23 Questions & Answers About Steroids

Dr George TouliatosDisclaimer: The following article is for educational purposes only and NOT to promote the use of illegal steroids. If you have any questions or concerns, Dr. Touliatos is currently available for consultations.

An array of questions often surrounds the topic of anabolic steroids, with people either thinking about taking them or curious about their effects.

Asking questions can be a great method of learning; however, there remains a scarce amount of information online, due to the taboo nature of steroids; causing much misinformation and bro-science.

Sadly this may lead to vulnerable people causing themselves harm, due to a lack of expert content being published.

Thus, in this guide, we will answer the most common questions regarding anabolic steroids (strictly for harm reduction purposes), so our readers can understand how they truly affect over 3 million people in America today.

1. Are Steroids Bad For You?

Yes, anabolic steroids are bad for you in the sense that cardiovascular side effects are certain, at least to some degree, no matter what compound you are taking.

This is due to all steroids being forms of exogenous testosterone and thus having a negative effect on high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Other side effects (unrelated to the heart), are also likely, including:

  • Liver damage
  • Acne vulgaris
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate enlargement)
  • Hypogonadism (low testosterone)
  • Androgenic alopecia (hair loss)
  • Water retention
  • Gynecomastia

There are steroids that can cause fewer effects, are well tolerated and even approved by the FDA (such as Anavar, Deca Durabolin and Testosterone).

There are also harsh steroids that have a detrimental effect on various organs and can even lead to death.

Therefore, a better question could be “are steroids worth the risk?”. In which case this will depend on a person’s individual goals and what they are willing to risk.

To someone with a history of heart disease in their family, who is thinking of taking toxic steroids such as Dianabol or Anadrol on a regular basis; then this is most likely a bad idea.

However, to someone else who understands the risks and is happy to put their health (or life) at risk in order to win a bodybuilding trophy — steroids may be worth it to them (at least in the short term).

2. Are Steroids Illegal?

Yes, anabolic steroids are illegal to use for cosmetic purposes in almost every country in the world; with a couple of exceptions, such as Mexico and Thailand.

In America, they are classed as Schedule III controlled substances and in the UK are Class C drugs.

However, steroids are legal to use when a person has been prescribed them for medicinal purposes.

For example, a man suffering from hypogonadism can be prescribed testosterone cypionate for TRT (testosterone replacement therapy), to bring his levels back into a normal range.

Anabolic steroids used to be legal for recreational purposes, with bodybuilders from the golden era simply making an appointment with their doctor (if they wanted to take Dianabol) to build more muscle.

However, little was known regarding the side effects in these initial stages and thus were not banned by the FDA.

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3. Did Arnold Schwarzenegger Take Steroids?

arnold big armsYes, Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted to taking steroids, mentioning that 60 years ago bodybuilders were naïve to the long-term effects of these drugs.

Bodybuilders in Arnold’s era have hinted at the certain compounds used, being: Dianabol, Primobolan and Deca Durabolin.

Arnold wrote the following in his book, Total Recall:

“I read everything I could find about the training methods of the East Germans and the Soviets. Increasingly, there were rumors that they were using performance-enhancing drugs to get superior results from their weight lifters, shot-putters and swimmers. As soon as I found out that steroids were the drugs in question, I went to the doctor to try them myself”.

Arnold also mentioned there weren’t any rules surrounding steroids, thus they weren’t banned or considered taboo like in sports today.

Arnold later recalls the conversation with his doctor who prescribed him steroids:

“Can you let me try it?” I asked, and he said sure. He prescribed an injection every two weeks and pills to take in between. He told me, “Take these for three months and stop the day the competition is over”.

From this conversation, we have a very good idea about the specific steroids given to Arnold during his first cycle.

In the context of this passage in Arnold’s book, his main objective was to build significantly more muscle and to look huge on stage, blowing away the crowd and judges.

Therefore, we know that these were mass-building agents, with one being an injectable and another an oral.

We also know the injectable was administered every 2 weeks, with at least one compound producing water retention (as Arnold mentions in the next passage that his gains were ‘mostly water weight’).

Dianabol (methandrostenolone) perfectly describes the oral pill that Arnold was prescribed.

The injectable steroid was thought to be Primobolan, a popular injectable in the ’60s and ’70s. This is practically confirmed in Frank Zane’s training diary: ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ (see below):

Frank zane steroid poem

  • Diana bowl = Dianabol
  • Prima bowl = Primobolan

We also know the dosages used from this cryptic poem, with ‘100 miles’ representing 100mg’s of Primobolan per week. And 15 ‘milly Gramola’ representing 15mg of Dianabol per day.

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4. How Much Do Steroids Cost?

The following prices were obtained from an (anonymous) trusted source within the bodybuilding community.

These are UK prices; however, we have added the US dollar equivalent in brackets.

Cost of injectable steroids

  • Testosterone Enanthate 250mg/ml (25 amps) – £120 / $167
  • Testosterone Propionate 100mg/ml 10ml vial (25 amps) – £45 / $63

Thus, a testosterone enanthate cycle, dosed at 300mg for 8 weeks would cost roughly £50 / $69.

Cost of oral steroids

  • Anavar 100 x 20mg tablets – £165 / $229
  • Dianabol 1000 x 5mg – £190 / $264
  • Winstrol 100 x 25mg tablets – £65 / $90

Cost of PCT drugs

  • Clomid 50 (50mg) tablets – £35 / $49
  • Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) 50 (20mg) tablets – £35 / $49

Cost of Fat Loss Drugs

  • Clenbuterol 400 (20mcg) tablets – £70 / $97
  • Ephedrine 100 (30mg) tablets – £25 / $35

Readers should be cautious of sellers offering prices at a fraction of these, as the product is likely to be diluted or a placebo.

5. How Much Muscle Will I Gain on Steroids?

The amount of muscle a person will gain on steroids will depend on the compounds used, their genetics, training and nutrition.

Anavar is moderately anabolic, thus may only result in 15lbs of muscle gain.

However, Trenbolone can produce 30lbs of lean muscle tissue from a single cycle.

Bulking agents are the type of steroids that will produce the most muscle and weight gain, as opposed to cutting agents.

Here is a list of bulking steroids:

  • Anadrol
  • Dianabol
  • Testosterone
  • Deca Durabolin
  • Trenbolone
  • Superdrol

Generally, a man can gain 50-70lbs from using anabolic steroids, after administering several cycles.

6. Are The Effects of Steroids Permanent?

There is clinical evidence to suggest that steroids do have a permanent effect on myonuclei inside the muscle cells (1).

In one study, a group of untrained mice was administered steroids (testosterone), causing exceptional muscle growth.

Then when the steroid cycle ended, they returned back to their original size.

However, when these mice later performed weight training (without any steroids), they grew 30% more compared to the group that had never used anabolics.

This indicates that muscle gains will be lost from taking steroids if a person becomes sedentary.

However, steroid gains may be kept later on (naturally), if users continue lifting weights.

Arnold Schwarzenegger may be a perfect example of this permanent effect, displaying exceptional muscularity when training in old age.

arnold muscle memory

There is also evidence to suggest that steroids’ adverse effects on visceral fat (VF) are permanent.

One study found that men who had previously taken steroids had higher levels of VF, compared to non-steroid-users (2). This is fat that surrounds the organs and cannot be seen by the naked eye, but high levels can push the abdomen out, creating a ‘protruding’ appearance. This is also known as ‘steroid gut’ in the bodybuilding community and is initially caused by impaired insulin sensitivity.

Thus, even if someone stops using steroids, they will maintain a higher visceral body fat percentage later in life.

7. Will I Get Acne?

acne bodybuilderAcne vulgaris is a common androgenic side effect. Some compounds are worse at aggravating acne in users, with prone individuals usually deciding to avoid such compounds. They also may opt for a compound with a reduced 5α-reductase conversion

Treatment with anti-bacterial creams containing Benzoyl Peroxide may aid in reducing acne, via the removal of dead skin cells. If acne persists then a visit to your doctor is recommended; with the employment of an antibiotic course being successful in some cases.

Some may opt to source Accutane, a drug that has potent effects in reducing activity in the sebaceous glands. Such glands are responsible for producing excess amounts of an oily substance, known as sebum. Accutane thus helps in treating the root cause of acne (excess sebum production blocking the pores).

Accutane (also known as Roaccutane by manufacturers ‘Roche’) is a very potent drug; however, and its use should not be taken lightly. It has been linked with various side effects, including mental health issues and suicide. Many users however typically notice mild effects such as drying of the nose, skin, ears, eyes or joints.

Accutane is often not easy to obtain on the black market, and its high market price reflects this.

8. Will Steroids Affect my Sex Drive?

Yes, the use of strong androgens will likely produce a state of increased libido in many users.

However, weak androgen compounds (such as Deca Durabolin) can have a reverse effect.

In this case, stacking Deca Durabolin with an androgenic compound (such as Testosterone, Anadrol or Trenbolone) can help to mitigate any decreases in sexual interest.

Note: After a steroid cycle ceases, sex drive may decrease due to decreased endogenous testosterone. These symptoms may persist for several weeks or months, depending on the compounds used and the PCT (post cycle therapy) protocol.

9. Do I Need to Run a PCT (Post Cycle Therapy)?

Steroid users do not necessarily need to run a PCT, especially if mild compounds are utilized, such as Primobolan and Anavar. Such steroids only have a moderate lowering effect on endogenous testosterone levels.

However, in many cases, a PCT will help users recover physiologically and psychologically after a cycle.

No bodybuilder wants to experience low testosterone for several months after a cycle, thus an effective PCT can significantly reduce this waiting period.

From a physical perspective, a PCT will ensure the body stays in an anabolic (muscle-building) state, cementing results made from a cycle. Also, it will improve sexual health, which can often deteriorate post-cycle, causing less sexual desire and weaker erections.

Men can often report feeling fatigued and having low energy post-cycle, which is a common side effect of low testosterone.

Psychologically, a PCT can help a man feel more confident and experience greater well-being, due to testosterone increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes a person feel good; however, when low it can contribute to depression or anxiety.

10. Can Anabolic Steroids Make You Depressed?

Yes, anabolic steroids are capable of producing depression in certain individuals, due to their lowering of endogenous testosterone. As explained in the above section, testosterone increases dopamine, an important neurotransmitter for mental health. After a cycle ends, a man’s testosterone levels become shut down and thus mental health can suffer (at least temporarily).

11. Are Steroids Addictive?

Anabolic steroids are addictive in many individuals, due to their remarkable effects on body composition and mental well-being.

Research suggests that roughly 1 million Americans have experienced a dependence for anabolic-androgenic steroids (3).

Such dependency may cause users to regret taking steroids later in life, with Sergio Oliva (one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time) reportedly stating that steroids were a “monkey on his back” (4).

12. Where Do I Inject Steroids?

The gluteus maximus, otherwise known as the back-side, is a common choice for injections, due it being a large and deep muscle.

This is a favorable injection site for beginner steroid users, due to it requiring less precision.

It is important to inject intra-muscularly, i.e. into the muscle.

Bodybuilders should avoid injecting into the vein, as this can result in serious implications, such as paralysis or death.

glute injection

13. Do Steroids Make Your Penis Smaller?

No, contrary to bodybuilding mythology, anabolic steroids do not cause penis shrinkage.

Equally, anabolic steroids do not cause any notable increase in penis size.

However, steroids do cause testicular atrophy (testicular shrinkage), due to them shutting down endogenous testosterone levels. This effect is often temporary and when testosterone levels return back to normal (post-cycle), the testes are restored to their previous size.

14. How to Prevent Gynecomastia (Gyno)?

Gynecomastia is caused by excess estrogen levels. This female sex hormone rises to exceptionally high levels on steroids, due to high levels of aromatization (converting testosterone into estrogen).

In a bid to prevent gynecomastia, bodybuilders often take an AI (aromatase inhibitor) or a SERM (selective estrogen receptor modulator).

AI’s work by blocking the conversion of testosterone into estrogen, whereas SERMs do not stop this conversion, but instead directly inhibit estrogen’s effects in the mammary glands.

SERMs are often preferred, due to AI’s potentially worsening hypertension; with high estrogen levels having a positive impact on HDL cholesterol.

15. Which Steroids Don’t Cause Gyno?

Any steroid that doesn’t provoke surges in female hormones, including estrogen or progesterone, is very 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, thus are likely to cause breast tissue expansion in sensitive individuals.

16. Can Steroids Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Although steroids are likely to improve erection quality, yes it is possible to experience erectile dysfunction with some compounds. Deca Durabolin is notorious for causing ED when used by itself, due to its reduced androgenicity.

Weak androgenic steroids like Deca Durabolin reduce nitric oxide production, which is responsible for optimal blood flow to the penis. However, users may stack testosterone with Deca Durabolin, for some additional androgenicity, keeping optimal circulation to the penis.

17. Are Oral Steroids Worse Than Injectable Steroids?

test enanthate
Many oral steroids are hepatotoxic, thus making them worse than injectable steroids from a hepatic health perspective.

Also, oral steroids can present more issues in relation to cardiovascular health, due to their negative impact on hepatic lipase when being processed by the liver. This often causes greater fluctuations in cholesterol, increasing the risk of cardiac hypertrophy and heart disease.

However, there are a few oral steroids that do not pose serious risks to the liver and heart and are well-tolerated among users. Anavar, Primobolan (Methenolone Acetate) and Testosterone Undecanoate are examples of such compounds.

Equally, some injectable steroids can have detrimental effects on the heart, such as Trenbolone, thus the statement of oral steroids are worse than injectable steroids isn’t strictly true and only partially accurate.

18. Can Anabolic Steroids Be Used Safely?

Yes, physicians throughout the world agree that certain anabolic steroids can be used in a safe manner when administered in a controlled medical environment in therapeutic dosages.

This is why there are several FDA-approved steroids utilized in medicine, such as Testosterone, Deca Durabolin and Anavar.

However, other steroids used in bodybuilding have high levels of toxicity and are not FDA-approved.

Bodybuilders obtaining anabolic steroids for cosmetic purposes and utilizing them without the supervision of a doctor is likely to be an unsafe practice.

Furthermore, when a patient is prescribed an FDA-approved steroid, it is guaranteed to be the real compound, being synthesized by a certified pharmaceutical company.

However, bodybuilders buying steroids through the black market carries its own risks and dangers, due to illegalities and lack of regulations.

19. How Fast Do Steroids Work?

Some anabolic steroids work fast, with Testosterone Undecanoate peaking serum testosterone levels within 5 hours of the first dose.

Fast-acting steroids are made up of short esters and do not need to be cycled for long durations in order to see significant results.

However, other steroids, such as Deca Durabolin, are made up of longer esters and are slower to have an effect.

Testosterone Enanthate and Cypionate are two more compounds that have longer half-lives and thus need to be cycled for at least 8 weeks, enabling enough time for them to kick in and users to see maximum results.

20. Do Steroids Make You Angry?

Anabolic steroids can make users increasingly angry and cause ‘roid rage’ in certain individuals.

This is due to significantly higher testosterone levels, the male hormone that is responsible for added levels of aggression.

However, steroids affect people in different ways and some users do not experience increased outbursts of anger, but instead more regular cases of irritation and grumpiness.

21. Do Steroids Show Up on a Drugs Test?

Anabolic steroids are banned substances by sporting federations such as WADA, thus they will almost certainly show up on a drugs test unless measures are put in place to mask their presence.

Army and police drug tests are generally designed to detect marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and opiates (not steroid metabolites). This is due to anabolic steroid tests being costly.

However, steroid tests may be specifically ordered if someone in the army or police force was to regularly talk about their steroid use. However, if a person was discreet this is unlikely to be a problem, with some police officers showing obvious signs of steroid use.

ronnie coleman police

22. Do Steroids Cause Hair Loss?

Yes, anabolic steroids can cause hair loss, due to significantly higher testosterone levels converting to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), via the 5α-reductase enzyme.

DHT is known to damage hair follicles, due to its inflammatory effects on the scalp, causing miniaturization or loss of hair.

Androgenic steroids will be the worst for accelerating hair loss, due to them being DHT-derivatives or having high levels of the 5α-reductase enzyme present.

A few examples of such compounds are:

  • Anadrol
  • Testosterone
  • Trenbolone

However, androgenic alopecia (hair loss) is often genetic and thus some users may experience hair loss that they were already predisposed to, due to their DNA.

Whereas, other users may not experience any notable loss of hair, due to strong genetics in regards to follicle health and reduced natural levels of 5 AR.

Weak androgenic steroids can also be utilized to reduce/prevent hair loss during a cycle, such as: Dianabol, Deca Durabolin or Primobolan. These are compounds regularly used throughout the golden era, where many classic bodybuilders had thick hair.

Note: It is also common for users to notice any hair thinning or loss to reverse post-cycle, as DHT levels drop back into a normal range. However, such a reversal may not take place if ample time isn’t taken off in between AAS cycles, to reduce inflammation on the scalp.

23. Can Steroids Make You Infertile?

Yes, there is evidence to suggest anabolic steroids have a direct damaging effect on the testicles (5), decreasing sperm count and quality.

This is an evolutionary irony, known as the Mossman-Pacey paradox, where men take steroids to increase their sexual attractiveness; but end up lowering their fertility (6).

Anabolic steroids cause the pituitary gland to cease producing LH and FSH (7), due to excessive testosterone levels. These two endogenous hormones are crucial in the production and health of sperm (8), thus a deficiency may result in men becoming a sterile

Professor Alan Pacey says:

“I would say more anabolic steroid users are likely to become sterile than you would think – 90 per cent probably.”