Anabolic Steroids and Testosterone: How Are They Different?

UltraPharmRX Medical Team

UltraPharmRX Medical Team

Anabolic steroids, in essence, are a synthetic, man-made version of testosterone.

Some athletes, weightlifters, bodybuilders, and professional wrestlers use them to improve athletic performance and gain muscle mass – but too often controversial results. 

About 4 million individuals in the United States have used anabolic steroids. 

However, anabolic steroid abuse can cause serious side effects, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, changes in mood or temperament, diminished sex drive, and testicular shrinkage.


The Lowdown on Anabolic Steroids: All You Need to Know


Anabolic steroids mimic testosterone, known as the primary male sex hormone. 

They might be composed of alternate forms of testosterone, precursor substances, or related chemicals. They are also known as anabolic/androgenic steroids. Since anabolic steroids function like testosterone, they can cause the same effects as testosterone, such as boosting muscle mass, stamina, and strength.

However, most people refer to anabolic steroids as drugs that were developed to cause anabolic effects (e.g., increased muscle mass) than androgenic effects (e.g., characteristics related to sexual development). 

Over 4 million Americans have abused anabolic steroids at least once. Anabolic steroid abuse is usually in the form of taking higher than the recommended dose, which leads to severe side effects.

Anabolic steroid abuse for performance-enhancing purposes is illegal. However, anabolic steroids prescribed as a treatment for an underlying medical condition are legal.

Anabolic steroids are different from corticosteroids which are used to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, or eczema.


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How Anabolic Steroids Work


Like natural testosterone, anabolic steroids bind to sex hormone receptors in the brain. In doing so, they influence pathways that determine male sexual and physical characteristics, activating cells responsible for building muscle mass.


How Are Anabolic Steroids Taken?


Anabolic steroids are available in different preparations, such as injectables, pills, topical gels, and creams.

They are further distinguished between different testosterone esters, such as testosterone enanthate, cypionate, and testosterone undecanoate, which are used to treat low T in men. 

On the other hand, another testosterone ester called nandrolone became one of the most-used performance-enhancing drugs among athletes and performers.

Other anabolic steroids such as stanozolol (Winstrol®), oxandrolone (Anavar®), oxymetholone (Anadrol®), and fluoxymesterone (Androxy®). 


Is It Legal to Take Anabolic Steroids?


Anabolic steroids aren’t illegal drugs, but it’s illegal to abuse them.

After all, anabolic steroids can be used for legitimate medical purposes and are legal. However, the FDA classifies anabolic steroids as a schedule III controlled substance on the level of opiates. This means your healthcare provider will be monitoring you closely while using them.

The FDA has approved anabolic steroids for the following medical uses:


  • Low testosterone levels (hypogonadism). Your doctor might prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in one of its various preparations if you’ve been diagnosed with low testosterone. 
  • Delayed onset of puberty. Boys who haven’t gone through puberty by a certain age may be prescribed a cycle of testosterone, which helps drive growth and sexual maturity.
  • Degenerative conditions that lead to muscle loss. Individuals with conditions that lead to muscle wasting or muscle loss, such as cancer or HIV, may be prescribed anabolic steroids.


How Are Anabolic Steroids Abused?


Most sports leagues ban the use of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

Other individuals use anabolic steroids illegally to boost their physical appearance or athletic performance. Some people just want to gain more mass to look more muscular.

Recent studies indicated that over 4 million individuals in the United States alone have used anabolic steroids at least once. One in five American teenagers has admitted to anabolic steroid use at some point. 

However, the hazards of anabolic steroid abuse are real. Approximately one million men in the United States depend on anabolic steroids, taking substantially higher doses of the substance.

People abuse anabolic steroids by either taking multiple kinds of steroids simultaneously (stacking), taking them for a set time and then stopping (cycling), starting from a low dose and building towards maximum doses (pyramiding), or substituting one anabolic steroid with another to avoid developing a tolerance (plateauing).

However, no scientific data exists to support any of these methods of abuse, and no evidence exists that they prevent you from developing potentially severe side effects.


What Are the Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids?


Anabolic steroids can cause several serious side effects, such as:


  • Severe skin acne
  • Changes in mood, aggression, and temperament (e.g., “roid rage”)
  • Testicular shrinkage
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Breast enlargement in men (gynecomastia or “man boobs”)
  • Urinary tract problems
  • Prostate enlargement
  • Sexual health issues like erectile dysfunction or low libido
  • Clitoral enlargement
  • Changes in women’s menstrual cycles
  • Increased levels of red blood cells
  • Diminished “good” cholesterol levels (HDL)
  • Increased levels of “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL)
  • Facial and body hair growth and a deepened voice in women; male pattern hair loss in men
  • Reduced sperm production or sperm count


What Are the Risks of Taking Anabolic Steroids?


Individuals who take anabolic steroids illegally buy them from online pharmacies located overseas. This means there’s no way to confirm their purity, safety, or efficacy.

Anabolic steroid abuse can also trigger substance abuse issues when you run into problems getting off the drugs, even if they are causing side effects or harm.

Serious medical conditions arising from long-term anabolic steroid abuse include chronic health issues such as cardiovascular disease, renal problems, liver disease, and increased risk of blood clots, which might lead to cardiac events.


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How Does Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal Feel Like?


Withdrawal symptoms can arise as a result of anabolic steroid use. This includes fatigue, low sex drive, sexual health issues, or depression.

Moreover, since anabolic steroids bind to the same receptors as testosterone, extended use can cause your body to cease producing its own T. Left untreated long enough, this could lead to hypogonadism (low testosterone), which could last up to months after getting off the steroids.

In some individuals, withdrawal symptoms and the resulting low testosterone issues may cause them to resume anabolic steroid use. Others may develop serious psychological issues such as anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or depression arising from withdrawal.


The Final Word on Anabolic Steroids vs. Testosterone


You can classify testosterone as an anabolic steroid due to its muscle mass-boosting properties.

Testosterone can be used to treat low testosterone or delayed onset of puberty. However, people usually refer to inappropriate or illegal steroid use when discussing anabolic steroids rather than those legally prescribed by a healthcare provider to treat certain conditions.

People taking anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes tend to take higher than therapeutic doses. Moreover, anabolic steroids like nandrolone were developed specifically for their ability to boost your athletic performance rather than help boost testosterone levels.

Testosterone requires a prescription; don’t believe products that claim to be the real thing because they usually aren’t.

Ultimately, you should avoid anabolic steroid abuse. Take them only as directed, at the prescribed doses, and under the close supervision of a medical health professional.

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Receive Expert Quality Care
from your phone or computer,
with UltraPharmRX

  • 100% U.S. Licensed Medical Provider
  • U.S. Licensed Pharmacy
  • Discreet Shipping
  • Monthly Refills
  • No Waiting Rooms, No Appointments
  • Text Messaging Based Consultation *