Anabolic steroids


What are they?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are synthetically produced versions of the naturally occurring male sex hormone testosterone. The term “anabolic” refers to muscle-building whilst “androgenic” refers to increased male sexual characteristics; “steroids” refer to the class of drug. Medically, they are prescribed to treat various conditions related to muscle wastage or for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Whether AAS are injected or taken orally, they work by mimicking testosterone. When they enter the blood stream they attach to specific receptors (a bit like a lock and key) at cell level. This allows them to enter the nucleus of the cell, which in turn helps the cell to create and retain more protein. This process is called protein synthesis. It is this construction of new proteins that is associated with increased muscle size and strength.

Adverse effects

Steroid use has been associated with diverse adverse effects on both physical and psychological health, including fatalities on rare occasions. However, this area remains poorly researched. Adverse effects to steroids can depend on a variety of factors including, gender, age, dose, duration of use, underlying health of the user and the self-directed administration of anabolic steroids. For full details of the associated risks of steroid use, click here.


Anabolic steroids are controlled as Class C substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. There is no possession offence but it is illegal to manufacture, supply or possess/import/export steroids with the intent to supply, without a license to do so. The maximum penalty for these offences is 14 years in prison and/or a heavy fine.

The “supply” offence can mean something as simple as sharing with someone else, even if you don’t sell the steroids to them.

Changes in the law in 2012 made it illegal to import steroids by ordering them by mail order or online and having them delivered to you from outside the UK

For more information on steroids and other image enhancing drugs, please go to