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. They are also used to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in
loss of lean muscle mass. Abuse of anabolic steroids, however, can lead to serious health problems, some
Athletes and body builders abuse anabolic steroids to enhance performance and improve physical appearance. Anabolic steroids are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles of weeks or months (referred to as "cycling"), rather than continuously. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing negative effects (referred to as "stacking").
The major side effects from abusing anabolic steroids can include liver tumors and cancer, jaundice
(yellowish pigmentation of skin, tissues, and body fluids), fluid retention, and high blood pressure. In addition, there are some gender-specific side effects:
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.
Research has also shown 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 extreme mood swings also can occur, including manic-like symptoms leading to violence, leading to the coining of the phrase "Roid-rage".
Steroids commonly abused by athletes include nandrolone, oxandrolone, and stanozolol, the structures of nandrolone and testosterone, its natural counterpart, are shown below.
Nandrolone (above) and testosterone (above right), notice that the only difference is only one methyl group.