Anabolic Steroid (Oral, Parenteral)

Anabolic steroids are related to the male hormone testosterone, and are used to help rebuild tissue that has become weak or damaged.


Anabolic steroids are a synthetic version of testosterone, a male sex hormone. The term "anabolic"means "muscle building", which describes fairly well the general reasons a doctor might prescribe this drug. Doctors prescribe the use of Anabolic steroids to help rebuild tissue in the body that has been injured or has become weakened due to serious illness. For patients taking Anabolic steroids, a high calorie diet with sufficient protein is recommended during treatment.

A doctor may prescribe Anabolic steroids for the following patients:

  • Patients who need to gain weight after a suffering an injury, a severe illness, or who have a continuing infection.
  • Patients who are unable to gain weight or who have trouble maintaining a healthy weight as a result of medical reasons which may not be diagnosed.
  • Patients who have some types of anemia.
  • Female patients who have certain kinds of breast cancer.
  • Patients who have hereditary angioedema, a condition which results in a rapid swelling of tissue in the arms, legs, face, throat, bowels, windpipe, or sexual organs.

Anabolic steroids can be prescribed by a doctor for other medical conditions, but should not be taken without a prescription, due to possible side effects. Despite this, Anabolic steroids are well known as drugs that are commonly misused. Body builders, weight lifters and other athletes use these drugs to enhance performance, sometimes beginning at a young age. This type of abuse of Anabolic steroids can result in serious long term side effects and damage.

Anabolic steroids should not be confused with corticosteroids, which are used to treat disease and illnesses that cause severe inflammation in the body.

Anabolic steroids can result in serious side effects for both men and women. Certain side effects may be more common for one gender than another. If a patient experiences any type of serious reaction to Anabolic steroids, they should notify their doctor immediately

Conditions Treated

  • Weight loss following an injury or illness
  • Failure to gain weight or maintain a healthy weight
  • Anemia
  • Breast cancer
  • Hereditary angioedema

Type of Medicine

  • Synthetic Hormone

Side Effects

There are a variety of possible side effects for Anabolic steroids, most of them minor. However, patients taking Anabolic steroids will want to schedule regular visits with their doctor to verify the medication isn't causing any unwanted side effects.

In children, taking Anabolic steroids can have an effect on growing bones. The child's doctor or pediatrician will schedule a regular x-ray to make sure there's no impact on bone growth and height. Usually this will happen every six months, or at whatever time period is recommended by the doctor.

For diabetic patients, Anabolic steroids can have an impact on blood sugar levels. If there are any changes in blood tests or urine sugar tests, the patient should discuss this with their doctor.

In some patients taking high doses of Anabolic steroids for longer periods of time, there are reports of liver tumors, cancer, or a form of liver disease known as peliosis hepatis. This is a rare side effect, but it can be serious, causing liver damage and even death. Patients should work with their doctor to get the doctor's recommendations for appropriate tests.

While Anabolic steroids have specific beneficial effects, some patients may also experience unwanted side effects. Some of these are minor but a patient should still check with their doctor to discuss any changes in treatment.

Some of the effects discussed below will apply to men, some will apply to women and some will apply to both genders. For both men and women, serious side effects include yellow eyes; dark, thick or light colored stools; any red or purple spots that appear on the body or in the mouth or nose; a sore throat with or without a fever; and vomiting blood. If any of these side effects occur, the patient should immediately contact his or her doctor.

Other less common or rare side effects for both genders are: bone pain, nausea or vomiting, a sore tongue, any swelling of the lower legs or the feet, any unusual or excessive bleeding, and abnormal weight gain. Even more infrequently, some patients may experience unusual abdominal or stomach cramps or pain, a nagging feeling of discomfort, headaches that do not subside normally, or hives. Additionally, symptoms of weight loss that are out of the ordinary, a loss of appetite or an ongoing unpleasant breath odor may occur as a result of taking Anabolic steroids. Any patients who experience these symptoms should discuss them with their doctor as soon as possible.

There is another side effect which may occur in children - reduced or slowing growth. It's not known how frequently this side effect occurs, but children should be checked by their doctor at regular intervals.

Anabolic steroids have some side effects which may not need medical attention right away. Some of these will disappear as the medication begins to take effect, and the patient's body adjusts to taking the drug. During regular visits, the doctor may be able to suggest additional medications or other steps patients can take to make these side effects less bothersome. Patients should discuss any of the following side effects with their doctor if they find them annoying or worsening.

For both men and women, these less irritating side effects may include chills, diarrhea, feeling bloated in the abdomen or stomach, muscle cramps, and trouble sleeping. There may be a change in libido, or sexual interest, of either an increase or decrease. Men may commonly experience an increase in acne, and may also find they have less sexual desire than normal or have a change in their sexual ability. For any of these, patients should see their doctor if they have any questions.


The dose that a doctor prescribes of Anabolic steroids will vary widely depending on the specific patient and the condition being treated. It's very important as a result that a patient follows their doctor's instructions closely. Taking too much or too little may result in unwanted side effects.

The information included below discusses average doses of Anabolic steroids, and is not intended to be correct for all patients. As a result, patients should take the exact dose prescribed, and not make any changes unless instructed by their doctor.

The effectiveness of Anabolic steroids will depend on the strength of the medication taken, the number of doses taken daily, how much time between doses, and the length of the treatment. A doctor will take all of these factors into account when prescribing Anabolic steroids.

The average recommended doses are as follows. All doses are for the tablet form of Anabolic steroids:

For treatment intended to rebuild tissue after a serious injury or illness:

Adults and teens: 2.5 milligrams (mg) two to four times a day for up to four weeks. A doctor may prescribe up to 20 mg a day.

Children: The average dose is 0.25 mg per kilogram (kg) or 0.11 mg per pound of body weight a day. Dosages will be based on the child's body weight as determined by a doctor.

For treatment of some forms of anemia:

Adults, teens, children, and older infants: The usual dose is 1 to 5 milligrams (mg) per kilogram (kg) or 0.45 to 2.3 mg per pound of body weight a day. Dosages will be based on the patient's body weight as determined by a doctor.

Premature and newborn infants: The usual dose is 0.175 mg per kg or 0.08 mg per pound of body weight a day. Dosages will be based on the patient's body weight as determined by a doctor.

To prevent hereditary angioedema (swelling of bodily tissue):

Adults and teens: Starting dose is 2 milligrams (mg) three times a day, up to 4 mg four times a day, for five days. After the initial phase, the doctor may slowly reduce the dose to 2 mg once per day or once every other day.

When a patient misses their regular dose, he or she should take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, the patient should skip the missed dose and continue with the next regular dose. It is important not to double dose with this medication.

There is a recommended schedule to catch up in the case of a missed dose. For patients taking one dose a day, take the missed dose right away. If the patient forgets a dose for an entire day, then take the regular daily dose, and skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses. For patients who are prescribed more than one dose a day, take the missed dose right away. If, however, it is close to the time for the next dose, the patient should simply skip the dose they missed, and continue with the regular schedule. Again, patients should not take a double dose because one was missed.

A patient should consult their doctor if they have any questions or concerns about missed doses.

Major Drug Interactions

For patients using Anabolic steroids, it may be that some medications they take for other conditions should not be used with Anabolic steroids. In some instances, however, there may be a benefit to taking both medications even if there is an interaction between the two. The patient's treating physician will be able to determine whether this is advisable, depending on the patient's medical history. The doctor may modify the dose or recommend other precautions.

As with any medication, it's important that the patient gives a full medical history to the treating physician, including all other medications. If a patient is taking any of the medications listed below, it is very important that he or she advises his or her doctor of the medication and the dose being taken. The drugs listed below are those with the most significant interaction with Anabolic steroids, but the list is not all-inclusive.

The medications below are generally not recommended for patients also taking Anabolic steroids, without the advice of a doctor:

  • Acenocoumarol
  • Anisindione
  • Bupropion
  • Dicumarol
  • Phenindione
  • Phenprocoumon
  • Warfarin

Other interactions with Anabolic steroids may result from eating certain types of food with Anabolic steroids, or taking the medication with food. In addition, drinking alcohol or using tobacco products may have additional unwanted effects. Patients should discuss with their doctor how to use Anabolic steroids in conjunction with these other products.


Anabolic steroids should be taken only as directed by a doctor. Patients should not take more of the drug, and should not take it more frequently than prescribed. Failing to follow the dosage instructions can lead to unwanted and severe side effects.

Patients taking this medication will need to follow a high calorie, high protein diet.

Patients who have a preexisting medical problem may find that it will impact their ability to take Anabolic steroids. All patients should provide a complete medical history to their doctor in order to get the correct dose of Anabolic steroids. The following are some of the medical conditions that are of specific concern:

  • Breast cancer in both women and men.
  • Sugar diabetes (Diabetes mellitus): Taking Anabolic steroids may decrease blood sugar levels.
  • An enlarged prostate or prostate cancer: Taking Anabolic steroids may cause an increase of enlargement of the prostate or can increase tumor growth.
  • Heart disease or blood vessel disease: Anabolic steroids may make these conditions worse since it can increase cholesterol levels in the blood.
  • Liver disease.
  • Kidney disease.
  • For women, having excess calcium in the blood, or a history of excess calcium: Anabolic steroids can raise calcium levels in the blood, making this condition worse.


For Anabolic steroids in tablet form, keep it in a closed bottle at room temperature. It's important to keep the medication away from moisture, heat and direct light. Do not freeze this medication.

As with all medications, keep Anabolic steroids out of the reach of children. In addition, any medication that is no longer in use or which has passed the expiration date should be disposed of properly. For proper disposal of this and other medications, check with a health or law enforcement professional.


Anabolic steroids, a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone, is prescribed for men, women and children for a variety of growth and appetite related conditions. It can also be prescribed to treat some types of anemia and some types of breast cancer in both men and women. This medication helps to rebuild tissue that has been weakened by severe injury or illness. Patients taking Anabolic steroids have to increase their calorie intake and it's recommended that they eat foods that are high in protein.

Anabolic steroid can be prescribed for men, women and children, in appropriate doses. Because of the risk of side effects, patients should never take more of this medication, or take it more frequently, than prescribed by the doctor. Patients should not share this medication.

There are some significant side effects with taking Anabolic steroids for all patients. Some are less harmful than others, and may subside after the body gets used to taking this medication. Other side effects can be more severe, including liver damage, kidney damage, and negatively impacting growth in children.

Last Reviewed:
December 23, 2017
Last Updated:
April 27, 2018
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