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How to Spot a Steroid User

Gynocomastia is the growth of breast tissue in menThe negative effects anabolic steroids can have on the human body can be devastating. They range from a minor case of oily skin, to major long-term health complications, and potentially death.  Fortunately, steroids have a variety of side effects, or changes experienced by the mind and body of a user.  These changes basically fit into three categories:

  1. Internal changes such as high blood pressure or out of range liver values;
  2. More private or personal changes like testicular atrophy (significant shrinking of the testicles); and
  3. Noticeably external changes like severe acne or increased aggression. 

Should you suspect your child, sibling or friend of using anabolic steroids, you can look for a variety of short-term side effects that appear as symptoms.  These include visible changes in appearance, mood and behavior.  The following information will make it easier for you to identify the specific symptoms, changes and habits of a steroid user. 

Physical changes are typically the most pronounced short-term symptoms as they are not easily concealed by the novice user and include:

  • Acne is a common side effectUnusually greasy hair or oily skin (often with stretch marks on the inner joints)
  • Small red or purplish acne, including breakouts on the shoulders and back
  • Gynocomastia, the abnormally excessive development of the breast tissue in males
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Thinning hair throughout the head or receding hairline (male pattern baldness)
  • Increased length and thickness in hair (on body parts other than the head)
  • Hair loss in bed, shower, comb or brush
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin; this signals liver damage
  • Skin eruptions and infections, such as abscesses and cysts
  • Drastic appetite shifts (extreme hunger or lessened/loss of appetite)
  • Joint pain; greater chance of injuring muscles and tendons
  • Disrupted sleep patterns (not sleeping well or sleeping too much)
  • Fluid level changes, bloating (face & body), and night sweating
  • Dizziness, trembling, nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid or progressive weight gain
  • Increased muscle size (sudden or progressive)
  • Hyperactivity or lethargy (too little energy)
  • Trouble urinating; discoloration or blood in urine
  • Rare and occasional side effects

Steroid abusers often experience mood swingsPersonality and Psychiatric changes often happen suddenly and without visible triggers or reasons.  They include:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased aggression or irritability
  • Becomes disrespectful or abusive (verbally and/or physically)
  • Poor decision making stemming from feelings of invincibility
  • Becomes secretive and/or starts lying
  • Withdraws from family members
  • Depression (usually when steroids are discontinued)
  • Hallucinations - seeing or hearing things that aren't there
  • Paranoia - extreme feelings of mistrust or fear

Social changes may be mistaken for natural teenage distancing or independence.  These are:

  • Closes and/or locks bedroom door more often
  • Takes longer showers or baths (this time is often used for injecting)
  • Phone conversations become more private
  • Begins receiving more packages in the mail
  • Asks for money more often, or has more money than usual
  • Is stealing or losing belongings
  • Begins taking naps and/or falls asleep in class
  • Loss of focus or concentration (at work, school or home)
  • Decline in grades
  • Forgets plans, dates and activities
  • Loss of interest in friends, or suddenly gains new friends


It’s fairly common knowledge that steroids come in the form of injectable oils often packaged in vials or ampules (small often single serving glass bottles with pop off glass tops).  However, they can also be taken orally, or transdermally (rubbed on and absorbed through the skin).  Take special note should you see any of the following.

Orals tablets that are:

  • Often small, but sometimes large and round
  • Come in several bright or soft colors
  • Are numbered (often with the milligram amount)
  • Sometimes lettered (manufacturer’s initials)
  • Can come in various shapes and sizes

Dianabol Steroids Anavar
 Steroids Steroids

Commonly Used Orals

  • Anadrol (Oxmetholone)
  • Dianabol (Methandrostenolone)
  • Andriol (Testosterone Undeconate)
  • Primobolan (Methenolone)
  • Anavar (Oxandrolone)
  • Turanabol (Chlordehydromethylestesterone)
  • Winstrol (Stanozolol)

Transdermals come in a variety of bases:

  • Lotions & Patches
    Lotions & Patches 
  • Solutions & Sprays
    Solutions & Sprays
  • Ointments, Creams & Gels
    Ointments, Creams & Gels   Ointments, Creams & Gels


Steroid use is often accompanied by or substituted with other products.  These substances are taken during, directly after, or in place of steroid cycles (continuous steroid use for defined periods of time, typically 8 to 16 weeks or more).

Ancillaries and substitutes

  1. Aromatase inhibitors come in tablet or liquid form,  and are taken during cycles to reduce or eliminate many the physical side effects mentioned above. 
    Aromatase inhibitor 
  2. Synthetic estrogens work as anti-estrogens within the male body. They also come in tablet or liquid form, and are used after cycles. This Post-Cycle Therapy (PCT is used to limit the reception (absorption) of estrogen until the body can again produce natural testosterone at normal levels.
    Synthetic estrogens
  3. Testosterone boosters are legal, often all natural (herbal-based) over-the-counter products that stimulate some of the functions associated with the increase in the body’s natural testosterone and lutenizing hormone levels.  Because of these properties, they are often used after cycles to aid in restoring natural testosterone levels.
    Testosterone boosters Testosterone boosters  Testosterone boosters  Testosterone boosters  Testosterone boosters  Testosterone boosters  Testosterone boostersTestosterone boosters

NOTE:  Some testosterone boosters can be literally converted to anabolic steroids by the body.  Others actually contain steroids, and are generally removed from the market shortly after component analyses confirm steroid content.

Steroid equipment, or the presence of the specific items listed below is also indicative of steroid use.  These are some of the tools steroid users purchase in order to properly administer and store the drugs.

  • Syringes
  • Needles (in one or varying sizes)
    Needles (in one or varying sizes)
  • Vials (small glass storage bottles like the ones pictured below) 
  • Alcohol swabs or cotton balls
  • Plastic or rubber tops and stoppers
    Plastic or rubber tops and stoppers
  • Amp openers
    Amp openers
  • Sterile injectable oils, waters, or vitamins (i.e. Cottonseed/Grapeseed/Sesame/Walnut oils, Bacteriostatic Water, Vitamin B-Complex & B12, etc.)
    Sterile injectable oils, waters, or vitamins  Sterile injectable oils, waters, or vitamins
  • "Anabolic Steroids: Your Child’s Road to the Gold or to the Grave?" MomsTeam.com, 2004.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration, Drugs of Abuse, 2005 Edition
  • Drug Enforcement Administration, Steroids Factsheet
  • Grinnell College, “Doping: Negative Psychological Effects”
  • Hormone Foundation, The - “Health Effects, Risks and Psychological Symptoms of Hormone Abuse”
  • Kids Health For Kids,  “Steroids”, June, 2005
  • Mayo Clinic, ‘Teen athletes and performance-enhancing substances: What parents can do’ Dec 30, 2006
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse, Infofax: Steroids (Anabolic-Androgenic), March 2005
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2004. Volume II: College students and adults ages 19–45 (PDF), October 2005
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse, Research Report: Anabolic Steroid Abuse, September 2006
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse,
  • Saltzberg, Stephanie (2000) “Roid rage and other psychological effects of steroid abuse.”