Why Anabolic Steroids are different from other Illegal Drugs ?


It’s easy to get misinformed about less-than-legal substances. Information about their effects often come with a lot of presumptions as well as a lot of judgement. As a result, you might find it hard to get reliable information about the effects of illegal substances, steroids included. Today in the US, anabolic steroids are classified as  controlled substances alongside with hard drugs like heroine, cocaine and methamphetamine. Unfortunately, people don’t really understand why anabolic steroids are different from other illegal drugs.

How Much do Anabolic Steroids differ from other Drugs

Oftentimes, some people will understand this shared illegality to mean that the affects of anabolic steroids are anything like the effects of heroine or PCP. We’re here to tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth. Hard recreational drugs and anabolic steroids affect the body and the brain in completely different ways. So in this article we’re going to explain how anabolic steroids differ from other illegal drugs.

Before we go on, we do want to mention that steroids are indeed illegal and that we don’t want to advocate or encourage their use. However, a person’s choices are their own and it’s always best to make choices with all the correct information. So we have  only aims to provide the best i

Steroids and other Drugs effect the Brain Differently

When we talk about the effects of substances on the body, we can usually divide these into two categories. What do they do to the brain?  What do they do to the body? This applies to everything we put in our body. And by that, we mean everything. Steroids, a steak, and a cup of coffee all lead to chemical reactions which have effects on the brain as well as on the body.


One of the major ways that anabolic steroids differ from other illegal drugs is their effect on the user’s brain. Most recreational drugs activate the brain’s reward system, which is what causes people to feel “high.” This happens because the majority of drugs cause spikes in the brains output of dopamine. This is a neurotransmitter that affects a person’s movement, emotional response as well the ability to feel pleasure. A lack of dopamine can lead to tiredness, depression, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. The body synthesizes dopamine naturally and certain behaviors can encourage its production. These include

  • Physical exercise
  • Listening to music
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating certain foods

A sudden spike of dopamine causes the high sensation of most recreational drugs, like cocaine and amphetamines. These effects are normally short-term, which causes people to seek them out further. The short-term high is what causes some people to find these drugs so addictive.

Dopamine is one way anabolic steroids differ from illegal drugs

Dopamine pathway in the brain


The doctors are still researching exactly how anabolic steroids effect the brains dopamine levels. But the big piece of new is that it’s not at all the same as how hard drugs affect a person’s reward center. However, while anabolic steroids themselves doesn’t affect the brains reward system, they can affect the brain in other ways. Steroids change the balance of hormones in the body and the brain. This offset of testosterone in the body confuses hypothalamus, which normally regulates hormone production in the body. The hypothalamus will often change the production of hormones in order to compensate for this. This is basis of how anabolic steroids can affect the brain.

This can lead to things like:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Changes in libido
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Impaired judgement

Moreover, regularly using anabolic steroids in the long-term can lead to permanent changes in the brain’s chemistry. This occurs when the brain’s naturally production of neurotransmitters is thrown out of balance. Specifically, long-term use can effect parts of the brain that control sexuality, aggression, and mood regulation.

On the flip side, recreational drugs don’t have a appreciable effect on person’s hormonal balance. In fact, scientists have done studies in order to determine the effects of drugs like cocaine and heroine on testosterone in specific. Both studies found no difference in a person’s testosterone levels while high. So the big take away is that steroids can affect your hormonal balance, but not so much your dopamine and recreational drugs don’t affect your testosterone levels, but do affect your dopamine levels.

The different Addictiveness of Steroids and Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs like amphetamines, heroine, and cocaine very often trigger addictive behavioral patterns. This high level of addictiveness is what leads some people to become junkies who can only focus on the next high. In contrast, anabolic steroids don’t greatly affect the body’s production of dopamine and don’t trigger the reward cycle that leads to drug-addiction.

While steroids themselves have limited impact on the brain’s reward systems, there is a catch. The behaviors that steroids encourage and promote can in fact become quite addictive to users. For instance, using anabolic steroids almost always goes hand and hand with exercise, or at least it should. Science has repeatedly proven that physical exercise often activates the pleasure centers of our brain with dopamine, which does affect the brain’s reward center. As a result, anabolic steroids themselves are necessarily addictive but using them still has the potential to be behaviorally addictive. If you want to understand more about it, you can use this as a jumping-off point for more info.


As we’ve already mentioned, both anabolic steroids and illegal drugs can have strong effects on the body’s natural chemistry. As such, when people stop using either they can experience symptoms of withdrawal. However, withdrawals from anabolic steroids and other illegal drugs are completely different.

Drugs like methamphetamine, heroine and cocaine can lead to develop chemical dependence. This can also occur with alcoholics as well, sometimes occurring as delirium tremens. However, when a person stops using anabolic steroids, the body’s natural production of testosterone is put off balance. This can leads to different symptoms when a person comes off their steroid cycle. Most steroid users commonly report problems like

  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • lowered appetite
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • lowered sex drive

steroids and illegal drugs can lead to stress to anxiety

These symptoms appear especially strong if someone finishes their steroid-cycle without using post-cycle therapy. We’ve mentioned it before in our beginners’ guide to steroids, but anyone who is considering using anabolic steroids needs to have a good plan for post-cycle therapy. If not, they risk a lot of health problems as well as losing the gains in muscle that were made.

How anabolic steroids are different than illegal drugs on the Body

Anything you put in your body is going to have an affect of some kind. If you eat crap like deep-fried Mars bars regularly, you’ll see your body getting fat. If you plenty of water every day, you’ll see your skin start to look more healthy. It’s the same thing for drugs as well as alcohol. Every illegal drug has different effects on the body both short-term and after long term use. For every drug there is out there, we could provide a long list of what they do to the body. But we’re not here to tell you about the effects of weed and coke. Instead we want you to be informed about how steroids affect the body.

Outward Affects of Anabolic Steroids

Because they offset the body’s natural hormone balance, anabolic steroids can also trigger a number of symptoms in the body. Naturally when coupled with hitting the gym, this includes increased muscle mass. However, because steroids alter a person’s hormonal chemistry they can affect the body in way other illegal drugs don’t. This includes:

hair loss one reason why steroids are different from other illegal drugs

How Steroids and other Illegal Drugs affect the Internal Organs

All substances that a person ingests will affect their appearance as well as their internal organs and steroids are no exception. Of all your internal organs, illegal drugs affect the kidneys the most negatively. This includes anabolic steroids. In fact, steroids are well known for causing diminished kidney function. Moreover, using anabolic steroids excessively can actually lead to renal failure. In a similar vein, anabolic steroid use can also have quite an affect on the liver and make it less effective at its job.

Cardiovascular System

All drugs have at least some effect on someone’s brain, liver, skin, and kidneys. In a similar vein, using anabolic steroids can have a significant impact on a person’s cardiovascular system. One of the most commonly known symptoms of steroid use is high blood pressure/hypertension. Regular use of stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines can have comparable effects. With steroids, the rise in blood pressure comes from the fact that steroids often cause the body to retain more water and more sodium. As a result, steroid users take on a higher risk of blood clots as well as high cholesterol. Furthermore, steroids cause an increase in the production of red blood cells. This can lead to kidney tumors, stroke, and even heart failure.

Anabolic steroids are different from other illegal drugs in how they effect the heart

Recap on why Anabolic Steroids are different from other Illegal Drugs

After reading this you’ve heard a lot about why anabolic steroids are different from other illegal drugs by now, so let’s have a quick review. If you put any substance in your body, it’s going to have an effect no matter what. This will influence the body’s chemistry as well as the brain. If you put any non-natural substance you can expect to see a particularly strong result.

In the brain, illegal drugs like cocaine and speed largely affect dopamine production and the reward center. Steroids, on the other hand, influence the brains hormonal chemistry and are by themselves less addictive.

Both steroids and drugs can incite change in the body. Both can hurt internal organs like the liver as well as the kidneys. Likewise, steroids and stimulants can cause high blood pressure and a wide spate of heart problems. And finally, there are some side-effects on the body that only steroids cause. This includes possible hair loss, shrunken testes, and gynecomastia.

So now you better understand in what ways anabolic steroids differ from other illegal drugs and you can make your own decisions on what to do with your body.

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