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Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs)

Why are anabolic steroids misused?

Anabolic steroids increase lean muscle mass when used in conjunction with weight training. The aim, for non-athlete weightlifters, is typically improvement of appearance. As mentioned in “Who uses anabolic steroids?” steroid use is often associated with a form of male body dysmorphic disorder called muscle dysmorphia, a preoccupation with the perceived inadequate size of their muscles.19

As a result, some users report taking anabolic steroids to increase confidence and because they feel that they are at a point where they can no longer get bigger through weight training alone. Most users report that anabolic steroids help them achieve their ideal body.28

Increasing muscle mass may also promote strength, which can improve performance in certain types of sports. More benefit is seen for strength-dependent sports (weightlifting, shot-put throwing, football) than for sports that require speed, agility, flexibility, and/or endurance.29

Anabolic steroid users also report that their muscles recover faster from intense strain and muscle injury.30 Research in animals has not conclusively supported this belief, with some showing that anabolic steroids can enhance recovery from certain types of muscle damage,31,32 but others finding no benefit in taking anabolic steroids to enhance muscle recovery.33

Anabolic steroid users report using an average of about 11 APEDs per year. They are also more likely than non-steroid users to take supplements such as protein powders and creatine; estrogen blockers; ergo/thermogenics, such as caffeine or ephedrine; medications for erectile dysfunction; and other hormones such as insulin, thyroid hormones, and human growth hormone.26

This page was last updated February 2018

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NIDA. (2018, February 21). Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds

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This series of reports simplifies the science of research findings for the educated lay public, legislators, educational groups, and practitioners. The series reports on research findings of national interest.

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