20 important questions and answers about steroids
A lot of questions often arise around the topic of anabolic steroids: people are either thinking about taking them, or are interested in their action.
Asking questions can be a great teaching method; however, there is still little information on the internet due to the taboo nature of steroids, resulting in a lot of misinformation and pseudoscience.
Unfortunately, this can lead vulnerable people to self-harm due to the lack of published expert material.
Thus, in this guide, we will answer the most common questions about anabolic steroids (strictly for harm reduction purposes) so that our readers can understand how they really affect the human body.
1. Are steroids harmful to health?
Yes, anabolic steroids are bad for you in the sense that there are bound to be cardiovascular side effects, at least to some extent, no matter what drug you take.
This is because all steroids are forms of exogenous testosterone and therefore have a negative effect on high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
Other side effects (not related to the heart) are possible, including:
- liver damage
- acne vulgaris
- benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement)
- hypogonadism (low testosterone)
- androgenetic alopecia (hair loss)
- water retention
There are steroids that may cause fewer effects, are well tolerated, and are even approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), such as anavar, deca-durabolin, and testosterone.
There are also hard steroids that have a detrimental effect on various organs and can even lead to death.
Therefore, it is better to ask the question: "Are steroids worth the risk?". In this case, everything depends on the individual goals of a person and on what he is willing to risk.
For a person with a family history of heart disease who is thinking about regularly taking toxic steroids like Dianabol or Anadrol, this is most likely a bad idea.
However, if someone else understands the risks and is willing to put their health (or life) at risk to win a bodybuilding trophy - steroids can be worth it (at least in the short term).
2. Did Arnold Schwarzenegger take steroids?
Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to taking steroids, mentioning that 60 years ago bodybuilders were naive about the long-term effects of these drugs.
Bodybuilders of the Arnold era have hinted that they used certain compounds, namely Dianabol, Primobolan, and Deca Durabolin.
Arnold also mentioned that there were no rules related to steroids back then, so they weren't banned or considered taboo like they are in today's sport.
3. How much muscle will I build on steroids?
The amount of muscle that a person taking steroids will gain depends on the compounds used, their genetics, training and nutrition.
Anavar is a moderate anabolic, so it can only lead to a 6 kg increase in muscle mass.
However, trenbolone can give 13 kg of lean muscle tissue in one cycle.
Below is a list of steroids for gaining muscle mass:
- Deca Durabolin
As a rule, after several cycles of taking anabolic steroids, a man can gain 20-30 kg.
4. Are the effects of steroids permanent?
There is clinical evidence to suggest that steroids do have a permanent effect on the myonuclei within muscle cells.
In one study, a group of untrained mice were injected with steroids (testosterone) which caused exceptional muscle growth.
Then, when the steroid cycle ended, they returned to their original size.
However, when these mice later did strength training (without steroids), they grew 30% larger compared to the group that never used anabolics.
This indicates that the muscle gain from taking steroids will be lost if the person leads a sedentary lifestyle.
However, gains from steroids may persist (naturally) if athletes continue to lift weights.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a perfect example of this permanent effect, demonstrating exceptional muscularity when exercising into old age.
There is also evidence that the negative effect of steroids on visceral fat (VS) is permanent.
One study found that men who had previously taken steroids had higher levels of HP than those who did not use steroids. This is the fat that surrounds the organs and is not visible to the naked eye, but high levels can push the belly outward, creating a "bulging" appearance. In the bodybuilding community, this phenomenon is also known as "steroid belly" and is initially caused by impaired insulin sensitivity.
Thus, even if a person stops using steroids, he retains a higher percentage of visceral body fat in the future.
5. Will I get acne?
Bodybuilder's acne, Acne vulgaris is a common side effect of androgen medications. Some compounds are worse at causing acne flare-ups in athletes, and people prone to it usually choose to avoid such compounds. They may also choose a compound with reduced 5α-reductase conversion.
Treatment with antibacterial creams containing benzoyl peroxide can help reduce acne by removing dead skin cells. If acne persists, it is recommended to visit a doctor; in some cases, a course of antibiotics is successful.
Some may choose Accutane, a drug that has a powerful effect on reducing the activity of the sebaceous glands. These glands are responsible for producing excess amounts of an oily substance known as sebum. Thus, Accutane helps to eliminate the main cause of acne (excessive production of sebum that blocks the pores).
Accutane (also known as Roaccutane) is a very powerful drug, but its use should not be taken lightly. It is associated with various side effects, including psychiatric disorders and suicide. However, many people who take Accutane usually experience mild side effects such as dryness of the nose, skin, ears, eyes, or joints.
6. Will steroids affect my sex drive?
Yes, the use of strong androgens is likely to induce a state of increased libido in many people.
However, weak androgenic compounds (such as Deca Durabolin) can backfire.
In this case, taking Deca Durabolin with androgenic compounds (such as testosterone, anadrol, or trenbolone) may help alleviate any decrease in sexual interest.
Note: after the cessation of the steroid cycle, libido may decrease due to a decrease in endogenous testosterone. These symptoms may persist for several weeks or months, depending on the drugs used and the PCT (Post Cycle Therapy) protocol.
7. Do I need a PCT (Post Cycle Therapy)?
Steroid users do not need to undergo PCT, especially if mild compounds such as primobolan and anavar are used. Such steroids have only a moderate lowering effect on the level of endogenous testosterone.
However, in many cases, PCT helps athletes recover physiologically and psychologically after a course (cycle).
No bodybuilder wants to experience low testosterone for several months after a cycle, so an effective PCT can shorten this waiting period significantly.
From a physical point of view, PCT ensures that the body is maintained in a state of anabolism (muscle building), consolidating the results achieved during the cycle. In addition, it will improve sexual health, which often worsens after a cycle, causing a decrease in sexual desire and weakening of erections.
Men often report fatigue and low energy after a cycle, which is a common side effect of low testosterone.
Psychologically, PCT can help a man feel more confident and satisfied because testosterone increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes a person feel good; however, at low levels, it can contribute to the development of depression or anxiety.
8. Can anabolic steroids cause depression?
Yes, anabolic steroids can cause depression in some people due to a decrease in endogenous testosterone levels. As explained in the previous section, testosterone increases dopamine, an important neurotransmitter for mental health. After the end of the cycle, the level of testosterone in the body of a man decreases, and therefore mental health may suffer (at least temporarily).
9. Are steroids addictive?
Anabolic steroids are addictive for many people due to their remarkable effects on physique and mental state.
Studies show that approximately 1 million Americans are addicted to anabolic and androgenic steroids.
Such addiction can make athletes regret taking steroids later, for example, Sergio Oliva (one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time) stated that steroids were "a monkey on his shoulder".
10. Where to inject steroids?
The gluteus medius, otherwise known as the posterolateral, is a common injection site because it is a large and deep muscle.
This is a favorable injection site for beginners as it requires less precision.
It is important to inject intramuscularly, i.e. into the muscle.
Bodybuilders should avoid intravenous injections as this can lead to serious consequences such as paralysis or death.
11. Do steroids make the penis smaller?
No, contrary to bodybuilding mythology, anabolic steroids do not cause penis shrinkage.
Anabolic steroids also do not cause a noticeable increase in penis size.
However, steroids cause testicular atrophy (shrinking of the testicles) because they reduce endogenous testosterone levels. This effect is often temporary, and when testosterone levels return to normal (after a cycle), the testicles are restored to their previous size.
12. How to prevent gynecomastia (gyno)?
Gynecomastia is caused by excess estrogen levels. This female sex hormone rises to exceptionally high levels when taking steroids due to high levels of aromatization (the conversion of testosterone to estrogen).
In an attempt to prevent gyno, bodybuilders often take AI (aromatase inhibitor) or SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator).
The drugs block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, while SERM drugs do not stop this conversion, but directly suppress the action of estrogen in the mammary glands.
SERMs are often preferred because AIs can potentially worsen hypertension, and high estrogen has a positive effect on HDL cholesterol levels.
13. Which steroids do not cause gynecomastia?
Any steroid that doesn't spike female hormones, including estrogen or progesterone, is unlikely to cause gynecomastia.
Some of the safer compounds for gyno are:
- Anavar (Oxandrolone);
- Winstrol (Stanozolol);
- Turinabol (chlorodehydromethyltestosterone);
- Superdrol (methasterone).
Anadrol, Dianabol, and Testosterone are particularly estrogenic steroids and can cause breast tissue enlargement in sensitive individuals.
14. Can steroids cause erectile dysfunction?
While steroids are likely to improve erection quality, yes, erectile dysfunction can occur with certain compounds. Deca Durabolin (Nandrolone Decanoate) is notorious for causing erectile dysfunction when used alone due to its reduced androgenicity.
Weak androgenic steroids, such as Deca Durabolin, reduce the production of nitric oxide, which is responsible for optimal blood flow to the penis. However, athletes can add testosterone to Deca Durabolin for additional androgenicity while maintaining optimal blood circulation in the penis.
15. Are oral steroids worse than injectables?
Many oral steroids are hepatotoxic, so in terms of liver health they are worse than injectable steroids.
In addition, oral steroids may pose more of a problem for cardiovascular health due to their negative effect on hepatic lipase when processed by the liver. This often leads to large fluctuations in cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of cardiac hypertrophy and heart disease.
However, there are several oral steroids that do not pose a serious risk to the liver and heart and are well tolerated by athletes. Anavar, Primobolan (Methenolone Acetate) and Testosterone Undecanoate are examples of such compounds.
Equally, some injectable steroids can have a detrimental effect on the heart, such as trenbolone, so the statement that oral steroids are worse than injectables is not entirely true and only partly true.
16. Can anabolic steroids be used safely?
Yes, physicians around the world agree that some anabolic steroids can be used safely if used in a controlled medical environment at therapeutic doses.
Bodybuilders who purchase anabolic steroids for cosmetic purposes and use them without medical supervision are most likely an unsafe practice.
17. How fast do steroids work?
Some anabolic steroids act quickly, for example, testosterone undecanoate reaches peak serum testosterone levels within 5 hours after the first dose.
Fast-acting steroids are made up of short esters and do not require a long cycle of dosing to get significant results.
However, other steroids, such as Deca Durabolin, are longer esters and slower acting.
Testosterone enanthate and cypionate are two other compounds that have a longer half-life and therefore need to be cycled for at least 8 weeks to work and athletes see maximum results.
18. Do steroids cause aggression?
Anabolic steroids can make people more and more aggressive and cause "rage" in some of them.
This is due to a significant increase in testosterone levels - the male hormone that is responsible for increased levels of aggression.
However, steroids affect people differently, and some of them do not experience increased outbursts of anger, but instead regularly experience irritation and discontent.
19. Are steroids detected in drug testing?
Anabolic steroids are banned substances in sports federations such as WADA, so they will almost certainly show up in a drug test unless steps are taken to mask their presence.
Army and police drug tests are usually designed to detect marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates (rather than steroid metabolites). This is because anabolic steroid tests are expensive.
20. Do steroids cause hair loss?
Yes, anabolic steroids can cause hair loss because significantly higher levels of testosterone are converted to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) by the enzyme 5α-reductase.
DHT is known to damage hair follicles due to its inflammatory effects on the scalp, causing miniaturization or hair loss.
Androgenic steroids are the worst to accelerate hair loss because they are derivatives of DHT or have high levels of the 5α-reductase enzyme.
Here are some examples of such connections:
However, androgenetic alopecia (hair loss) is often genetic, so some people may experience hair loss that they are already predisposed to by virtue of their DNA.
Note: Athletes usually do not experience noticeable hair loss due to strong genetics regarding follicle health and reduced natural 5 AR levels. Weak androgenic steroids can also be used to reduce/prevent hair loss during a cycle such as Dianabol, Deca Durabolin or Primobolan. These compounds were regularly used during the "golden era" when many classic bodybuilders had thick hair.