Anabolic Steroids

A Review for Law Enforcement, First Responders and Health Care Personnel

Anabolic steroids are a chemical derivative of testosterone, the "male sex hormone." Properly used, steroids can aid in the treatment of blood disorders, connective tissue disease, some cancers, intractable arthritis, some sexual dysfunctions and other serious illnesses. But, because of their side effects, they must be prescribed and used only under close medical supervision.

Patterns of Usage

  • Pyramiding - drugs may be taken in escalating dosages

  • Cycling - using multiple doses over a period of time (weeks, months); starting and stopping in attempt to increase overall effect on performance and to avoid detection

  • Stacking - Several different steroids and other drugs are taken to maximize the effectiveness and minimize the negative side effects

  • Users may attempt to counter a side effect of one medication with another medication


While the total impact of anabolic steroid abuse is not known, health care providers have observed the following problems:


Development of cholesterol patterns associated with coronary heart disease, obstructed blood vessels, or stroke


  • Increased cholesterol
  • Increased blood pressure


  • Impaired liver function
  • Peliosis hepatis (blood-filled cysts that can rupture and cause liver failure)
  • Tumors

Skeleton Skin

  • Appearance of, or increasing acne and other skin rashes or ailments
  • Male pattern baldness
  • Edema (water retention/swelling)
  • Striae (stretch marks)

Immune System

  • Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, HIV infection (if needles are shared)


  • Mood swings
  • Aggressive, even violent behavior
  • Depression
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Addiction
Medication Sources
  • Clinicians
  • Pharmacies
  • Theft from veterinary clinics/hospitals
  • Laboratories not regulated by government
  • Internet sources
  • Fitness centers/gym
Commonly Abused Medications