What are anabolic steroids?

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Medically reviewed by Neil Chatterjee, MD

Anabolic steroids are synthetic variants of the male sex hormone testosterone. They are sometimes prescribed by doctors for individuals with delayed puberty, certain kinds of anemia, or muscle loss from cancer or AIDs.

The technical name for this class of drugs is “anabolic-androgenic steroids.” Anabolic refers to their muscle-building properties, and androgenic refers to their amplification of male sex characteristics.

Common anabolic steroids are sold under the brand names Oxandrin, Anadrol, and Dianabol. They are only legally available through a prescription.

All anabolic steroids are Schedule III controlled substances, meaning that they are deemed to be dangerous with a high potential for abuse. They are most commonly abused by young men in their 20s and 30s attempting to build muscle.

Are anabolic steroids addictive?

Unlike many other controlled substances, anabolic steroids do not directly activate the brain’s reward system to trigger a “high,” although they may impact dopamine levels.

 Still, it’s possible to develop a substance use disorder (SUD) using anabolic steroids,which can develop into an addiction. Common signs of this sort of SUD include continuing use despite high physical and financial costs, and retreating from relationships to use steroids.

 If you think you or someone you know may have developed a substance use disorder using anabolic steroids, help is available. Talk to your doctor, or find treatment resources at https://findtreatment.gov/.

This post is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address any individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. When in doubt, speak to your doctor.

If you think you may be experiencing overdose or have any other medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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