Steroids and Drugs

What are Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the hormone testosterone.* Steroids are powerful drugs that many people take in high doses to boost athletic performance. Anabolic means "building body tissue." Anabolic steroids help build muscle tissue and increase body mass by acting like the body's natural male hormone, testosterone. Anabolic steroids are the ones abused by athletes and others who want a shortcut to becoming bigger and stronger, by cheating the system.

My doctor gave me a Steroid, is it the same thing?

NO. Those are corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat asthma, allergies, lupus and other conditions.*

Who takes anabolic steroids?

Athletes have used them since the 1950s to build muscle. Such use (and all other non medical uses) is illegal under a federal law passed in 1988 and amended in 1990. Patients can be prescribed anabolic steroids legally to treat a few conditions, such as testosterone deficiency.*


Over-the-counter supplements such as creatine and androstenedione ("andro") are gaining popularity. Though these supplements are not steroids, manufacturers claim they can build muscles, and improve strength and stamina, without the side effects of steroids.

It is important to know that these substances are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not held to the same strict standards as drugs. Like steroids, they are also banned by the National Football League, National Collegiate Athletic Association and International Olympic Committee for example.

Although both creatine and androstenedione occur naturally in foods, there are serious concerns about the long-term effects of using them as supplements. These products may be unsafe. Remember, there is no replacement for a healthy diet, proper training, and practice.

Mike Perko, Chair of health sciences at the University of Alabama, says steroidal supplements such as DHEA and androstenedione also known as andro ?have the potential to be much more dangerous.? These supplements, which are legal, can be converted to testosterone in the body and might have some of the same side effects. And with little regulation, some supplements are full of unknown, possibly unsafe ingredients, Perko said.*

* Information from the St.Petersburg Times article by Lisa Greene and Dave Scheiber, Times staff writers in the February 21, 2005 edition.


The tricky part about teen steroid abuse is that many of its symptoms - mood swings, acne, and rapid growth - are also part of a normal adolescence. Experts say the keys are very rapid change and changes that don't seem characteristic of a kid's personality and genetics. If you answer "yes" to several of the following questions, think about having a heart-to-heartwith your teen. -H.M.*

- Has your child gained muscle very quickly, say 20 or 30 pounds over two or three months? Is he or she suddenly much bigger and stronger than anyone else in the family?

- Has your child suddenly lost a lot of fat, making muscles look "cute"?

- Does your child suddenly have very severe acne after having few problems with it before?

- Are your teen's mood swings more severe than usual?

- Is your kid's skin flushed when it wasn't before?

- Do your child's joints suddenly seem out of scale with the rest of his or her body? Wrists or knees that are too small for the limbs around them can be a sign of steroid use.

* "All the Rage" Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine March 2005. Steroids aren't just for Pro Athletes, your kids might be going to school with the biggest abusers. Written by Heather Millar. Heather Millar has contributed to Atlantic Monthly, Smithsonian and Wired.