Most of the drugs used in today’s medical industry were developed as medicines, but this is not the case for anabolic steroids. In fact, the use of steroids in medicine was secondary; they were first developed as performance enhancers for professional athletes. Here, you’ll learn more about steroids medicine, what these compounds can do, and how often they are still prescribed for medical conditions.
Medicine vs. Performance Enhancement
The steroids in medicine are the very same steroids used by athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts. While many of these products are no longer prescribed by doctors in the US, some, such as Andriol and even Anavar, may be prescribed based on medical conditions. Whether individuals are using medicinal steroids or boosting their performance, the effects are the same. Just as bodybuilders and athletes use steroids to pack on pounds of lean muscle, doctors will often prescribe it to help their patients with certain muscle-wasting disorders.
The Use of Steroids in Medicine
The anabolic steroids in medicine vary from country to country. For example, Winstrol is no longer prescribed for human use in the US, but it’s still a common veterinary medicine, and it’s still a common prescription drug in parts of Europe. In the chart below, you’ll discover some of the steroids that are still being prescribed around the world along with their uses.
|Steroid||Main Use||Other Uses|
This is by no means a complete list, but it does represent the most common anabolic steroids in medicine today. In countries where steroids are illegal without a prescription, individuals must undergo laboratory testing to determine the need for these treatments.
Corticosteroids vs. Anabolic Steroids in Medicine
There’s a good chance that at some point in your life, your doctor has prescribed a course of steroids to treat inflammation or injury. These steroids, called corticosteroids, are some of the most popular prescription medications in medicine today. They are “cousins” of anabolic steroids, but they work in two completely different ways. Corticosteroids affect the immune system, essentially calming it down in response to illness or injury, which reduces inflammation and leads to relief for the patient.
Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, are derivatives of testosterone designed to enhance the body’s anabolic state by stimulating protein breakdown and synthesis, retaining nitrogen, boosting energy, and facilitating strength. They may look somewhat like corticosteroids at the molecular level, and they may share some of the same properties, but anabolic steroids are far more powerful than corticosteroids, and they do not affect your body’s immune system in the same way.
Steroids for Hormone Replacement Therapy
After the age of 25 (on average), men’s testosterone production starts to decline, and it continues to decline by 1% to 3% every single year thereafter. Because of this, men will enter a phase of their lives called andropause, which describes a point at which a man’s blood testosterone levels fall below normal levels. This can create certain undesirable side effects that include chronic fatigue, lack of libido, erectile dysfunction, muscle wasting, fat gain, and more. As a result, men will often see their physicians, who perform a litany of blood tests.
One of these tests is usually a testosterone screen, and if a man’s testosterone is below 280ng/dL, he is said to have low testosterone. Doctors may then prescribe a form of testosterone – usually testosterone undecanoate, or Andriol – to help boost those levels. Exogenous testosterone is by far the most prevalent of all the steroids in medicine, and it’s estimated that between 3% and 5% of all men over the age of 40 will use hormone replacement therapy. It is available as a pill, injection, cream, subcutaneous pellet, patch, and more.
Oxymetholone (Anadrol) and oxandrolone (Anavar) are the most popular steroids in medicine for treating anemia, especially hereditary anemia that progressively worsens over time. These compounds increase the production of an enzyme known as erythropoietin in the kidneys, and this erythropoietin makes its way to the bone marrow via the bloodstream where it will then help to boost the production of new red blood cells. Many patients respond favorably, but there are some who may not respond at all. For this reason, it’s often not the first line of treatment in treating anemia and is reserved for patients who do not respond to treatment with drugs that carry a lower risk of side effects.
Treating Hereditary Angioedema
Hereditary angioedema is a condition in which individuals experience fluid retention and inflammation in many different parts of their bodies, including the face, bowels, and even airways. It is a very rare condition that stems from the overresponse of the immune system. Essentially, an improper function of a protein called the C1 inhibitor affects the blood vessels throughout the body, causing them to swell. Some people may only ever experience slight swelling in their hands, faces, and feet alongside mild abdominal cramping; others may experience swelling so severe that it inhibits their ability to breathe.
Cases of mild angioedema can be treated without anabolic steroids, and over the last several years, the FDA has approved a handful of drugs that can prevent or lessen the severity of episodes. However, for patients experiencing severe hereditary angioedema, anabolic steroids like Winstrol may be the best course of action. These “drying” steroids help to flush fluid from between cells, which can alleviate the edema.
Delayed-onset puberty is quite rare, and it only occurs in about 5% of all men. Most doctors agree that the “normal” age range for puberty onset is anywhere from the ages of nine to 14, so boys who have not yet entered puberty by their 15th birthday are considered “delayed”. In some cases, pediatricians may simply choose to wait it out, but in others, short-term testosterone courses can jumpstart puberty and ensure proper growth. Again, the most popular steroids in medicine for treating delayed-onset puberty are forms of testosterone, and these are typically given in a series of injections over the course of several months.
Treating and Relieving the Pain of Osteoporosis
Anabolic steroids were originally developed to improve strength and performance in professional athletes. Doctors quickly discovered they could also be used to help certain patients gain weight, and numerous studies took place on the effects of steroids in medicine. In the 1950s, it was discovered that certain steroids – namely Deca Durabolin – had the ability to improve the absorption of calcium and even stimulate the growth of new bone. In fact, many patients with advanced osteoporosis that led to spinal fractures even reported significant pain relief. While there are other drugs available for treating osteoporosis today, Anavar is still prescribed in rare cases.
Preventing Muscle Wasting
The first use of steroids in medicine was the prevention of muscle wasting due to conditions like muscular dystrophy, osteoarthritis, and others. When HIV/AIDS was discovered in the late 1970s and early 1980s, anabolic steroids in medicine gained popularity. Anavar became the drug of choice for boosting patients’ appetites, building muscle tissue, and maintaining existing muscle tissue. Sustanon, a blend of testosterone, is often prescribed to male patients with muscle wasting disorders, as well.
Poor appetite is a symptom associated with many medical conditions. These include aging, cancer, and even certain prescription medications. When poor appetite becomes life-threatening and patients become significantly malnourished, doctors will sometimes prescribe steroids such as Anavar to help patients feel hungry and gain weight. Though other drugs are available, Anavar is by far one of the most effective because it helps reverse poor appetite quickly.
Steroids in medicine aren’t as popular as they once were. The medical industry has come a long way since the golden era of steroids in the 1950s and 60s, and there are treatments available today that don’t carry the same risk of side effects. However, when patients don’t respond to these treatments, and when men need hormone replacement therapy in the form of exogenous testosterone, steroids in medicine are still indicated – and they still change lives for the better.