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June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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What Are Steroids?

Steroids are synthetic compounds that are available both legally and illegally. These drugs are closely related to the male sex hormone, testosterone. There are three types of steroids:

  • ]]>Anabolic]]> (male hormone)
  • Cortical
  • Estrogenic (female hormone)

Steroids are abused, particularly by young, athletic men, because of their potential to do the following:

  • Quickly increase body weight
  • Quickly increase muscle size and strength
  • Help muscles recover more quickly from a workout
  • Enhance athletic performance
  • Increase physical endurance

Possible Negative Effects

Steroids have the following effects, most of which are exacerbated by an overdose of these drugs:

  • Severe acne or skin rashes
  • Stunted growth
  • Extremely aggressive behavior, often called "roid rage"
  • Problems with sexual function, including impotence and decrease in size of testicles
  • In females, development of irreversible masculine traits, such as facial hair and a husky voice

Long-term Effects

When taken for a long period of time, steroids can cause the following problems:

Withdrawal Syndrome

Stopping the use of an addictive drug can cause painful physical and psychological symptoms. This is called withdrawal. When stopping use of some steroids, the following withdrawal symptoms may occur:

  • Significant weight loss
  • ]]>Depression]]>
  • Behavioral changes
  • Trembling

Signs of Possible Misuse

  • Increased aggressiveness
  • ]]>Jaundice]]> – a yellow discoloring of the skin, mucous membranes (tissue including that which lines the mouth), and whites of the eyes
  • Purple or red spots on the body; unexplained darkness of skin
  • Persistent unpleasant breath odor
  • Swelling of feet or lower legs


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Partnership for a Drug-Free America


US Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Clearing House for Alcohol & Drug Information

Drug dependence and addiction. In: The Merck Manual – Home Edition . Merck & Co., Inc.; 2003.
Available at: http://www.merck.com/
Accessed: September 10, 2003.

Last reviewed September 2003 by ]]>Richard Glickman-Simon, MD]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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