Oral vs. Injectable Steroids: How Long Do Steroids Stay In Your System?

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Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS), often referred to simply as steroids, are a class of synthetic hormones that mimic the effects of testosterone. In the U.S., they are Schedule III controlled substances, and only a small number are approved for human or veterinary use.

While some AAS have legitimate medical uses, their potential for misuse is high. It is estimated that among the US population from 13 to 50 years, 2.9 to 4 million individuals use steroids for nonmedical purposes, and approximately 1 million of these users are heavily dependent on them.

Since AAS abuse is linked to several health and legal complications, knowing how long steroids stay in your system is essential to avoid steroid misuse and its personal and legal consequences. Continue reading for expert advice.

What Are Steroids?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), also known as anabolic steroids, are synthetic substances that mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone.

Since these drugs can reduce muscle damage from intense workouts, aiding athletes in quicker recovery and allowing for harder and more frequent training sessions, they are the most commonly abused Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) by bodybuilders and athletes.

There are two main categories of anabolic steroids:

  • Oral, which has a faster reaction, includes oxandrolone, oxymetholone and fluoxymesterone.
  • Injected, which have a slower reaction, include testosterone cypionate and enanthate.

In the U.S., all anabolic steroids are classified as Schedule III drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), indicating a moderate to high potential for drug abuse and dependence. Their non-medical use is illegal and possessing or distributing anabolic steroids without a prescription can result in legal consequences, including fines and imprisonment.

Anabolic Steroids Medical Uses

The FDA approves anabolic steroids for the following medical applications:

  • Primary hypogonadism
  • Delayed puberty in boys
  • Other testosterone deficiencies

Anabolic Steroids Off-Label Uses

Some medical professionals may prescribe anabolic steroids for:

  • Bone marrow stimulation in specific conditions
  • Muscle wasting due to illnesses like AIDS
  • Aplastic anemia and kidney failure (limited use)

Do Steroids Show Up In A Drug Test?

Yes, anabolic steroids can show up in a drug test, but not in all drug tests. For example, employers commonly use a 12-panel drug test, also available as at-home kits, to detect commonly abused street drugs. However, anabolic steroids do not appear on this standard test.

Also, several factors affect the presence and detection of licit and illicit substances or their metabolites in a drug test, including:

  • Chemical properties of the drug (i.e., half-life)
  • Metabolism rates and excretion routes
  • Amount, administration route, frequency and dosage
  • Sensitivity and specificity of the assay
  • Specific factors such as health, activity, diet, weight and gender

Sports authorities use specialized tests to detect performance-enhancing agents in athletes. But remember that the higher the dose and the longer the duration of use, the more likely it is to be detected, as they tend to build up in the body with continuous use.

Steroids Screening Tests

While the specific detection window for steroids can vary depending on the type and individual factors, there are established methods to test for their presence in the body, including:

  • Urine: Most commonly used due to its longer detection window for many steroids.
  • Blood: Useful for detecting recent use; shorter detection window than urine tests.
  • Hair Follicle: Can detect long-term steroid use, providing a historical use record.
  • Fingernail: Can detect steroids for a longer window due to absorption into the nail matrix.
  • Saliva: Less common and typically used for detecting very recent use.
  • Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS): Natural and synthetic steroids can be differentiated.

How Long Do Steroids Stay In Your System?

For athletes using steroids for performance enhancement, failing a drug test can be a downfall. To avoid this, it’s essential to understand how drug half-life works.

A drug half-life refers to the time it takes for the body to eliminate half of the initial drug concentration from the bloodstream. This provides a general idea of how long it might take for complete drug elimination and, consequently, a clean drug test.

The half-life of anabolic steroids can vary significantly between different types, influencing their duration of effect and the detection window in drug tests. There are steroids with short and long half-lives.

  • Short half-life steroids are metabolized and excreted quickly, shortening detection time in the body.
  • Longer half-life steroids stay in the body longer, extending their effects and detection window.

Detection Windows for Steroids

Below, a chart provides an overview of the detection times of the most common anabolic steroids:

Steroid Half-Life Detection Window
Anadrol (Oxymetholone) 8-9 hours Up to 2 months
Anavar (Oxandrolone) 9 hours Up to 3 weeks
Dianabol (Methandrostenolone) 4.5-6 hours Up to 6 weeks
Deca-Durabolin (Nandrolone Decanoate) 6 days Up to 18 months
Trenbolone Acetate 3 days Up to 5 months
Winstrol (Stanozolol) 9 hours (oral), 24 hours (injectable) Up to 2 months (oral), Up to 2 months (injectable)
Primobolan (Methenolone) 4-5 days Up to 5 weeks
Testosterone Enanthate 8 days (injectable) Up to 3 months
Clenbuterol 36-48 hours Up to 7 days

Oral anabolic steroids have a smaller detection window compared to injectable ones. Oral steroids may only be detected for a little less than a month, while injection steroids may be detected for over one month.

What Happens if a Steroid Test Comes Back Positive?

Testing positive for anabolic steroids can lead to sports disqualification, suspension, and reputational harm, as well as possible employment termination. Consequences vary by the organization, steroid type and amount, and previous offenses.

Remember, a positive test may also be a reminder of the health risks of steroid abuse and a chance to seek help. Abruptly stopping steroids is unsafe and often ineffective. Withdrawal from anabolic steroids can lead to severe symptoms like mood swings, insomnia, anxiety, episodes of rage, violence and aggressiveness, and even suicidal thoughts.

Follow a proper detoxification strategy when discontinuing these drugs. Drug detox centers can provide safe treatments to reduce anabolic steroid levels in the body gradually.

How Long Do Anabolic Steroids Stay In Your System?− Final Considerations

The misuse of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) poses serious health risks, including depression, liver damage, stroke, and heart attack, which can affect an athlete’s quality of life long-term.

Also, doping undermines fair competition and the integrity of sports. To safeguard athletes’ well-being and uphold the integrity of competition, education is crucial to discourage steroid use in the first place, and treatment programs to address the underlying issues driving steroid abuse, including depression and body dysmorphia.

If you or someone you know is struggling with steroid abuse, contact a professional addiction specialist or call the National Drug Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for confidential support.

People Also Ask

How long do steroids stay in your blood system?

Steroid detection in blood is shorter than urine (weeks vs. months). However, it still varies depending on the type (short-term: days, long-term: weeks) and individual factors. Blood tests are less common for steroid detection.

How long does it take for steroids to leave your system completely?

The time it takes for steroids to altogether leave your system ranges from a few days to several months, depending on the steroid type, dosage, and individual metabolism.

How long do the side effects of steroids last after stopping?

Side effects of steroids can linger for weeks or even months after stopping, depending on the severity and type of steroid used. Seek professional help if needed.

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Page Sources

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  2. Manoochehri, Z., Barati, M., Faradmal, J., & Manoochehri, S. (2021). Random forest model to identify factors associated with anabolic-androgenic steroid use. BMC Sports Science, Medicine & Rehabilitation, 13(1).
  3. Wenbo, Z., & Yan, Z. (2023). The Uses of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids Among Athletes; Its Positive and Negative Aspects- A Literature Review. Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 16, 4293-4305.
  4. Ganesan, K., Rahman, S., & Zito, P. M. (2023, May 23). Anabolic steroids. StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf
  5. Adelson, R. (n.d.). The power of potent steroids. APA
  6. Treatment, C. F. S. A. (2006). Appendix b. Urine collection and testing procedures and alternative methods for monitoring drug use. Substance Abuse: Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment - NCBI Bookshelf
  7. Andersen, D. W., & Linnet, K. (2014). Screening for anabolic steroids in urine of forensic cases using fully automated solid phase extraction and LC–MS-MS. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 38(9), 637–644.
  8. Horwath, H. (2023, November 27). Who, why, and how of USADA testing | U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)
Retrieved on May 21, 2024.

Published on: August 16th, 2019

Updated on: May 21st, 2024


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