Are steroids ever safe?

How do steroids work? And what are the effects of steroids on the body? We unpack all in this myth-busting blog about whether steroids are ever safe.

Historically, steroids have been used in elite sports for marginal gains over the opposition. You may well have heard of Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, and Justin Gatlin all using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). 

Today, we find that people tend to use steroids for other reasons. And they’ve become increasingly popular. It’s possible that you have used steroids yourself or know someone that has.  

But what are steroids? And can they ever be used safely?  

In this blog, we discuss: 

What are steroids?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are a type of supplement that fall under the category of image and performance-enhancing drugs (or IPEDs). 

AAS are the synthetic derivative of the male hormone testosterone. These supplements promote muscle growth and development (anabolic) of masculine characteristics (androgenic). There are lots of different steroids out there, and some people combine multiple supplements (known as stacking) with other medications to control their side effects. Some are oral, some are topical, and some injected. 

By current estimates, between 400,000 and one million people in the UK use IPEDs []. The majority are men in their early 20s, but men and women of all ages may use them.  

In recent years, social media and reality television have influenced more people to try to sculpt the perfect body. It’s not just sport; it is societal. 

A third of gym-goers are aware of steroid use in their gym, and some people even share needles and phials (it goes without saying that this is a bad idea – needle sharing is dangerous and can increase your risk of contracting many diseases).  

AAS can help to promote muscle growth and increase fat loss. So, they can have both physical and aesthetic benefits. But there can be negative physical health and psychological effects, including 

The steroids replace the action of testosterone and suppress the natural production of testosterone. Hopefully, once you come off steroids, natural hormonal levels restore but, sometimes, the change is permanent, and you’ll not be able to produce testosterone naturally again, which will impact fertility, libido, and other aspects of your life. 

What are the negative effects of anabolic steroids?

Negative effects of anabolic steroids

Is it possible to take steroids safely?

The straight answer is no. However, we recognise that many people will go on to take steroids without knowing about the side effects, meaning they may not know when to seek medical help. 

If you are going to take them, it’s important to know the risks,and monitor yourself. 

  1. Keep well informed – make sure you’re well informed and know what you’re taking. It’s not unheard of for people to think they’re taking a particular steroid but are taking something else.  
  2. Do not needle or drug share – you can visit a needle exchange for clean needles if you inject steroids.  
  3. Read around the topic – these are dangerous substances. Sometimes people rely on the ‘big guy from the gym’. Don’t do that. Rely on the science instead.   
  4. Stay healthy – you can reduce your risk of steroid use by staying healthy in all other aspects of your life. Eat and drink well, cut out smoking and drinking, and if you have existing medical conditions (e.g. high blood pressure or diabetes), make sure these are under control.  
  5. Monitor your inner health – though you may see differences in your physical health, you are not always able to see the effects the steroids are having on your inner health, so it’s a good idea to monitor yourself.  

How can I monitor my health whilst on steroids?

Anabolic steroids can negatively impact your health, life, and fertility. If you choose to take them, minimise your risk by monitoring yourself regularly and being open with your doctor. 

We recommend our Sports Hormone or Advanced Sports Hormone Blood Tests to monitor your hormones and organs. 

Depending on your regimen, it makes sense to test every three months. If you are competing in competitions like Blast and Cruise, bodybuilding expo, etc., then ask our doctors what testing frequency they’d recommend. 

Note: let our doctors know what you take, what your regimen is and what training you’re doing. They will then be able to tailor their advice for you. And please listen to the doctors’ warnings. If doctors are warning you to cut down or stop, then please follow the advice. They’re telling you this to try and stop those serious adverse effects from happening to you.