Anabolic-androgenic steroids are man-made substances related to male sex hormones. "Anabolic"
refers to muscle-building, and "androgenic" refers to increased masculine characteristics. "Steroids"
refers to the class of drugs. These drugs are available legally only by prescription, to treat conditions
that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed
puberty and some types of impotence, and also to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and
other diseases. Abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible.
Today, athletes and others abuse anabolic steroids to enhance performance and also to improve
Anabolic steroids are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles of weeks or months, rather than
continuously, in patterns called cycling. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a
specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. In addition, users frequently
combine several different types of steroids to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing
negative effects, a process known as stacking.
Reports indicate that use of anabolic steroids promotes lean muscle mass, strength, and ability to
train longer and harder. There are several health hazards to steroid abuse, however, and some are
irreversible. In addition, people who inject anabolic steroids run the added risk of contracting or
transmitting hepatitis, which causes serious damage to the liver, or HIV, the virus that leads to
The major side effects of anabolic steroid abuse include liver tumors and cancer, jaundice
(yellowish pig-mentation of skin, tissues, and body fluids), fluid retention, high blood pressure,
increases in LDL (bad cholesterol), and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol); others side effects
include kidney tumors, severe acne, and trembling. In addition, there are some gender-specific side
For men - shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of
breasts, increased risk for prostate cancer.
For women - growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the
menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice.
For adolescents - growth halted prematurely through premature skeletal maturation and
accelerated puberty changes. This means that adolescents risk remaining short the remainder
of their lives if they take anabolic steroids before the typical adolescent growth spurt.
Scientific research also shows that aggression and other psychiatric side effects may result from
abuse of anabolic steroids. Many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic
steroids, but researchers report that extreme mood swings also can occur, including manic-like
symptoms leading to violence. Depression often is seen when the drugs are stopped and may
contribute to dependence on anabolic steroids. Researchers report also that users may suffer from
paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of