What happens to your body when you misuse anabolic steroids?

Short-Term Effects

People who misuse anabolic steroids can experience many effects, some of which are serious:

  • oily skin and acne
  • water retention
  • yellowing of the skin
  • muscle building
  • possible improved athletic performance
  • infection

Long-Term Effects

  • stunted growth (in teens)
  • stunted height (if teens use steroids before their growth spurt)
  • high blood pressure
  • changes in blood cholesterol (increases in “bad” cholesterol or LDL, decreases in “good” cholesterol or HDL)
  • enlarged heart
  • heart attack or stroke (even in young people)
  • liver disease, including cancer
  • kidney problems or failure

Males

  • breast growth and shrinking of testicles
  • low sperm count/infertility
  • baldness
  • increased risk for prostate cancer

Females

  • voice deepening
  • growth of facial hair
  • male-pattern baldness
  • changes in or end of menstrual cycle/getting your period
  • enlargement of clitoris

In addition, people who misuse steroids by injecting them risk getting HIV or hepatitis (a liver disease) if they share needles. Read more about the link between viral infections and drug use.

Some people who misuse steroids believe they can avoid unwanted side effects or increase the drugs’ effects by using them in specific ways, sometimes called cycling, stacking, or pyramiding. There is no scientific evidence that any of these approaches reduces the harmful effects of misusing these drugs.