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How much would you pay for a better body? Fifty dollars a month? One hundred dollars? More? What if I said I could give you the body you've always dreamed of, but it would cost you one year off your life? Would you do it? How about two years, would that be asking too much?

There are drugs you can take that can give you tremendous gains in your physical appearance. I'm talking about Anabolic Steroids.

Anabolic steroids are the common name for synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones (androgens). Anabolic steroids are primarily associated with their ability to promote the growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effects) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects).

Note: Even though they are commonly called "anabolic steroids," their proper name is "anabolic-androgenic steroids," but I'll be referring to them as "anabolic steroids" in this article.

Anabolic steroids were developed during the 1930s to treat hypogonadism, where the testes do not produce sufficient testosterone for normal growth, development and sexual functioning. Through the years, scientists have used anabolic steroids very successfully to do things such as:

  1. Treat delayed puberty.

  2. Help with some types of impotence.

  3. Slow or stop the wasting of the body caused by HIV infection and other diseases.

  4. Keep people alive who are diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency.

As doctors continued their research, they also discovered that anabolic steroids could promote the growth of skeletal muscle in laboratory animals. Bodybuilders and weightlifters were the first to begin widespread use of the compounds, and athletes in other sports soon followed.

While doctors were fine-tuning the dosages required for treatable medical conditions, athletes began devising ways to maximize the benefits and muscle growth that steroids provided. Two practices emerged, "stacking" and "pyramiding."

Stacking means taking two or more different anabolic steroids, mixing oral, injectable and sometimes even compounds designed for veterinary use. The theory is that the different types of steroids will interact to increase muscle size more than any steroid individually.

Pyramiding is the process where a person takes lower doses (or stacks) of the drugs and then gradually increases the dosage. Halfway through the "pyramid," the user then slowly decreases the dosage taken down to zero. The idea behind pyramiding is that it allows the body time to adjust to the gradually higher doses.

Please Note: Neither pyramiding nor stacking have ever been substantiated scientifically.

If a single dose improved muscle growth 1%, athletes figured a double dose might improve performance 2%, a triple dose 3%... Today many athletes take 10 to 100 times higher doses than prescribed for medical conditions.

Commonly Abused Steroids

Commonly Abused Steroids Chart

This chart was provided courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

What happens if you take higher doses of anabolic steroids? Plenty. Most people have heard of the basics, like heart attacks, strokes, tumors on the liver, psychotic episodes (called "roid rage"), harmful changes in cholesterol levels and more. But I want you to think about just one thing.

Steroids make muscles stronger and bigger. That is a medical fact. Steroids do NOT make your tendons stronger. (A tendon is the band of fibrous tissue that connects a muscle with the bone.)

If you take steroids, your muscles have the potential of growing so much stronger than your tendons; you can easily rupture your tendons while exercising. Surgery to re-attach a torn tendon can take months to recover from, cause extreme pain, and cost thousands of dollars.

Ripped out legs, knees, shoulders and pecs are all possibilities you must consider before taking steroids.

Anabolic steroids can take years off the lifespan of an otherwise healthy person and potentially injure you for life.

I don't use steroids and stress that you should only take them if prescribed by a doctor for a medical condition. If you choose to use them for any other reason, you're an idiot playing with a fully loaded gun. The idea is to get fit and healthy, not dead! Don't allow short term thinking (anabolic steroids) to interfere with your long term goals (a healthy body).

Those are the facts. It's up to you to choose wisely.


Some of the side effects of anabolic-androgenic steroids.

Children or adolescents can stop their bones from growing sooner than they would normally have. Steroids (particularly the oral ones) are responsible for dramatically higher incidents of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes in athletes.

Steroids have been linked to tumors on the liver, rupturing of the liver and a rare condition called peliosis hepatis, where blood-filled cysts form in the liver.

That's not all! Men experience shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts and increased chances of prostate cancer.

Women can grow facial hair, experience male-pattern baldness, changes in the menstrual cycle and enlargement of the clitoris.

There's more! Many steroid users experience jaundice, severe acne, abscesses at the injection site, trembling and occasionally psychotic episodes known as "roid rage."

Special Update - January 2014

Research revealed in 2013 that increased muscle mass from anabolic steroids like testosterone might persist for a decade or more. When mice were given steroids, the number of nuclei in their muscle cells increased by up to 66 percent. Muscle nuclei are responsible for building the proteins that give strength to muscle fibers.

In the experiment, steroids were stopped, and the mice returned to normal size. Researchers then waited for what would be the equivalent of ten years in a human, and they analyzed the mice again. They still had the steroid added nuclei.

The breakthrough came when they started exercising the formerly steroid-enhanced mice and regular mice. Those who had previously received steroids added about 6 percent more muscle than the mice that didn't.

What that means for pro sports is profound. Because the effects of cheating with steroids may persist for a decade or more, bans from steroid use may be changed. Instead of being unable to compete for a year or two, it's entirely possible steroid use may lead to lifetime bans.

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Updated 1/5/2014
Updated 1/27/2021