Anabolic steroids are drugs with legitimate medical effects but are more well-known for their use as a performance-enhancing agent in sports. There are different types of anabolic steroid agents such as the oral and injectable ones, and the most common steroid is the hormone testosterone. According to the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration, around 54,000 out of one million people in the United States use these steroid agents. Although half of the users are from the fitness industry, such as bodybuilders and professional athletes, the abuse of these drugs has alarmed the government as the other half comes from grade 8 and 10 students. Furthermore, although steroid agents are popular medicines for athletes and people fond of body improvement, their mechanism of action can make noticeable effects inside the body. Because of this reason, one should know how anabolic steroid agents work and be prepared when using them. Additionally, since steroid drug tests are frequently administered by sports authorities that ban their use, anyone using them or considering starting anabolic steroid use should know how long these substances stay in the system.
In this article, answers to the questions: what do steroids do to your body, how do steroids work, steroids half-life, their association with drug tests, and how to get the best and safe steroid detox will be provided.
What Do Steroids Do?
What everybody knows is that sportspeople use this medication paired with training, but what do steroids do to the body? Their main function is to help an organism in building new body muscles. Among others, anabolic steroid usage increases the number of blood cells, helps rebuild bones, as well as increases nerve conduction. For those who are actively engaged in physical activity, they can provide positive effects of anabolic steroids such as improved performance and shortened recovery period after exercise stress. To answer the question: how do steroids work, the mechanism of action of anabolic steroid agents such as the hormone Testosterone must be known. These drugs consist of two parallel processes, which sometimes makes them difficult to understand. On the one side, when the AAS molecules get inside the body, cells that have receptors for the hormone Testosterone identify them as the same substance and activate.
So, for those who are wondering, what do steroids do to the body? The result of this MOA is that part of these cells produce proteins, which the body uses to build new cells. Newly produced cells then create new muscles and tissues. At the same time, another part of the body cells reacts to AAS presence by blocking glucocorticoids reception. These are hormones that usually accelerate the process of molecules like proteins splitting up into amino acids for energy (catabolism). So, when they are blocked, more proteins are available for new cells. The less catabolic reaction also means a shorter recovery period. That is, essentially, the answer to the question: what do steroids do to the body?
How Long Do Steroids Stay In Your System?
For anyone who is using steroids pills as a performance-enhancing drug, passing drug tests is likely to be a major concern. The first thing an athlete needs to know about passing steroid drug tests is how long the drugs remain present in the system. One way to answer the question: how long do steroids stay in your system is through the steroids half-life. Half-life is how long it takes the concentration of the AAS to reach 50 percent in the blood plasma, indicating roughly how long it will take for it to be fully eliminated as well as giving the user an idea as to how long the substance will show up on a drug screening. The anabolic steroids half-life varies widely.
Some Commonly Used Anabolic Steroid Agents With Their Respective Half-Lives Are Seen on the Information Below:
|UP TO 8 HOURS||– Primobolan tablets (4 to 6 hours)|
– Andriol Testosterone undecanoate (8 hours or less)
– Dianabol oral (6 to 8 hours)
– Halotestin (6 to 8 hours)
– Winstrol tablets (8 hours)
|9-12 HOURS||– Anavar (8 to 12 hours)|
|13-16 HOURS||– Anadrol (16 hours or less)|
|2-3 DAYS||– Masteron propionate (2 to 3 days)|
– Trenbolone (2 to 3 days)
– Winstrol Depot injectable (48 hours)
– Dianabol injectable (60-72 hours)
|4-9 DAYS||– Equipoise (7 to 9 days)|
– Masteron enanthate (8 days)
|MORE THAN 10 DAYS||– Primobolan Depot injectable (10 to 14 days)|
– Deca Durabolin (14 to 16 days)
Based on the information above, the oral anabolic steroid agents have lesser half-lives compared to the injectable ones. The former’s half-lives last only for hours while the latter’s half-lives may last for days. However, again, take note that these are merely the half-lives of the various medications. Once the steroids half-life points are reached, levels of AAS may still be present in the system.
How Long Does It Take For Steroids To Work?
An anabolic steroid does not show its effects in just one dose. So, how long does it take for steroids to work? According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the time for anabolic steroid agents to work depends on what the patient uses the drug for. For example, for patients using these substances to increase their muscle mass, it would take 2 days before the drug targets the muscles.In another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was reported that once a week use of injectable Testosterone can increase muscle strength and improve athletic performance within 3 to 6 weeks. Additionally, according to a clinical trial in Texas, it can take up to 4 weeks for anabolic steroid drugs to normalize the Testosterone levels of a patient.
Do Steroids Show Up On Drug Tests?
The answer to this question is a little nuanced. According to a study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, AAS do show up on drug tests—but not all drug tests. The standard drug screening administered by employers and also available in at-home kits for parents and loved ones to use is a 12-panel drug test. These tests look for the presence of commonly abused street drugs. Moreover, anabolic steroid agents do not show up on a standard 12-panel drug test.
However, sports authorities do not rely on these standardized tests to determine if athletes are using performance-enhancing agents. Instead, according to physicians from the USA, they use specialized tests. These special steroid drug tests will then look for metabolites that are produced by the medications. These tests can look for AAS substances alone or seek evidence of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in general, including various supplements and other medications.
Furthermore, hair follicle and urine screenings are the most commonly used for AAS detection. Although blood and saliva tests can also be used, according to the study of medical doctors from France, the most accurate one compared to the three is by the use of hair analysis. In this study, it was reported that 2 anabolic steroid substances were detected from 25 hair analyses while 0 were detected from 30 urine analyses.
Lastly, it is important to note that there is legitimate anabolic steroid hormone medical use even in athletes. If an athlete has a valid prescription for the substance they are using and a documented medical condition, the sports authority testing them should not be able to take action against them legally. However, that does not mean they will not try. Athletes with a legitimate reason for using AAS substances should make certain they have the evidence needed to support their use and understand the rules of the sports authority that will potentially test them.
Common Steroid Detectability Times
According to a study of medical doctors from Iowa City, the range of detectability times starts with as little as a few days and can go as far as 18 months after the last use of the substance, depending on various factors. Most sports authorities rely on urine tests for detecting performance-enhancing drugs over all other types, which tend to have a smaller detectability window than blood tests and a significantly smaller window than hair tests.
Given that urine screening is the most common drug analysis test, those are the detectability times users should focus on. Detectability timeframes for the AAS medicines most commonly looked for in steroid drug tests are seen in the information below:
|UP TO ONE WEEK||– Andriol|
– Testosterone Suspension (No Ester)
|UP TO ONE MONTH||– Anavar|
– Winstrol (Oral)- Masteron Propionate
– Testosterone Propionate
|MORE THAN ONE MONTH||– Anadrol|
– Dianabol- Halotestin
– Winstrol Depot
– Masteron Enanthate
– Deca Durabolin
– Testosterone Cypionate
– Testosterone Enanthate
Based on the information above, oral anabolic steroid agents have a smaller detection window compared to injectable ones. The former may only be detected for up to one month while the latter may be detected for more than one month.
Factors That Influence Steroid Detection Time
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, many variables can alter the detectability timeline of medication, and steroids have more at play than most. Here are some of the factors that can determine how long these substances stay in the system and are detectable.
- The Particular Type of AAS– Some AAS drugs fully clear the body in just a day or so while others can linger on for months. This is a matter of how easily the drug is metabolized.
- Designer Or Standard– While many athletes go for the standard options, designer AAS are made to be harder to detect. In some cases, they cannot be detected at all, making detection time a moot point.
- The Test Used– Some steroid drugs are easily detectable in all steroids drug test types. Others are only easy to see in the hair and blood, or urine and hair. Depending on the test used, the detection window may be very small.
- Dosing And Length Of Use– The higher the dose is taken and the longer the medication has been used means the higher levels of AAS in the body. This means that AAS are more likely to show up on steroids drug tests.
- Method Of Ingestion– Oral steroid agents are processed faster by the body than injected ones. As such, injected steroid drugs will have a larger window of detectability.
- Fat Solubility– AAS drugs are lipids, which means that they are fat-soluble. This means they are pulled into the fat stores of the body, making it easier for the fat to hold onto the metabolites for months in some cases—even over a year with those like Deca Durabolin.
All these variables mean that passing steroid drug tests takes a lot of planning and researching the drugs being considered. It is very easy to make a mistake and end up failing an important drug screening.
Steroids Detox And Getting Them Out Of The System Safely
For many athletes, the desire to do better and be better drives them towards steroid use. But this then puts them in a very difficult spot. If they test positive for use without a legitimate prescription for them, everything they are working for can be lost. That’s why athletes worry about the levels of steroids on their bodies when undergoing a drug test.
The first thing to note is that stopping steroids abruptly is not the correct solution. Not only can it be dangerous, but depending on the drug being used, it most likely will not do any good. According to medical doctors from Poland, anabolic steroids withdrawal symptoms, such as mood disorders, insomnia, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, may be experienced. Therefore, a proper detox process or treatment strategy must be executed when a patient wants to stop the use of these medications. Take note that a safe steroid detox treatment to lower the levels of anabolic steroids in the system can be given by drug detox centers.
Indeed, anabolic steroids are useful for people with specific steroidal needs. Although they offer positive effects, abuse in the use of these medications may lead to dangerous health reactions. For example, too much use of anabolic steroids, or taking steroids with alcohol can make the substance stay in the system for a longer period. Thus, for people who are required to undergo drug tests, the metabolites of these anabolic steroids may show false-positive results.
Moreover, although steroids may not be addictive in the same way that many other drugs are, users can feel dependent upon them and fear life without them. Drug rehabilitation centers can help athletes stop AAS use and live healthier. With the right substance abuse treatment, their performance will not suffer and their life as a whole will be better.
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- Andersen, D. W., & Linnet, K. (2014). Screening for anabolic steroids in urine of forensic cases using fully automated solid phase extraction and LC–MS-MS. Journal of analytical toxicology, 38(9), 637-644.
- Brodsky, I. G., Balagopal, P., & Nair, K. S. (1996). Effects of testosterone replacement on muscle mass and muscle protein synthesis in hypogonadal men-a clinical research center study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 81(10), 3469-3475.
- Gaillard, Y., Vayssette, F., & Pépin, G. (2000). Compared interest between hair analysis and urinalysis in doping controls: Results for amphetamines, corticosteroids and anabolic steroids in racing cyclists. Forensic science international, 107(1-3), 361-379.
- Ganesan, K., Rahman, S., & Zito, P. M. (2018). Anabolic steroids.
- Medraś, M., & Tworowska, U. (2001). Treatment strategies of withdrawal from long-term use of anabolic-androgenic steroids. Polski Merkuriusz Lekarski: Organ Polskiego Towarzystwa Lekarskiego, 11(66), 535-538.
- O'Hagan, A., & Walton, H. (2015). Bigger, faster, stronger! An overview of anabolic androgenic steroids and their use and impact on the sport industry. Forensic Research & Criminology International Journal, 1(3).
- Perry, P. J., MacIndoe, J. H., Yates, W. R., Scott, S. D., & Holman, T. L. (1997). Detection of anabolic steroid administration: ratio of urinary testosterone to epitestosterone vs the ratio of urinary testosterone to luteinizing hormone. Clinical chemistry, 43(5), 731-735.
- Rogerson, S., Weatherby, R. P., Deakin, G. B., Meir, R. A., Coutts, R. A., Zhou, S., & Marshall-Gradisnik, S. M. (2007). The effect of short-term use of testosterone enanthate on muscular strength and power in healthy young men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(2), 354-361.
- Steroid Abuse in Today’s Society. (2004, March). US Department of Justice - DEA. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubs/brochures/steroids/professionals/
- Yuan, X., & Forman, B. M. (2005). Detection of designer steroids. Nuclear receptor signaling, 3(1), nrs-03002.
Published on: August 16th, 2019
Updated on: January 24th, 2022
Sharon Levy, MD, MPH
After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.
Medically Reviewed by
Michael Espelin APRN
8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care. He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.
Official answer. It takes approximately 16.5 to 22 hours for Prednisone to be out of your system. The elimination half life of prednisone is around 3 to 4 hours.How long does steroids stay in your system? ›
How long will it be detectable? If taken orally, steroids can show up in a urine test for up to 14 days. If injected, steroids can show up for up to 1 month.What is the half-life of a steroid mean? ›
The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the amount of a drug's active substance in your body to reduce by half. This depends on how the body processes and gets rid of the drug. It can vary from a few hours to a few days, or sometimes weeks.How long does it take for immune system to recover after prednisone? ›
When a person stops taking prednisone, the body cannot immediately produce enough cortisol to make up for the missing drug. It may take several days or weeks before the body's cortisol production levels return to normal.How long does methylprednisolone steroids stay in your system? ›
How long it lasts. After you take a dose of methylprednisolone, the drug may last up to 19 hours in your body. After you stop taking methylprednisolone, the drug should be fully gone from your body within a day.How do you remove steroids from your body? ›
A doctor-assisted detox is recommended for people who heavily abused steroids. Doctors can prescribe medications during detox to lessen withdrawal symptoms. Some drugs can help restore normal hormonal balances and mitigate symptoms such as pain and depression.How long do steroids show results? ›
This means as soon as you start taking steroids they will start working immediately in the body and you can see remarkable changes within 2-3 days. Steroids have natural versions available these days which tend to mimic these compounds without the side effects.What do you mean by half-life? ›
half-life, in radioactivity, the interval of time required for one-half of the atomic nuclei of a radioactive sample to decay (change spontaneously into other nuclear species by emitting particles and energy), or, equivalently, the time interval required for the number of disintegrations per second of a radioactive ...Why is half-life important? ›
Understanding the concept of half-life is useful for determining excretion rates as well as steady-state concentrations for any specific drug. Different drugs have different half-lives; however, they all follow this rule: after one half-life has passed, 50% of the initial drug amount is removed from the body.Do steroid hormones have a long half-life? ›
Steroid hormones have a long half-life in blood (typically measured in hours) and reversibly bind to high-affinity, specific binding proteins for transport in plasma.
Patients are considered immunocompetent if more than one month has passed since the end of a course of high-dose steroid (>20 mg prednisolone for >2 weeks). Particular care is needed when steroids are being taken with other medications that affect the immune system, and non-GP specialist advice will often be needed.Do steroids make your immune system weaker? ›
“Chronic steroid therapy can affect the body's immune system [response] to certain infections, particularly fungus infections and tuberculosis; and it may actually alter the immune system in regard to fighting off certain viruses and bacteria as well,” says Albert Rizzo, MD, chief medical officer with the American Lung ...Does taking prednisone for a week lower your immune system? ›
Prednisone Increases Your Risk of Infection
Infections are more common in people taking prednisone because it suppresses their immune system. This makes it harder for your body to fight off infection.
The duration of withdrawal symptoms depends on many things, like how long you were taking the steroid and the strength of the dose. However, experiencing mild to moderate physical symptoms for 1 to 2 weeks as you taper off the medication is average.How long does it take to feel normal after methylprednisolone? ›
Once you stop taking methylprednisolone you may start to experience side effects such as body aches, nausea, and mood changes. * You may also feel tired or dizzy. These side effects are typically mild and last a few weeks when you stop taking the drug exactly as your doctor prescribes.Is methylprednisolone hard on your body? ›
Methylprednisolone (Medrol) can cause changes in your fluids and electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, and calcium). This can result in high blood pressure, swelling, and kidney problems. In addition, some studies suggest that methylprednisolone (Medrol) can damage the heart if used after a recent heart attack.Will your body go back to normal after steroids? ›
Withdrawal from anabolic steroids
It can take up to 4 months to restore natural testosterone levels after being on anabolic steroids for a long time. Withdrawal symptoms from steroids can include: fatigue. weight loss due to lowered appetite.
Steroid tablets taken for longer than 3 weeks can cause: increased appetite – which may lead to weight gain if you find it difficult to control what you eat. acne. rapid mood swings and mood changes – becoming aggressive, irritable and short-tempered with people.What foods should I avoid while taking methylPREDNISolone? ›
Grapefruit juice may increase the blood levels of certain medications such as methylPREDNISolone. You may want to limit your consumption of grapefruit and grapefruit juice during treatment with methylPREDNISolone.
Anabolic steroids can cause severe, long-lasting, and in some cases, irreversible damage. They can lead to early heart attacks, strokes, liver tumors, kidney failure, and psychiatric problems. In addition, stopping steroid use can cause depression, often leading to resumption of use.
While blood testing can help pick up some of the abnormalities associated with excessive anabolic steroid use it is important to be aware that many of the harmful effects may not cause abnormalities in the blood until it is too late.Is 3 days of steroids enough? ›
This depends on your health problem or condition. You may only need a short course of prednisolone for up to 1 week. You may need to take it for longer, even for many years or the rest of your life.How long can a half-life be? ›
Depending on the radionuclide, this process could be fast or take a very long time – radioactive half-lives can range from milliseconds to hours, days, sometimes millions of years.How long is a half-life period? ›
The amount of time it takes to disintegrate by half an initial amount. For a given reaction, a reactant's half-life t1/2 is the time it takes for its concentration to reach a value which is the arithmetic mean of its initial and final (equilibrium) value.How much time is a half-life? ›
The half-life of a reaction is the time required for the reactant concentration to decrease to one-half its initial value. The half-life of a first-order reaction is a constant that is related to the rate constant for the reaction: t1/2 = 0.693/k.What is the best half-life for drugs? ›
A half-life of 12-48 h is generally ideal for once daily dosing of oral drugs. If the half-life is too short, it may require more frequent dosing in order to maintain desired exposures and avoid unnecessarily high peak concentrations.What drugs have the longest half-life? ›
Many psychotropic drugs and their active metabolites, if any, have very long half-lives that extend for 2 days or longer. Examples are chlordiazepoxide, diazepam, fluoxetine, vortioxetine, aripiprazole, brexpiprazole, cariprazine, penfluridol, donepezil, and memantine.What happens during half-life? ›
The Basics. A half-life is the time taken for something to halve its quantity. The term is most often used in the context of radioactive decay, which occurs when unstable atomic particles lose energy. Twenty-nine elements are known to be capable of undergoing this process.What happens if you stay on steroids for a year? ›
"Prolonged use of these medications may raise your risk of diabetes, cataracts, osteoporosis, or bone density loss or infection. Steroids can also suppress your immune system, which can help control conditions in which your immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues," the doctor explains.Why do steroid hormones take longer to act? ›
Steroid hormones typically react with receptor sites inside a cell. Because this method of action actually involves synthesis of proteins, it is relatively slow.
Testosterone. Available in both oral and injectable forms, testosterone is widely prescribed to treat low testosterone levels and is considered the safest oral steroid.What drugs should not be taken with steroids? ›
Some key drugs that interact with steroids include anticoagulants (such as warfarin), drugs for blood pressure, antiepileptics, antidiabetic drugs, antifungal drugs, bronchodilators (such as salbutamol) and diuretics.What are the best foods to eat while taking steroids? ›
Choose lean meats, poultry and fish. Avoid fried foods and foods with extra oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise and the like. Eat foods rich in calcium.What illnesses do steroids make worse? ›
Steroids might affect some medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart or blood pressure problems, or mental health issues. If you have any of these conditions, the person treating you will need to make sure the steroids aren't making the condition worse.How can I calm my immune system without steroids? ›
Use nutrients such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, and probiotics to help calm your immune response naturally. Exercise regularly — it's a natural anti-inflammatory. Practice deep relaxation like yoga, deep breathing, biofeedback, or massage, because stress worsens the immune response.Why does my body feel better on steroids? ›
Steroids reduce redness and swelling (inflammation). This can help with inflammatory conditions such as asthma and eczema. Steroids also reduce the activity of the immune system, which is the body's natural defence against illness and infection.What is similar to prednisone over the counter? ›
You can hardly find prednisone cream over the counter, but an OTC 1% hydrocortisone cream may be an alternative, for example, if you have a severe allergic rash. In any case, avoid self-treatment and consult your doctor before taking a trip to the pharmacy.Why does prednisone give you energy? ›
Sleep disturbance: Prednisone keeps some people awake. This is because it affects the hormones that help you feel energized (cortisol) and sleepy (melatonin). So it's common for people to report difficulty sleeping while they're taking prednisone.Will a 5 day course of prednisone cause side effects? ›
A 5-day course of prednisone can cause short-term side effects, including changes in mood, appetite, sleep, and energy. The severity of the side effects depends on the dose of prednisone. Low doses are less likely to cause adverse effects than high doses of prednisone.What are the side effects of taking prednisone for 5 days? ›
- decrease in the amount of urine.
- fast, slow, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse.
- mood changes.
- noisy, rattling breathing.
- numbness or tingling in the arms or legs.
- pounding in the ears.
- Bulking steroids - used for building muscle.
- Performance steroids - used for boosting endurance.
- Cutting steroids - used for losing weight.