Updated on February 6, 2024
4 min read

Steroid Statistics

The intrigue with steroids won't die down anytime soon. From medical professionals prescribing them to athletes seeking an edge, the conversation surrounding their use shows no signs of dissipating anytime soon.

Here are some steroid facts you should know.

Corticosteroids vs. Anabolic Steroids

The main difference between the two is their function. 

Corticosteroids mimic the natural hormone cortisol, which the adrenal glands release in response to stress. They mainly reduce inflammation and control the immune system.

Anabolic steroids promote muscle growth and repair. They are synthetic hormones that act like an artificial testosterone boost. They are the type that some bodybuilders and athletes abuse.

15 Facts About Anabolic Steroids

Who Uses Them?

facts about anabolic steroids
  1. Most people who exploit steroids are men in their 20s or 30s who lift weights but don't play sports.1
  2. Men dealing with issues like these are likelier to use anabolic steroids: poor health awareness, depression, having parents who pay close attention to their body size, low self-confidence, eating disorder, and engagement in sports that emphasize physical goals.1
  3. Only 22 out of 100 people who use anabolic steroids started as teenagers.1
  4. Fewer females use them because they don't want to look too muscular or have masculine features.1
  5. Misusing steroids is linked to muscle dysmorphia, which causes men with large muscles to think they appear too small and weak.1
  6. Males who abuse the substance are likelier to report a history of sexual assault than non-users.1
  7. Women weightlifters who were raped are 2x more inclined towards using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs than those who never experienced such trauma.1
  8. Following the rapes, many women significantly increased bodybuilding activities to present themselves as intimidating or unattractive to prevent future attacks.1
  9. Approximately 1.3% of 12th graders, 0.8% of 8th graders, and 0.5% of 10th graders in the U.S. reported steroid use.1
  10. Three million Americans use the substance, including 2.7 to 2.9% of all young adults.2
reported steroid use among students in the United States

How Are They Used?

  1. Users concerned with drug testing who take them orally enjoy the advantage of a speedy exit from their bodies.1
  2. Anabolic steroids can be administered via injection or topical applications like creams and gels.1
  3. Injectable steroids are a great alternative for those hoping to minimize liver damage.1
  4. Users abusing steroids consume doses 10 to 100 times higher than the recommended medical amount.1
  5. The ways people take anabolic steroids are pyramiding, plateauing, stacking, and cycling.1

What Are the Effects on the Body?

Anabolic steroid misuse can have catastrophic consequences for those who engage in it. Though some side effects may be mild, there are also potentially irreversible ones that could lead to devastating health risks.

The most common steroid effects on the body are:1

  • Infection — Hepatitis, AIDS/HIV
  • Skin — Jaundice, oiliness (scalp and skin), damaged nerves (from injection), cysts, and acne
  • Liver — Tumors, peliosis hepatis
  • Cardiovascular system — Artery damage, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke, blood clots
  • Hormonal system — Male-pattern baldness, decreased sperm production, testicular cancer, enlarged breasts, and shrinking of the testicles for men; coarse skin, voice deepening, male-pattern baldness, reduced breast size, and excessive body hair growth for women

Other effects include aggression, insomnia, steroid-induced psychosis, mood swings, heightened libido, sleeplessness, and colds.3

Overall, research on steroids' long-term effects on humans is relatively scarce. 

Extensive studies are still insufficient, and possible adverse side effects may take years to manifest.

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10 Facts About Corticosteroids

  1. This pharmaceutical industry generates over $10 billion in revenue annually.4
  2. Nearly every form of medical treatment has utilized this powerful drug since its discovery in 1949.4
  3. They are like the natural hormones bodies produce that help with metabolism, inflammation, and blood pressure.4
  4. Corticosteroids come in many administration methods, including injections, pills, inhaled mists, topical ointments, creams, and rectal suppositories.4
  5. Taking them by mouth is usually the go-to for long-term relief from painful chronic conditions.4
  6. Corticosteroids effectively aid in treating organ transplant rejection, cancer, Addison's disease, and skin disorders.5
  7. Corticosteroids are the go-to treatment for persistent asthma.6
  8. Topical corticosteroids are a reliable and successful solution for treating several skin conditions.7
  9. They drastically reduced the mortality rate for COVID-19 patients who required supplemental oxygen (14%) and ventilation (29%).8
  10. Internal medicine and family/general practice accounted for almost 40% of all prescriptions given through Medicare, while emergency care providers made up 18.6%.9
prescriptions given through medicare

What Are the Effects on the Body?

Corticosteroids are powerful medications, but they come with side effects. Larger doses and prolonged use may also pose greater risks, but adverse reactions don't necessarily only fit this pattern.

For example, 90% of those taking corticosteroids for over two months can experience adverse effects. These include:4, 5

  • Diabetes
  • Bruising
  • Thinning of the limbs
  • Spike in blood pressure
  • Fluid retention
  • Skin thinning
  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of sleep
  • Growth suppression in children

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Moving Forward

Steroids can be helpful when prescribed in the right amounts for a short period. Otherwise, the risks can be significant. Always discuss the risks and benefits of taking it to treat a condition with your doctor.

If you or a loved one has developed a steroid addiction, seek help immediately. Treatments are available to help you manage it and address any underlying mental health issues to ensure a successful recovery.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Who uses anabolic steroids?” National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2023.
  2. Baker, J. S. “Gym users and abuse of prescription drugs.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, n.d.
  3. Department of Health & Human Services. “Anabolic steroids.” Better Health Channel, n.d.
  4. Hodgens, A., & Sharman, T. “Corticosteroids.” National Library of Medicine, 2022.
  5. Department of Health & Human Services. “Hormones – cortisol and corticosteroids.” Better Health Channel, n.d.
  6. Duke University. “Asthma Facts and Myths.” AdheRence to Inhaled Corticosteroids in Asthma ARICA, n.d.
  7. Bonfin, S. “10 Things You Should Know About Topical Corticosteroids.” Corticosteroids, 2022.
  8. Tsirtsakis, A. “Corticosteroid recommended for COVID-19 patients.” NewsGP, 2020.
  9. Bradley202, M. C., et al. “Systemic Corticosteroid Use for COVID-19 in US Outpatient Settings From April 2020 to August 2021.” Jama Network, 2022.

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