Playing with Fire: The Danger of Steroids

For the bodybuilder or athlete who’s new to steroid use, it can be really exciting to get involved with steroids, because of the dramatic gains that are realized so quickly.  However, its not all good and anabolic steroid use also comes with risks.

Steroids, when combined with hard training and good diet, can produce huge gains in a short period of time. And because of that, it’s really easy to focus only on the gains, and on how much better you look and stronger you’ve become, than the toll that taking steroids is having on your body.

But it’s critical that you understand the risks involved with taking steroids as well, because it could save your life. Remember, steroids are powerful drugs, and if that power is not respected, it can lead to massively negative results for your body.

How do you Identify & Define Steroid Abuse?

Defining steroid abuse is a pretty straightforward process. Some sites will tell you that the term ‘abuse’ is hard to define, because others sites will say that any use of steroids for non-therapeutic reasons is automatically abuse. And it’s true that defining abuse that way makes it hard to differentiate true abuse from simple usage. After all, a bodybuilder who engages in limited use and cycles will likely not experience any long-term health risks. Conversely, one who engages in massive over-doses and/or cycles that are far in excess of recommended maximums is abusing steroids.

The issue with steroids is, they don’t necessarily indicate abuse or show symptoms in an immediate or acute way, i.e. symptoms of steroid abuse don’t instantly ‘flare up’ after a massive hit of steroids. People don’t typically ‘overdose’ and pass out from a big hit of Testosterone, for instance. Rather, symptoms and effects of steroid abuse take time to manifest. And while a given symptom such as Liver disease, for example, might appear suddenly, it’s likely that the problem was building for some time before it was noticed.

Who are the most likely abusers of Steroids?

It’s not terribly accurate to label any one group as steroid ‘abusers’ simply because of some kind of profile or stereotype. However, that said, there are groups that have been shown statistically/historically to be at higher risk for abuse. Those groups are:

  1. New Users/Un-informed Users – This is the most common group at risk for steroid abuse, and for good reason. New bodybuilders who decide to enter into steroid use are usually laser-focused on the gains that they’re going to see, and usually don’t focus on the consequences at all. Also, because the symptoms of steroid abuse aren’t usually immediate and acute, they don’t see the warning signs until real damage has already been done.
  2. Longtime Steroid users – This seems like a strange addition to this list. After all, the group mentioned just previously was new steroid users. Now we list longtime users. What gives?

The issue is that longtime users, over time, begin to do one of two things. The first is that they begin to lose perspective of the dangers of using steroids, because they’ve used dosages greater than the recommended maximums, and seemed to be ok, which leads to them increases the dosages and/or length of their cycles. The other issue is that, for most bodybuilders, the effects of the steroids will level off over time, and they increase their dosages to compensate.

  1. Teenagers – Unlike the entry above, the addition of Teenagers too this list should come as a relatively small surprise. Teenagers account for a large portion of steroid users, and many studies have shown the astronomically high risk tolerance most teenagers exhibit. When you combine the natural teenage males’ mentality with steroids, the potential for abuse is high.
  2. Female users – Female users fall onto this list for reasons that may not be immediately apparent. Female users become abusers of steroids is because the female body has such a lower tolerance for Testosterone, and therefore is some much more susceptible to the side effects that come with such use, that abuse is essentially fait accompli to steroid use in women. That is, it pretty much goes with the territory.

What are common symptoms of Steroid abuse?

As mentioned earlier, the side effects of steroids don’t typically come on immediately – they take a while to show up. Things like heart disease, arteriosclerosis, and liver damage don’t happen after one dosage. Rather, they take a while to manifest. But you should know what the most common side effects are, so that you know what might happen if you abuse steroids.

liver1Common symptoms of steroid abuse and steroids side effects include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Liver damage / Hepatoxicity
  • Heart enlargement
  • Polycthemia (high red blood cell count)
  • Acne
  • Water retention
  • Gynocomastia
  • Testicluar atrophy
  • Body hair growth


It’s hard to tell a bodybuilder that under no circumstances should they ever engage in steroid use. And if a bodybuilder treats steroid use with respect and they control their usage, they can use steroids will relatively little lasting damage to their bodies. As long as you treat steroids with respect, and don’t assume that, somehow, the side effects of a given steroid won’t apply to you (no matter how much you take), you can generally use steroids and keep the long term damage to a minimum.