What are anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids are medications related to testosterone (male sex hormone) that are made in labs. Doctors use anabolic steroids to treat hormone problems in men, delayed puberty, and muscle loss from some diseases.
Bodybuilders and athletes might misuse anabolic steroids in attempts to build muscles and improve athletic performance, often taking doses much higher than would be prescribed for a medical condition. Using them this way, without a prescription from a doctor, is not legal—or safe—and can have long-term consequences.
Anabolic steroids are only one type of steroid. Other types of steroids include cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone. These are different chemicals and do not have the same effects.
How Anabolic Steroids Are Misused
When people take steroids without a doctor’s prescription or in ways other than as prescribed, it is called misuse.
Some people who misuse steroids take pills; others use needles to inject steroids into their muscles or apply them to the skin as a gel or cream.
What happens to your brain when you misuse anabolic steroids?
In addition, people who misuse steroids by injecting them risk getting HIV or hepatitis (a liver disease) if they share needles. Read more about the link between viral infections and drug use.
Some people who misuse steroids believe they can avoid unwanted side effects or increase the drugs’ effects by using them in specific ways, sometimes called cycling, stacking, or pyramiding. There is no scientific evidence that any of these approaches reduces the harmful effects of misusing these drugs.