What are steroids?

“Any of a large group of fat-soluble organic compounds, as the sex hormones, most of which have specific physiological action.” 1

“A group name for lipids that contain a hydrogenated cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene ring system. Some of the substances included in this group are progesterone, adrenocortical hormones, the gonadal hormones, cardiac aglycones, bile acids, sterols (such as cholesterol), toad poisons, saponins and some of the carcinogenic hydrocarbons.”2

Steroids include:
Anabolic Steroids

Steroids fall into the following categories

  • Anabolic steroids (Androgenic)
    • The type of steroids most likely to be misused are the Anabolic steroids.
    • Anabolic steroids are related to male sex hormones, like testosterone. “Anabolic” refers to muscle-building or protein building, and “androgenic” refers to increased masculine characteristics. “Steroids” refers to the class of drugs. “Testosterone” is found in the testes in men and in small amounts in the ovaries of woman. It is used by the body to controls blood pressure, appetite, and effects moods.
    • There are over 100 types of Anabolic steroids - all need a prescription.
    • Anabolic steroids are used to encourage the development of muscle tissue, increase strength, reduce swelling, and increase muscle size. They are used to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone: ex. anemia, delayed puberty and some types of sexual dysfunction’s (impotence).
    • They are also be used in the treatment of cancer (leukemia, breast), mental disorders, severe burns, and for treating diseases that result in a loss of lean muscle mass.
  • Corticosteroids
    • The body naturally produces this steroid in the adrenal glands. The brain regulates the level cortisol in the body. The use of steroid medicines may affect the natural production of this steroid within the body. As our bodies relate to anxiety and stress, cortisol keeps us from becoming sick.
    • Cortisols are used to treat asthma, and other chronic lung diseases, as corticosteroids work well to reduce inflammation and swelling, and in slowing the production of mucus that can block the airways and lungs. Steroid creams can help relieve skin itching after cancer radiation treatment.
  • Estrogens (Oestrogens) and Progesterones
    • Estrogens and Progesterones are related to the female sex hormones, they are “estrogenic” - Responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics in women (puberty) and maintaining the female reproductive system. Progesterones are used for treatment of advanced breast cancer and premenstrual syndrome. Birth control pills contain synthetic estrogen and/or progesterones.

How are steroids taken?
Steroids can be ingested, taken orally in pill form, or injected. Steroids also come in the form of creams or gels that can be rubbed on and absorbed by the skin.


1. Webster’s Universal College Dictionary, 1997 ed.

2. “Steroid from On-line Medical Dictionary” (1997)  CancerWEB,  26 April 2003.

National Institute on Drug Abuse.  National Institute of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Steroids (Anabolic-Androgenic)”  January 2001 NIDA : InfoFacts 21 April 2003

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “NCADI: Drugs of Abuse”. 1997 Inventory #RP0926. National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI). 01 March 2003