The side effects of steroids can be very serious and even fatal. But from the information we gathered in the past few years, it seems to me the side effects are not as serious as the media makes them out to be. Because of the media over exaggerating the side effects, this has turned many people way from steroids. There will only be short descriptions for the side effects now, and in the future we will add more to the side effects when we have time.

Water Retention

This is most common from using steroids. It is a puffiness or swelling in the neck and facial areas. It is rather notable mainly if you know the person is on steroids. For example, we know someone that took steroids but we did not know it at the time. After we found out, if we looked his face we would wonder how we couldn t notice he was on roids before. It can be mild swelling or very serious, obvious swelling.


Everyone knows about acne, and is one of the side effects we worry about the most for us. It is also a very common side effect, it can give acne to someone who has never had acne, and it can make acne worse for others. It can also appear in new places for a person, such as, the back and neck. There have been several users that have not received acne on the other hand.


It may not sound familiar but most people have heard about it. It is the formation of breasts, or abnormally large glands. The first signs are lumps under the nipples, then will gradually grow to fatty tissue and increase in size.


Aggression, also know as roid rages . Surprisingly, several athletes feel this is a positive effect. They often find they lift more, and are more intense during workouts. On the negative side, users find themselves fighting with family, friends, and co-workers with an uptight behavior.


High blood pressure is also a chance when taking steroids. Most athletes would not know if they had high blood pressure so it is suggested to get tests regularly. High blood pressure can lead to many more serious diseases.

Cardiovascular Disease

Studies have shown that steroid use is a risk factor for heart disease. This is because steroids affect the cholesterol levels. Over a period of time the cholesterol builds up and clogs the arteries.


Heart palpitations have been reported by a number of athletes on steroids. These may indicate an excited or elevated level of the central nervous system.


Impotence occurs when a user goes on and off steroids. When steroids are first used sexual interest increases because of the heightened frequency and duration of the erections. But eventually the opposite happens and no erections can be produced.


A serious liver disease, which is found by an enlarged painful liver, yellowing of the eyes and skin, and flu like symptoms. This happens when athletes use high dosages of steroids.

Here are some more possible side effects from

Irritation of the stomach lining. Steroids can increase the production of stomach acid and lower the production of protective stomach mucus. This can irritate the lining of the stomach and may cause or aggravate a stomach ulcer. To reduce this side effect the tablets should be taken with meals or milk. Tell your doctor if you have indigestion, stomach pains or abdominal discomfort.

The levels of sugar in your blood may change temporarily. This may happen if you have high-dose or long-term treatment. While you are having your steroid therapy your blood sugar levels will be checked regularly by blood tests. You may be asked to test your urine for sugar. You will be shown how to do this. Tell your doctor if you get very thirsty or if you are passing more urine than usual.

Fluid retention due to changed salt and water balance. You may notice that your ankles and/or fingers swell. Some people have a bloated feeling in the abdomen. This is usually only a problem with long-term treatment.

Increased appetite. You may notice that you feel hungrier than usual while taking steroids, and this can make you want to eat more than usual. If you are concerned about weight gain speak to your doctor or contact Cancer BACUPs information service.

Increased chance of infection and delayed healing of injuries. This happens mainly with high-dose or long-term treatment. Tell your doctor if you notice signs of infection (inflammation, redness, soreness or a temperature) or if cuts take longer than usual to heal. It is important to maintain good personal hygiene to prevent infection.

Menstrual changes. Women may find that their periods become irregular or stop.

Behavioral changes. You may notice mood swings, difficulty in sleeping and perhaps anxiety or irritability. These happen mainly with high-dose or long-term treatment and will stop when the steroid therapy ends. Tell your doctor about any behavioral changes which are worrying you. Difficulty in sleeping may be reduced by taking the steroids in the early part of the day, but discuss this with your doctor first.

Less common side effect

Eye changes. With long-term use of steroids, cataracts or glaucoma may develop. There is also an increased risk of eye infections. Tell your doctor if you notice any eye problems.

Cushing’s syndrome. This is usually caused only by long-term use of steroids. It can cause acne, puffiness of the face, dark marks on the skin and facial hair in women. Cushing’s syndrome can be partially reduced by taking the steroids early in the morning, by taking them on alternate days instead of every day, or by reducing the dose, but discuss this with your doctor first.

Muscle wasting. With very long-term use of steroids, wasting of leg muscles may occur. This can cause weakness. When the steroids are stopped some people experience muscle cramps for a short time.

Osteoporosis. With very long-term use of steroids, calcium may be lost from the bones. This can result in pain (especially in the lower back), an increased susceptibility to fractures and loss of height.

Other side effects include: enlarged prostate, premature hair loss, sterility, shortness, and head and stomach aches.

Understanding anabolic steroids

Anabolic Steroids are derivatives of the male hormone testosterone and, as such, they exert their effects on many testosterone sensitive tissues within the body. This includes reproductive tissues, muscle, bone, hair follicles, liver, kidneys, white and red blood cells and brain. These effects fall under two classifications:

ANABOLIC – Promoting muscle growth
ANDROGENIC – Promoting the development of masculine characteristics

Of primary interest to the athlete of course is the anabolic effect. Testosterone is the primary hormone involved in muscle growth. Put simply, testosterone enters the inside of the muscle cell where it binds with an androgen receptor. It then continues its journey until it reaches the nucleus of the cell. On arrival at this destination the ‘dynamic duo’ turn on or off specific segments within the DNA in order to trigger muscle growth.

In addition to triggering muscle growth, anabolic steroids also prevent muscle breakdown (catabolism) by inhibiting the action of cortisol and other glucocorticoids, which are known for their catabolic effect.


In order to exert maximum effects in the body anabolic steroids need to be chemically altered. When testosterone itself is taken orally it is swiftly broken down and eliminated by enzymes present in the intestines and the liver. In the case of steroids, a process known as 17a-alkylation has structurally altered most oral products, this protects the steroid from being destroyed by these enzymes. This 17a-alkylation, whilst good on paper, does unfortunately result in most oral drugs being harsh on the liver. It also causes negative changes in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). The advice here would be to ensure that, whilst taking oral steroids, it is wise to include some form of liver protection e.g. milk thistle, dandelion, NAC, Gluthionine. Oral anabolics are often preferred by drug-tested athletes due to their short clearing time (i.e. the amount of time they are detectable in the system). In the case of injectable steroids, these are naturally produced androgens (testosterone, nortestosterone, boldenone) bound to a fatty acid by an ester bond at the 17-carbon. This serves, not to protect the substance against enzymes (like the 17a-alkylation) but to increase the amount of time the steroid remains in an oil globule, following injection, before it enters the circulation. On entering the bloodstream, the fatty acid is split off by enzymes called esterazes. In the case of a long fatty acid this results in a slow release of the steroid over a course of days or weeks.

The estrogen factor

Many of you will already be familiar with a process known as ‘aromatization’. This is a process by which testosterone is converted into estrogen. Most bodybuilders try to avoid estrogen conversion by taking anti-estrogen drugs such as Arimadex. Arimadex exerts its effect by neutralizing the aromatase enzyme. When you take aromatase out of the equation testosterone can no longer be converted to estrogen. This assists in the reduction of estrogen dependent fat deposition, water retention and gynecomastia (the growth of breast tissue in males) However, before you go crazy with aromatase inhibitors and anti-estrogens (e.g. Nolvadex) do remember that too little estrogen can slow muscle growth, suppress HDL (good) cholesterol and kill sex drive. Therefore, the key to using these substances is to take them in moderation so that you blunt estrogens effects without removing it completely from your system.

In summary

The undisputed fact of the matter is that anabolic steroids are immensely popular with not only professional and recreational athletes, but also those individuals just wishing to improve their performance and overall quality of life. Knowing how they work, how to safely use them and how to protect your health during and after use is vital not only to your success but also to your overall health.

What are anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids are drugs that are usually synthesised from the male reproduction hormone testoterone.

They have been banned by many sporting bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, because of their danger to health and the potential for competitive advantage.

They are controlled substances in many countries including the US, Canada and the UK and can be taken in tablet form or injected.
Their exact effect on the body is still a matter of scientific debate.

Why do sportsmen take them?
Anabolic steroids, such as Nandrolone, can improve the body’s capacity to train and compete at the highest level.

They reduce the fatigue associated with training, and the time required to recover after physical exertion.

They also promote the development of muscle tissue in the body, with an associated increase in strength and power. This is achieved by stimulating the production of protein in the body.

However, some of the increased muscle bulk may be due to the laying down of water and minerals, so the increase in strength may not be as pronounced as expected.

What are the risks associated with anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids promote the growth of many tissues in the body by stimulating the release of the hormone testoterone.

By disturbing the body’s equilibrium, anabolic steroids can potentially cause damage to many of the body’s major organs, particularly the liver, which has to deal with breaking down the compound.

There is also a risk of damage to the heart, which is made of muscle tissue. Anabolic steroids can lead to an expansion of the cardiac muscle, which can cause heart attacks.

The drugs also promote the growth of bones, particularly facial bones such as the jaw, and the teeth.

They have also been linked to also an increased risk of cancer.

Other side effects include:

The development of inappropriate sexual characteristics such as breasts in men, and facial hair in women;

A deepening of the voice;
Male impotence.

Are all anabolic steroids detected by drugs tests?
Some sports people who take anabolic steroids escape detection because they stop taking the drugs prior to competition, giving the body time to break down the compounds.

Some also take other drugs to try and mask the presence of steroids in the body.