What are steroids?

Also known as: Anabolic-androgenic steroids, “roids,” or “juice”

Common brand names: Androsterone, Oxandrin, Dianabol, Winstrol, Deca-durabolin, and Equipoise

Anabolic steroids are manmade substances related to testosterone (male sex hormone). Doctors use anabolic steroids to treat hormone problems in men, delayed puberty, and muscle loss from some diseases.

Bodybuilders and athletes may use anabolic steroids to build muscles and improve athletic performance, often taking doses much higher than would be prescribed for a medical condition. Using them this way is not legal—or safe.

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 are steroids abused?

When people take steroids without a doctor’s prescription or in ways other than as prescribed, they are abusing steroids.

Some people who abuse steroids take pills; others use needles to inject steroids into their muscles.

How do steroids affect the brain?

Anabolic steroids affect a part of the brain called the limbic system, which controls mood. Long-term steroid abuse can lead to aggressive behavior and extreme mood swings. This is sometimes referred to as “roid rage.”

Steroids can also lead to feeling paranoid (like someone or something is out to get you), jealousy, delusions (belief in something that is not true), and feeling invincible (like nothing can hurt you).

What are the other affects of steroids?

Abuse of anabolic steroids has been linked with serious health problems. They include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in blood cholesterol (increases in “bad” cholesterol or LDL, decreases in “good” cholesterol or HDL)
  • Enlarged heart
  • Heart attack or stroke (even in young people)
  • Liver disease, including cancer
  • Kidney problems or failure
  • Severe acne
  • Breast growth and shrinking of testicles
  • Low sperm count/infertility (unable to have children)
  • Increased risk for prostate cancer
  • Voice deepening
  • Growth of facial hair
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Changes in or end of menstrual cycle/getting your period
  • Enlargement of clitoris
In addition, if teens abuse anabolic steroids, they may never achieve their full height because anabolic steroids can stop growth in the middle of puberty.

Can you get addicted to steroids?

Yes. Addiction to steroids is different compared to other drugs of abuse, because users don’t become high when using. People who do become addicted keep using steroids despite bad effects on their bodies and lives. Also, people who abuse steroids typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drugs, which is another sign they may be addicted.

When they stop using steroids, people can experience withdrawal symptoms such as feeling depressed, mood swings, feeling tired or restless, loss of appetite, being unable to sleep (insomnia), and the desire to take more steroids. Depression can be very dangerous, because it sometimes leads people to think of or attempt suicide (killing themselves). If not treated, some symptoms of depression that are linked with anabolic steroid withdrawal have lasted for a year or more after the person stops taking the drugs.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.