantili-Kakoulidou A, Kokotos G, Georgakopoulos C. Steroids. 2009 Feb;74(2):172-97. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2008.10.016. Epub 2008 Nov 5. Review.

[2] Effects of androgenic-anabolic steroids in athletes. Hartgens F, Kuipers H.Sports Med.004;34(8):513-54. Review.

[3] Influence of anabolic steroids on body composition, blood pressure, lipid profile and liver functions in body builders. Kuipers H, Wijnen JA, Hartgens F, Willems SM. Int J Sports Med. 1991 Aug;12(4):413-8.

[4] The infectious complications of anabolic-androgenic steroid injection. Rich JD, Dickinson BP, Feller A, Pugatch D, Mylonakis E. Int J Sports Med. 1999 Nov;20(8):563-6. Review.

[5] Potential infections related to anabolic steroid injection in young adolescents.Dickinson BP, Mylonakis E, Strong LL, Rich JD.Pediatrics. 1999 Mar;103(3):694

[6] Body composition, cardiovascular risk factors and liver function in long-term androgenic-anabolic steroids using bodybuilders three months after drug withdrawal. Hartgens F, Kuipers H, Wijnen JA, Keizer HA. Int J Sports Med. 1996 Aug;17(6):429-33

[7] Adverse cardiovascular effects of anabolic steroids: pathophysiology imaging. Golestani R, Slart RH, Dullaart RP, Glaudemans AW, Zeebregts CJ, Boersma HH, Tio RA, Dierckx RA. Eur J Clin Invest. 2012 Jul;42(7):795-803. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2362.2011.02642.x. Epub 2012 Feb 2. Review.

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Anabolic steroid facts
Article Name
Anabolic steroid facts
This article covers some of the benefits and risks to using anabolic steroids.

Ben BA(Hons), PGCert

Ben established this site to be a free resource in 2015. Since then it has gained over half a million visits. He has always been interested in sport and he started playing rugby at the age of 6 represented his town, county and school. Ben also enjoys cycling, has started skiing and is in the Army Reserve representing his Regiment as part of the 150 Regimental Shooting Team. He holds a bachelor's and postgraduate degree in sport exercise & nutrition.

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