The side-effects of steroids

Steroids are generally talked about in the context of sports, where they can be used to enhance performance but this isn’t the only place they’re found. They can actually be invaluable for medical treatment. Regardless of whether you’re using steroids illegally (which we don’t recommend) or for a better quality of life, there can be some serious side-effects. Take a look at our guide to find out about steroid injection side effects and more.

Young woman and man sitting on couches. They are talking about the side effects of steroids. The man is wearing a khaki-green coord sweatset. The woman is wearing a white top with black trousers.

What are steroids? 

Steroids are a man-made version of the hormones in our bodies that are usually used to supplement the hormones that someone is lacking. They can help provide quick pain-relief as well as long-term support. There are also different types of steroids depending on what you need them for. These include corticosteroids (good for reducing inflammation) and anabolic steroids (good for increasing testosterone production)

How are they administered? 

If someone has been acutely injured, for example in the knee, corticosteroid injections a.k.a cortisone shots can be injected into a joint near the injury to reduce inflammation. This will usually be done where there’s soft tissue for minimal pain. Most of the time, one shot does the trick.

However, if you have a long-term condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis, you’ll have to take a cortisone injection daily to help relieve pain. Since rheumatoid is an autoimmune disease, steroids can help to reduce the activity of the immune system. There are also other options available for people with allergic reactions to the shots. These include tablets, inhalers and gels . 

It’s important to have an open discussion with your doctor after you’ve been prescribed to make sure you’re on the right dose and getting the proper help that you need. 

Doping

Alright, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. No, we don’t mean the hench person sitting right next to you, we’re talking about what they might be taking to get those muscles. *disclaimer* NEVER assume that someone is doping just because they’re big, they could just be working super super hard (see The Rock) 

A lot of athletes are ambitious people, and rightly so. They work incredibly hard and often have to turn their bodies into a well-oiled machine to be the best at what they do. But sometimes that ambition is a double-edged sword, which can cause lots of pressure and lead them to steroids. 

Anabolic steroids (the type athletes / gym rats use) are a supplement for the hormone testosterone. This means that while a person is using, they have increased levels of testosterone which allows them to build more muscle and strength. It’s kind of like they’re going through puberty on top of the puberty they already had, but without the awkwardness. Athletes take it to enhance their performance and young men may take it to look ‘macho’.

Read our article about the pressure young men can face when it comes to their body image.

If you’re interested to learn more about the science of it all, click here

Side effects

Steroids, like any medication, can have side-effects. These should be relatively harmless if you use them for medical purposes. The more serious problems come when you abuse them. 

For Medical Use

If you’ve got the right dose, the likelihood is you’ll be fine. There might be some trouble sleeping, but once you’ve finished treatment then everything should go back to normal. Other potential issues are an increase in appetite and mood changes. 

Side effects also depend on the way you’re taking them. For example, if you use steroid injections there could be pain and bruising at the injection site. One thing that’s common for most legal steroid users is an increase in blood sugar level. This is because the liver produces more sugar while on steroid treatment. 

Bottom line? If you have any prolonged or severe symptoms, go and see your GP. That’s pretty much our advice if you feel like ANYTHING is wrong with your body, just go see a doctor. And you can quote us on that. 

To find out more about the side-effects of prescribed steroids and what they can be used for, click here. 

For Doping 

Remember the first season of Teen Wolf when Jackson thought Scott was on steroids? (honestly, if you haven’t seen it, give it a watch) Well, aside from the insane amount of strength that Scott got by becoming a werewolf, the reason for this suspicion was based on his behaviour. He kept punching things, like a lot of things. 

‘Roid rage’ is no doubt the side-effect you’ve heard the most about when it comes to steroid use. As a result of the increased testosterone levels produced when using, there can be definite psychological and behavioural changes. Doping actually causes hormonal imbalances within the body. For men, this means the potential of testicles shrinking and developing breasts while women could begin to grow facial hair and lose their period.   

On top of this, the side-effects from earlier are probably going to be  enhanced in dopers because your body is all out of whack. Keep in mind, this is only if you’re abusing the substance (yes, substance, because it’s actually a Class C drug) for your own gain. Speaking of it being a substance, some people can even get addicted to using as a result of body dysmorphia. Click here to read our article on getting help with addiction. 

Next Steps

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By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 17-Aug-2021

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