Anabolic steroids

Health implications with its use

Anabolic steroids are class C drugs and can only be sold by pharmacists with a prescription. Nevertheless, this is commonly not the case. This drug mimics the effects of the male hormone testosterone mainly for synthetically targeting muscle mass and performance.

Users usually take them through an injection into the muscles but can also be done through tablets or creams. The substance is sometimes used without medical advice for competitive gain to improve performance, with this being the case for some users, this can lead to serious side effects and addiction.

The common misuse of anabolic steroids is for it being used as a performance-enhancing drug which will increase muscle mass whilst also decreasing fat. Generally, they are used by weightlifters, bodybuilders and athletes to improve their physical performance therefore enabling them to achieve better standards at competitions.

However, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and many professional sports leagues (such as the National Football League (NFL)) has banned the use of steroids due to their ‘potentially dangerous side effects and because they give the user an unfair advantage’ according to the Diversion Control Division. This has results in the IOC and professional sports leagues to use urine testing as a way of detecting steroid use both in and out of competitions.

Along with the use of anabolic steroids, there are many health implications that must be taken into account as well.

In a cohort study lead by the Journal of Internal Medicine looking into the health consequences of anabolic steroids, they found that ‘Anabolic steroid users have an increased risk of dying and significantly more hospital admissions than their nonuser peers’.

This shows the increased likelihood of health consequences brought about with the use of this substance.

Athletes are sometimes brought about the thought of the need to take a performance enhancing drug to achieve their highest quality of performance, but this is certainly not the case.

High quality athletic performance can be brought about using a personalised diet tailored to your body type and lifestyle, with possibly including dietary supplements (such as protein powders or creatine along with vitamin tablets) to ensure the correct nutritional intake. But also, a healthy exercise regime to increase fitness and strength as well your wellbeing.


Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

Kutscher, E., Lund, B. and Perry, P. (2002) "Anabolic Steroids", Sports Medicine, 32(5), pp. 285-296. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200232050-00001.

Hartgens, F. and Kuipers, H. (2004) "Effects of Androgenic-Anabolic Steroids in Athletes", Sports Medicine, 34(8), pp. 513-554. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434080-00003.

Horwitz, H., Andersen, J. and Dalhoff, K. (2018) "Health consequences of androgenic anabolic steroid use", Journal of Internal Medicine, 285(3), pp. 333-340. doi: 10.1111/joim.12850.