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AKA: anabolic steroids, ‘roids, gear, sauce or juice (on the juice)

  1. The basics
  2. Highs and lows
  3. Taking steroids
  4. Steroids with other drugs
  5. Useful to know
  6. Steroids and the law

The basics

Anabolic steroids are a synthetic form of the male hormone testosterone and help men build muscle – but only if they work out too.

How they’re used

Steroids come as pills or a liquid that’s injected into a muscle. Never inject it into a vein as this can kill.

Often steroids are taken in cycles of weeks on, followed by weeks off, then on again.

They are also used for ‘stacking’, which means taking several types of steroids together to strengthen the overall effect.

Read our tips to make your drug taking safer ››

Highs and lows of steroids

Steroids are used to grow bigger muscles than what can be achieved with workouts alone. Big muscles make some guys feel more confident and give them a buzz from feeling lusted after, accepted and part of a group of other muscled men.

Nearly all users experience some side effects. These include:

  • acne (especially on the back)
  • trouble sleeping
  • gut problems
  • permanent hair loss
  • growth of breast tissue (‘bitch tits’)
  • testicles getting smaller
  • water retention
  • high blood pressure (with a risk of stroke)
  • raised cholesterol (fat in the blood)
  • liver, kidney and heart damage
  • prostate problems.

Users can experience mood changes, irritability and aggression (‘roid rage’).

Coming off steroids can lead to depression and, for some men, thoughts of suicide.

Injecting steroids carries its own health risks such as skin abscesses or infections. Sharing injecting equipment spreads serious infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.

Taking steroids

Sex and steroids

Steroids can make you feel more sexually confident and boost your sex drive, and as a result, you might be more likely to risk getting or passing on HIV. But steroids can also chemically weaken your sex drive and cause erection problems.

Balls may shrink as the body no longer needs to make its own testosterone. Dick size isn’t affected.

Read more in our section about chemsex ››

A long-term relationship?

Serious health problems become more likely the longer you take steroids and the bigger the dose.

Using them can feed a body disorder where men see themselves as smaller than they really are and become obsessed about their size. In the short term, steroids might seem to help with low self-esteem, but long-term they can make insecurities worse.

Steroids with other drugs

HIV drugs

Steroids and some HIV drugs both raise levels of cholesterol (fat in the blood), so if you’re being treated for HIV you should be careful about using muscle-building drugs. A doctor should check your cholesterol levels as taking steroids when on HIV drugs puts extra strain on your liver.

If you’re on certain HIV meds they can cause raised levels of steroids in the blood, making side effects more likely. Ask your HIV doctor for advice.

Ecstasy, speed, mephedrone, crystal meth and cocaine

These chems wipe out your energy levels, interrupt your hunger and interfere with gym workouts – and make you lose weight when you’re trying to bulk up.

Taking any drug while using steroids puts extra strain on your liver. Steroids can affect your mood so avoid other drugs that might change your mental state.

Useful to know

Illegally sold steroids can be contaminated, diluted, fake or intended for use in animals.

Before starting steroids and while you’re on them it’s a good idea to have your heart, liver and kidney function and cholesterol levels monitored.

Drinking lots of water (up to 3 litres per day) is important to clear waste products caused by steroids from the body.

Steroids should be avoided if you have conditions like:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • glaucoma
  • mental health problems
  • heart problems of any kind.

Steroids can stunt growth, so men under 24 are advised not to use them.

The law

Anabolic steroids are a class C drug, but possession for personal use is not illegal.

Supplying them illegally carries a fine of up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Next drug: Tranquilisers ››

‹‹ Previous drug: Cocaine

Published: 20/08/2018
Next review: 20/08/2021