Types Of Steroids, Uses, Abuse and How to Treat Steroid Addiction

Last Updated: January 24, 2022

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

The abuse of anabolics is widespread in the United States. In the past, bodybuilders and athletes were among the major abusers of these medications. Today, steroid use has permeated the strata of society. These medications have negatively impacted the health of many addicts leading to anabolics side effects such as muscle weakness and blurred vision. There are two types of steroids: corticosteroids and anabolic-androgenic. Out of the steroid types, anabolic-androgenic are the most abused. But, what are steroids used for?

Steroids Uses: What Are The Medical Applications

Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), or simply anabolics, is an umbrella term for the substances that are applied for two medical purposes: androgenic medical use and anabolic medical use. The difference between those two is as follows: androgenic medical use is connected with the need to increase some features characteristic of the male sex, while anabolic medical use is concerned with the muscle building. Starting from the beginning of the 20th century, anabolic steroids usage was common among athletes. After these substances became easily accessible, the side effects occurred more often due to the incorrect anabolic medical use. That’s why it is important to be aware of the peculiarities of anabolic usage and how to use AAS safely.

AAS for Poison Ivy Corticosteroids are effective in the treatment of symptoms caused by poison ivy. A high dose of corticosteroids is used to lower the symptoms of poison ivy. Oral steroids treat the symptoms by contracting the blood vessels. This action cools down the affected area and reduces the amount of water reaching the affected area. Thus, the spread of the allergic reaction is disrupted. A typical corticosteroid used to treat poison ivy is oral prednisone.
AAS for Weight Loss Cutting fat due to AAS is effective in case of a well-thought and smart diet prescribed by a specialist. Fat burning medications promote one’s workout skills, put one’s body in an anabolic state, and increase the levels of testosterone hormone in the body. After this, the high level of testosterone increases the tempo of the fat-burning process. As a result, the level of cortisol also becomes weak, as well as one’s appetite.
AAS to Gain Weight These medicines affect the body’s metabolism rate and fat disposition. They also increase appetite. All these actions can lead to weight gain. Studies indicate that the anabolic steroid oxandrolone is effective for gaining weight during the recovery phase after undergoing surgery for experiencing deep burns. However, the amount of weight gain depends on other factors such as the dose and duration of the drug.
AAS for Asthma Corticosteroids are used to treat asthma. These types of medications fight asthma by reducing inflamed airways. This significantly reduces coughing and breathlessness which are typical symptoms of asthma. They also reduce the amount of mucus a patient produces during an asthmatic attack, thus helping the patient to breathe normally. One steroid which is effective in the treatment of asthma is prednisone.
AAS for Muscle Growth These medicines are used to improve muscle mass and strength. They work by duplicating the effects of the natural testosterone hormones in the body. Testerone is the hormone responsible for male body mass and strength. The duplication of testosterone increases the levels of the hormone resulting in more muscle gain and robustness. Notable anabolics that boost muscle mass and strength are Trenbolone and Dianabolone.
AAS for Back Pain Oral corticosteroids are used to treat anti-inflammatory conditions such as low back pain. These medicines do this by reducing nerve swelling and inflammation. Due to their strength, they are prescribed in short doses, maybe 1 or 2 weeks. This is because they may harm the health of the patient if taken for a long period. The most common steroid in the treatment of low back pain is Dexamethasone.
Topical Steroids for Eczema Topical steroids are creams used to treat eczema. These creams are rubbed on the affected area depending on the severity of the conditions. Topical steroids work by reducing inflammation and itching in the affected area. They are not designed for long use. This is to avoid negative health conditions. They may also cause skin irritations so it is essential to use the right steroid for the severity of eczema.
AAS for Gout Oral steroids can be used in place of NSAIDs to treat gout when the NSAIDs are contraindicated. However, they are potent enough to be used as first-line treatment. A typical steroid effective in treating gout is prednisone. At the right dose, prednisone can treat gout within one to four days.
AAS for COPD Copd involves contraction of the airways which causes difficulty in breathing. Steroid use is efficient in treating this condition. When ingested, they cause a reduction in inflammatory compounds called eosinophils. This reduces the asthmatic attack. Thus the airways are cleared for the resumption of normal breathing.

It is worthy of mentioning that legal anabolics are prescribed in cases of certain medical conditions such as low levels of testosterone or anemia. However, if a person is healthy and young, a doctor will not prescribe these substances without any need. The reason is that some medical uses for ASS do have side effects.

Types Of Steroids and Methods Of Intake

The AAS, also known as testosterone steroids, belong to a drug category – not a single type of medication. There are numerous anabolic drugs on the market. As such, what they look like is highly varied, ranging from pills of different sizes to injectable liquids. Lists of AAS tend to divide them in one of two ways: by method of intake and by nature of origin.

There are two main methods of intake with AAS drugs: oral and injectable. Other methods include inhalation and applying the cream to the affected area. Nasal steroids are typically medicines that are administered via the nose to clear nasal airways. However, some of them can be swallowed to treat mouth ulcers. A typical example is fluticasone propionate. Topical drugs are medicated creams that are applied to affected areas. Just like nasal steroids, topical corticosteroids can also be ingested. Oral AAS drugs are easy to take but must be taken frequently to maintain their effects. Injectable types of AAS tend to require fewer doses, but given that they must be injected, are harder to administer and come with certain risks.

Oral Steroids

Oral steroids are the easiest AAS drugs to access. Doctors are more likely to prescribe them, and they are more readily available on the black market as well. Anabolics in pill form are preferred by the majority of people who take them. It is far easier to swallow a pill than to self-administer an injection.

This is because oral AAS drugs must be processed by the digestive tract first, they do not act as fast as injectable options do. However, given the nature of the drugs and what they are meant to accomplish, this isn’t a big concern. Different types of anabolics may be processed by the body faster, but the gains from the drugs will be seen at the same time.

The Example of Some of Oral Steroids is as Follows:

  • Dianabol
  • Anadrol
  • Trenbolone
  • Winstrol
  • Anavar
  • Clenbuterol
  • Primobolan
  • Turinabol
  • Proviron
  • Halotestin
  • Virilon
  • Cheque

For those worried about passing anabolic drug tests, oral medications are generally considered best. Injectable options tend to remain detectable for much longer – some up to an entire year. However, because they are taken daily, issues such as mixing anabolics and alcohol are of greater concern.

A man makes an injection of anabolic steroids in his hand.

Anabolic Steroid Injections

Injectable anabolics are much more user-intensive to administer. People taking these AAS drugs have to either self-administer injections multiple times a week or get someone else to do it for them. Because of this, they tend to be used more by serious bodybuilders and athletes who have coaches and medical staff around them to assist with administration.

Some of the Injectable Anabolics Names Are:

  • Equipoise
  • Primobolan
  • Deca Durabolin
  • Durabolin
  • Depotest
  • Andro-Estro
  • Testex
  • Finajet

It should be noted that because these medications are concentrated, coming off AAS side effects may be more intense. It is important to find addiction treatment as soon as possible after the first signs of abuse are detected.

Topical Steroids

These are a group of anti-inflammatory medications that treat dermatitis. They are applied to the affected area and work by reducing the inflammation of the skin. These medications are applied in quantities that correspond to the severity of dermatitis. Thus, the more severe the inflammation the more of these drugs are applied.

Here Is a List of Some of the Most Popular of These Medications:

  • Lidex (fluocinonide)
  • Halog (halcinonide)
  • Topicort (desoximetasone)
  • Betamethasone valerate
  • Hytone
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Desonate
  • Locoid
  • Pandel

Though these medications are creams and are meant to be smeared, some of them can be swallowed. Swallowed corticosteroids are very effective in the treatment of eosinophilic esophagitis. However, caution should be exercised in their application because overuse can cause unfavorable health conditions. It is advisable to use these drugs in the short term.

Nasal Steroids

Nasal steroids are anabolics that are taken through the nasal cavity. They are also known as inhaled steroids. They treat allergies by fighting inflammation. These medicines help to relieve symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. Though they are part of the safest medications, inhaled steroids should be administered with caution.

Some of the Popular Medicines Include:

  • Nasacort
  • Flonase
  • Rhinocort
  • Beclomethasone
  • Budesonide
  • Fluticasone
  • Mometasone

Nasal sprays should not go down the throat. Even if they do, they cause less harm. However, they’ll leave a sour taste in the mouth. To prevent this be sure to administer nasal sprays by carefully following the directions on the packaging. However, if it trickles down the throat, grab a bottle of juice to counter the sour taste.

Types Of Steroids and Nature Of Origin

Another way to categorize different types of AAS drugs is by the nature of origin. There are two groups depending on the nature of the origin of the steroid. Some are naturally produced in the body while others are artificially produced. Those that are produced by the body are called natural steroids whilst those produced artificially are referred to as man-made. Both types have their side effects, thus they must be patronized with caution.

Exogenous Steroids

Exogenous steroids are synthetic drugs that replicate the effects of testosterone. These are called synthetic steroids and are opposite to natural steroids. These testosterone steroids work by suppressing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which is also referred to as the body’s stress response system. Examples of such medicines include Prednisone, Fluticasone, and Methylprednisolone. Exogenous steroids are among the most frequently abused ones.

Natural Steroids

Then there are endogenous steroids also referred to as natural steroids, which are substances that naturally occur in the body. These are also referred to as natural steroids. These testosterone steroids work by increasing the production of testosterone to build and repair muscles. However, their uses far outweigh the building of muscles to include stress response, immune response, and carbohydrate metabolism. Natural steroids are developed from plants or herbs of the hormone testosterone. While one may sound more natural, and therefore healthier than the other, in truth, both AAS drug types are equally dangerous.

Beyond methods of intake and nature of origin, there are other ways AAS drugs are sometimes categorized. Those are primarily for marketing purposes and do not denote a meaningful difference in the product. For example, hyperbolic steroids are noted in marketing materials, but the only difference between them and other AAS drugs is a slightly faster mechanism of action.

Types Of Steroids For Bodybuilding

Though some steroids are used for medical purposes, some athletes use these steroids for muscle growth and to boost performance. Such steroids are derived from the male hormone called testosterone. Often the performance-enhancing and muscle gaining medications are synthetic.

Here Are Examples of Steroids for Muscle Growth:

  • Anadrol
  • Oxandrolone
  • Dianabol
  • Winstrol
  • Deca-durabolin
  • Equipoise

Some athletes are known to abuse these steroids for muscle growth. To feel the effects and to enhance muscle mass, they take these medicines in higher doses. This can have a dire consequence on their health. Common side effects include acne, big male breasts, hair growth, or loss. Abuse of medicines can also lead to low sperm count, infertility, and cardiovascular diseases.

Ending Abusive Use of Drugs

First and foremost, one should remember that AAS intake is a serious affair, and it will have a huge impact on one’s health. It is critical to know as much as possible about anabolic-androgenic steroids to use these safely and effectively. Nevertheless, when it is clear that a person needs professional help due to drug misuse, it is critical to turn to some qualified rehab and addiction centers as soon as possible.

When anabolics start to cause health problems, are used without a prescription, or are otherwise abused, it is time to seek help. Just like with any other drug, abuse should be treated by a drug rehabilitation center. There, users will get the best possible help in an understanding environment.

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Page Sources

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Published on: August 16th, 2019

Updated on: January 24th, 2022

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.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.