5.10 Steroids

What are Steroids?

Many kinds of steroids occur naturally in various hormones and vitamins. Drugs known as “anabolic steroids” are made in laboratories and have the same chemical structure as the steroids found in the male sex hormone testosterone. The muscle-building (anabolic) and masculinizing (androgenic) effects of these drugs make them appealing to athletes and bodybuilders.

The primary use of anabolic steroids is to promote growth in farm animals. In humans, they are sometimes prescribed to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence and wasting of the body caused by AIDS and other diseases.

Steroidal “supplements,” such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are converted into testosterone or a similar compound in the body. Although little research has been done on steroidal supplements, if taken in large quantities, they likely produce the same effects and the same side effects as anabolic steroids.

What is their Origin?

In Canada, you need a prescription for most Anabolic steroids manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Most steroids used by athletes are smuggled, stolen or made in illegal labs. Veterinary drugs are often used.

Steroids are also illegally diverted from legitimate. sources (theft or inappropriate prescribing). The Internet is the most widely used means of buying and selling anabolic steroids. Steroids are also bought and sold at gyms, bodybuilding competitions, and schools by teammates, coaches, and trainers.

What are common street names?

Common street names include Arnolds, Juice, Pumpers, Roids, Stackers, and Weight Gainers.

Generic and trade names: oxymetholone (Anadrol), methan¬drostenolone (Dianobol), stanozolol (Winstrol), nandrolone decanoate (Deca-Durabolin), testosterone cypionate (Depo-Testosterone), boldenone undecylenate (Equipoise)

What do they look like?

Steroids are available in tablets and capsules, sublingual tablets, liquid drops, gels, creams, transdermal patches, subdermal implant pellets, and water-based and oil-based injectable solutions. The appearance of these products varies depending on the type and manufacturer.

Testosternone Cypionate Injection, USB
Figure 5.10.1 – Testosterone Cypionate Injection, USB 
Figure 5.10.2 – Depo-Testosterone

How are they abused?

Steroids are ingested orally, injected intramuscularly, or applied to the skin. The doses abused are often 10 to 100 times higher than the approved therapeutic and medical treatment dosages. Users typically take two or more anabolic steroids at the same time in a cyclic manner, believing that this will improve their effectiveness and minimize the adverse effects.

What is their effect on the mind?

Case studies and scientific research indicate that high doses of anabolic steroids may cause mood and behavioural effects. In some individuals, steroid use can cause dramatic mood swings, increased feelings of hostility, impaired judgment, and increased levels of aggression (often referred to as “roid rage”).  When users stop taking steroids, they may experience depression that may be severe enough to lead them to commit suicide. Anabolic steroid use may also cause psychological dependence and addiction.

What is their effect on the body?

Figure 5.10.3 – Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

A wide range of adverse effects is associated with the use or abuse of anabolic steroids. These effects depend on several factors including age, sex, the anabolic steroid used, amount used, and duration of use. In adolescents, anabolic steroid use can stunt the ultimate height that an individual achieves. In boys, steroid use can cause early sexual development, acne, and stunted growth. In adolescent girls and women, anabolic steroid use can induce permanent physical changes, such as deepening of the voice, increased facial and body hair growth, menstrual irregularities, male pattern baldness, and lengthening of the clitoris.  In men, anabolic steroid use can cause shrinkage of the testicles, reduced sperm count, enlargement of the male breast tissue, sterility, and an increased risk of prostate cancer.

In both men and women, anabolic steroid use can cause high cholesterol levels, which may increase the risk of coronary artery disease, strokes, and heart attacks. Anabolic steroid use can also cause acne and fluid retention. Oral preparations of anabolic steroids, in particular, can damage the liver. Users who inject steroids run the risk of contracting various infections due to non-sterile injection techniques, sharing of contaminated needles, and the use of steroid preparations manufactured in non-sterile environments. All these factors put users at risk for contracting viral infections such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B or C, and bacterial infections at the site of injection. Users may also develop endocarditis, a bacterial infection that causes a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart lining.

What are their overdose effects?

Anabolic steroids are not associated with overdoses. The adverse effects a user would experience develop from the use of steroids over time.

Which drugs cause similar effects?

There are several substances that produce effects similar to those of anabolic steroids. These include human growth hormone (HGH), clenbuterol, gonadotropins, and erythropoietin.

What is their legal status in Canada?

Anabolic steroids and their derivatives are controlled substances in Canada under Schedule IV of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act(2)

These products are available illegally over the Internet. Small amounts of Anabolic Xtreme Superdrol, Nitro T3 Extreme Anabolic and Anabolic Xtreme Phera Plex being imported for personal use were recently intercepted at the Canada-U.S. border.  Steroids may be prescribed by a licensed physician for the treatment of testosterone deficiency, delayed puberty, low red blood cell count, breast cancer, and tissue wasting resulting from AIDS.

Source: CAMH – Health Information / Mental Illness and Addiction / Steroids (3)

Film for Assignment (National Geographic science of steroids):



Drugs, Health & Behavior by Jacqueline Schwab and Denise Salters is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, with Canadian Content



  1. Figure 5.10.1, Figure 5.10.2 – Swabb, J. (n.d.). Hallucinogens. Penn State. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from https://psu.pb.unizin.org/bbh143/chapter/steroids/
  2. Legislative Services Branch. (2023, January 14). Consolidated federal laws of Canada, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-38.8/
  3. 20152  Steroids. (n.d.). CAMH. https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/steroids
  4. Ali, A. (2011, November 23). National geographic science of steroids [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUTvaU5fXO4
  5. Behbehani, B. (2022, March 30). Meet the Steroid Man | In Fitness And In Health. Medium. https://medium.com/in-fitness-and-in-health/steroid-side-effects-58f608ab6536


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