Anabolic Steroids: Are They Legal? Risks & Benefits

Last Updated: July 1, 2021

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Anabolic steroids belong to a group of drugs that are best known by their statistics of misuse. Indeed, anabolic medications abuse is rampant among athletes and those who seek to improve their appearance and performance. Still, AAS steroids have multiple medical applications and can have significant benefits when administered correctly.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids medication belongs to a group of drugs that were synthesized to resemble the action of certain hormones, naturally produced by human bodies. Some of these medicines reduce inflammation, others increase muscle and bone synthesis.

There are two types of steroids that are used for medical purposes: anabolics and corticosteroids. Anabolics are used to treat men with low levels of testosterone and induce puberty in boys. These drugs promote muscle growth, which makes them susceptible to misuse by athletes and persons who wish to get more fit.

How To Get Prescribed Steroids?

People looking for anabolic steroids for sale should discuss the treatment with their healthcare provider first. Depending on their symptoms, other types of medications with fewer side effects may be applicable. Doctors may consider prescribing steroids for conditions such as weight loss after a severe injury or illness, male hypogonadism, certain types of anemia and cancer.

Anabolic Steroids Street Names

The most common steroids street name is gym candy. Other popular nicknames are:

  • arnolds
  • andro
  • pumpers
  • roids
  • stackers
  • weight trainers
  • juice.

Why Illegal

Anabolic medications are classified as Schedule III substances in the United States. It is illegal to possess these drugs without a valid prescription.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that AAS are illegal due to a high potential for abuse and destructive effects that these drugs may produce when taken without a doctor’s recommendation.

Should Steroids Be Legal?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are legal to use if an individual has a prescription for these medications. In many cases, a medical professional will be able to find effective anabolic steroids alternatives that pose fewer health risks and have a lesser potential for abuse and addiction. When a patient demonstrates a true need for anabolics, however, they will have access to the medicine. Correspondingly, there are no plausible benefits of lifting the ban on illegal possession of androgenic medications.

Benefits Of Anabolic Steroids

The main function of anabolic steroids is to promote muscle growth and the development of secondary male sexual characteristics. When used in patients with corresponding conditions, AAS can be beneficial for a person’s health.

The main anabolic steroids benefits include:

  • increase in muscle size
  • decreased recovery time
  • reduction and redistribution of body fat
  • increased production of red blood cells

positive effects of steroids

Risks Of Using Anabolic Steroids

Sharing Needles

The most common way of administering AAS is via an intramuscular injection. The use of needles increases the risk of contracting various infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV, particularly when needles are shared.

Use Of Unlicensed Products

One of the main anabolic steroids risks comes from their illegal status. Often, if a person cannot get a prescription, they buy the drugs on the street. The use of unlicensed medicines poses a risk of poisoning.

Permanent Hormonal Changes

Physical changes are one of the dangers of anabolic steroids abuse. Long-term use of these drugs leads to irreversible hormonal changes such as masculinizing effects in females and atrophy of the testicles in males.

An Increased Risk Of Developing Cardiovascular Diseases

This class of medications is known to increase blood pressure and cause a variety of cardiovascular problems.

Various Skin Problems

Continuous anabolics abuse can make oil glands vulnerable to infection. For this reason, androgenic medications frequently cause acne, inflammation of the skin, and swelling.

Steroids Abuse

Why Do People Abuse Anabolics?

AAS steroids are primarily abused by people who want to get a better physique and become more confident. These medications do not produce high or euphoria, which makes them unsuitable as recreational drugs, yet their effects can be psychologically and physically addictive. Consequently, those who start taking steroids for muscle gain might find themselves unable to stop when they reach their goal.

steroids abuse

Symptoms Of Steroids Abuse

The symptoms of anabolics abuse are not as pronounced as the effects of recreational drugs are. However, it is important to look out for these signs and get help if someone notices them in their friend or relative.

The most common symptoms of anabolic steroids abuse include:

  • a sudden and abnormal increase in muscle mass
  • bloated stomach
  • mood swings and aggressiveness
  • acne
  • gynecomastia in males
  • voice deepening in females
  • needle marks

Abuse Prevention

The most effective method of abuse prevention is educating people on the matter. Many see anabolics as innocent performance enhancers despite their legal status. This is why it is crucial to spread the knowledge of what anabolics are and what effects they may have on a person’s health.

Are Steroids Addictive?

Anabolic steroids addiction is a problem that few users consider when taking drugs. Considering how long steroids stay in one’s system, with regular use, addiction is developing gradually. Addiction manifests in depression and anxiety when the use is stopped abruptly. For this reason, tapering steroids is better than quitting them cold turkey.

Can One Overdose On Steroids?

Signs And Symptoms Of An Overdose

Taking too much medication can lead to a variety of negative health effects that manifest differently depending on a person’s sex and other physical characteristics. The majority of symptoms during an overdose can be attributed to increased anabolic steroids effects.

The most common steroids overdose symptoms include:

  • dangerous cholesterol changes
  • major mood swings
  • tremors and convulsions
  • elevated blood pressure and body temperature
  • heart attack
  • stroke

can you overdose on steroids

What To Do If One Overdoses On Anabolics

It may be hard to notice an overdose on steroids due to its slow progression. However, it is vital to get professional help receiving substance abuse treatment as soon as a person notices the first symptoms. Anabolics overdose can be fatal in the long run.

Overdose Prevention

For those who use anabolics per their doctor’s prescription, it is important to discuss any concerns the patient might develop. Talking to their healthcare provider if the individual feels like they are becoming addicted to the medication is the best course of action. Those who are abusing anabolics should seek professional treatment at a drug rehabilitation center to increase their chances of full recovery.

Increased Awareness – Lower Chance Of Abuse

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are primarily used to treat delayed puberty in males, low testosterone levels and breast cancer. Due to their effects on a person’s body, these drugs are often misused to gain muscle and improve endurance. AAS steroids are classified as Schedule III drugs for their high potential for abuse. Since the use of anabolic medications may result in permanent hormonal changes, it is crucial to avoid taking the drugs without a doctor’s supervision.

Page Sources

  1. Vanberg P., Atar D. Androgenic anabolic steroid abuse and the cardiovascular system. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology. 2010; (195): 411-57. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-79088-4_18.
  2. A Guide For Understanding The Dangers Of Anabolic Steroids. Drug Enforcement Administration. 2004.

Published on: August 16th, 2019

Updated on: July 1st, 2021

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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