Steroids may be used in two forms, either orally in tablet form or injected in a water based or oil based solution. There are serious risks associated with injecting, which are explained below.
Courses of steroids, known as “cycles”, last between 4 and 12 weeks. It is common to use a combination of steroids at the same time, which is known as “stacking”. This can cause an increase in adverse side effects (see below).
If you are using steroids, it is important that you give your body a break after each cycle of at least 4 weeks, or at least of the same duration as the last cycle.
What are the risks of injecting steroids & how you can inject more safely?
Injecting is never completely safe.
Where steroids are injected and syringes are shared, there is a risk of infection with blood borne viruses such as HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. Those continuing to inject can protect themselves to some degree by using clean equipment and not sharing with anyone else. Always use a new syringe. Swabbing the area for injection with alcohol wipes beforehand is advised. All this equipment is available from needle exchanges and some pharmacies.
Injecting oily liquids into veins can be fatal. It is safer to inject into large muscle areas (“intra-muscular injection”), e.g. the upper, outer buttock quadrant on each side (other areas of the buttock can be very dangerous, risking paralysis), upper arm or thigh. It is dangerous to use small needles for intra-muscular injection as they may break off in hard muscle. A detachable needle/barrel combination should be used. It is advisable to use a long (green or blue top) needle, leaving the upper ¼ of the needle exposed upon insertion.
Injecting large amounts of oil based steroids in one dose may lead to an infection developing under the skin.
Because anabolic steroids are modelled on male hormones, they can have a masculinising effect on the body.
Women may have an increase in body hair, a deepening of the voice, loss of head hair, enlargement of the clitoris and a decrease in breast size. Men may suffer from a decrease in sperm production and testes size and the development of breast tissue. Some of these effects may be permanent.
There may also be an increased risk of coronary heart disease due to increased blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels. Many athletes welcome the increased aggression that has been reported as a side effect, as they feel it helps them to train harder for longer.
Unwanted side effects may be greater when steroids are taken in high doses or when used together in different combinations (stacking).
Many steroids on sale are counterfeit or for veterinary use and therefore are of unknown strength. Injectables may contain bacterial contamination.