Overview: Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions
of the male hormone testosterone. At normal body levels,
testosterone triggers the onset of male secondary sexual characteristics
during puberty and boosts muscle development and growth. Used
medically to supplement normal hormone levels after injury or
disease, steroids are also used illegally by bodybuilders and
others to increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, and enhance
Street Names: ‘roids, rocket fuel, juice.
Appearance: Steroids are available in both pill
and liquid form for injection.
Effects: Steroids have lived in the shadows of professional
and amateur sports for decades, due to the explosive physical
changes they trigger. Psychological effects are also part of
their draw, and range from euphoria and increased motivation
to inflated feelings of self-esteem. However, a variety of adverse
effects — including aggression, violence, rapid mood swings,
and psychotic episodes — can also occur, especially with long-term
or high-dose use.
Medical Uses: Steroids are used medically to rebuild
tissues weakened by injury or disease, to assist in regaining
or maintaining weight after illness, and to aid recovery from
breast cancer and osteoporosis in women.
Legal Status: Steroids are a controlled substance under
provisions of the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990. A related
chemical, human growth hormone, is now also controlled.
Risks/Side Effects: Acne, excessive hair growth or loss,
and decreased emotional control (sometimes called ‘roid rage)
are common. Male users can exhibit testicular atrophy and breast
enlargement, while masculinization and menstrual irregularities
are more common among females. More serious dangers — including
liver damage and cancer — are linked to long-term, high-dose
use, which can run 100 times higher than therapeutic doses.
Abuse Potential: An intense psychological dependence can
quickly result from steroid use. Depression and suicidal thoughts
are common during withdrawal.
Demographics: Steroid users tend to be young and male.
And a 2010 national survey examining steroid use by high school
seniors reflects this sharp gender divide, with only 0.3 percent
of senior girls reporting use during the past 12 months, while
past-year use by senior boys stood at 2.5 percent.