Are There Safe Steroids?

Erin J. Hill

There are safe steroids when they are used properly and by people who are trained and knowledgeable in their proper dosage. Many steroids are used by doctors and specialists to treat a wide range of health conditions. Steroid use by body builders and athletes is generally discouraged, although there are supporters of their use who claim that when taken as directed they can be a safe option for those looking to bulk up. Whether or not this is true is still being debated.

A woman applying a steroid anti-itch cream.
A woman applying a steroid anti-itch cream.

The most commonly used steroids are anabolic steroids. These help promote muscle growth and weight gain due to their testosterone-like qualities. They are often used in the medical community for a variety of reasons, but this is also the main type of steroid used by body builders to promote rapid muscle growth and athletic performance. Therefore, these can be considered safe steroids when used for the proper reasons and with medical supervision.

Steroids for bodybuilding.
Steroids for bodybuilding.

Anabolic steroids can be used to replace testosterone loss in those who have had their testes removed due to cancer, or in young boys with hormonal problems which may delay the onset of puberty. These are given in doses which are heavily monitored and restricted in order to minimize side effects and potential health risks. How safe steroids are, even those used in the medical community, generally depends on the way in which they are used.

Topical steroids, like hydrocortisone, are generally safe.
Topical steroids, like hydrocortisone, are generally safe.

Most of the common steroid side effects, which can include liver damage, kidney damage, heart malfunction, stomach upset, among a myriad of others, can be attributed to overuse. When used in quantities higher than the recommended dosage, serious health complications can result. Even when used correctly a slight risk still exists, so it is not recommended that steroids be used for recreational purposes. In some areas, doing so is illegal.

Anabolic steroids are sometimes used to promote rapid muscle growth.
Anabolic steroids are sometimes used to promote rapid muscle growth.

Other safe steroids are used to grow muscle tissue and other tissues in the body in patients with certain conditions. For instance, those who have battled a serious disease like cancer may need steroids to rebuild lost muscle tissue. Steroids are used in mothers who are at risk of delivering prematurely to stimulate the growth of the unborn infants’ lungs. They have also shown beneficial for the treatment of osteoporosis at growing bone marrow in some women.

Long-term abuse of steroids can cause bipolar behavior, irritability and depression.
Long-term abuse of steroids can cause bipolar behavior, irritability and depression.

Corticosteroids are perhaps some of the safest steroids when used in topical ointments and creams. This is the main ingredient in hydrocortisone, a popular anti-itch medication. Side effects for this variety are usually mild and abuse is much less common than with anabolic and androgenic steroids.

Sometimes supplemented by steroids, testosterone is mainly produced in men in the testicles.
Sometimes supplemented by steroids, testosterone is mainly produced in men in the testicles.

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Discussion Comments

rugbygirl

Something to be aware of with anabolic steroid side effects is that they have emotional effects as well as physical (like the well-known "roid rage"). And for safety in both these areas, going *off* steroids requires very careful monitoring.

I read about a terrible case several years ago where parents discovered that their teenage son was using anabolic steroids - he was a high school athlete of some kind and it was going around his team. There was a big scene when the parents found out and the kid agreed to stop taking them. They flushed his supply down the toilet.

But withdrawal caused him to go into a depression, and he committed suicide a short time later. Had the parents consulted a doctor, the doctor could have overseen the process of stepping down gradually off the steroids and saved their son's life.

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