First Time User? Enroll now.
*Vaccine availability and appointments* | Additional COVID-19 Resources | Testing
Please be aware that mask-wearing is required at all UNC Health facilities.
Home > Health Library > Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances similar to the male hormone testosterone. Doctors prescribe them to treat problems such as delayed puberty and other medical problems that cause the body to make very low amounts of testosterone. Steroids make muscles bigger and bones stronger. They also may cause puberty to start and can help some boys who have a genetic disorder to grow more normally.
Anabolic steroids may be taken as a pill, as a shot into a muscle, or as a gel or cream rubbed on the skin.
Common anabolic steroid medicines include fluoxymesterone (such as Halotestin) and nandrolone (such as Durabolin). In the United States, you need a prescription to get any anabolic steroid. Illegal anabolic steroids are those that people get without a doctor's prescription.
Some people take legal dietary supplements that have certain steroid hormones also made by the human body. One such supplement is dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). The body can turn DHEA into other steroid hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol. People use it to try to make their muscles bigger. Whether such products actually work has not been proved. But if you take them in large amounts, they can cause the same side effects as anabolic steroids.
Some adults and teens use illegal anabolic steroids to lower body fat, get bigger muscles, and increase strength. They use the drugs because they are seeking to improve how well they play sports or how they look.
The dose of illegal anabolic steroids is 10 to 100 times higher than the dose a doctor prescribes for medical problems. People often use more than one of these illegal drugs at the same time. This is called stacking. Or they may take the drugs in a cycle from no drug to a high dose over a period of weeks to months. This is called pyramiding.
Anabolic steroids can cause serious side effects. Some of these effects can be permanent.
Teens who take illegal anabolic steroids are at risk for the same problems as adults who use them. Also, bone growth in teens may stop before it is complete. The teen may not reach his or her full adult height.
People who use anabolic steroids on a routine basis can have withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them. Symptoms include having depression, being extremely tired, and having no desire to eat.
Your doctor may ask questions about your fitness activities and what kinds of dietary supplements and other substances you use. The doctor may do a physical exam and order urine and blood tests.
Treatment for misuse of anabolic steroids has not been studied much. Doctors usually advise:
Current as of:
November 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJohn Hughes MD - PsychiatryPeter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Current as of: November 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & John Hughes MD - Psychiatry & Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.