by Anthony Roberts
If you spend most of your free time on the Internet talking about anabolic steroids, then you’re you’re no-doubt abreast of the current fashions in ‘roid use. But assuming you live a slightly more varied (and less sad) existence, some of these trends have probably slipped by unnoticed.
A group of European researchers took a look at how people are using steroids these days (through analyzing other studies, online postings, and surveys), and reported their findings. They started by examining 10,106 studies, and through exclusion criteria whittled that number down to a total of 50 relevant studies from ten countries (from 1985-2014). Users in the 50 studies ranged in age from 14 to 66 years old. Thirty of the 50 studies used interviews, seven were case studies, one used interviews and focus groups, and 12 used interviews supported by a questionnaire. That’s a pretty good chunk of steroid-based studies and an incredibly robust number of users giving feedback.
So how are people using steroids? First, they mention stacking – this is a pretty basic (and old) term. Stacking is simply the use of more than one performance enhancing drug simultaneously. Normally, a stack would be a reference to performance enhancing drugs only, and not ancillary medications – which are mostly defined as drugs that are taken to compliment anabolic steroids (or reduce their side effects). Therefore, the researchers note that 49% of steroid users use other drugs – and this could be anything from clenbuterol to anti-estrogens to whatever:
• Besides steroids, the most popular single anabolic compound was human growth hormone.
• Next was human chorionic gonadotropin (presumably to maintain and restore testicular size and function), followed by clenbuterol, insulin, and thyroid medication. None of these are
surprising, clenbuterol has been the most popular ersatz research chemical on the market for over a decade.
• Anti-estrogens were also very common additions to cycles, usually to prevent gynecomastia (development of female-like breast tissue), but also for improved testosterone production, and
burning body fat. Nolvadex and Clomid still appear to be very popular, but I generally see Arimidex as the go-to drug for most Anti-Estrogen needs on a cycle. The researchers also noted
that Cytadren was being used, although it’s a pretty clumsy drug in my estimation; it requires a fairly high dose and is archaic to the point of being unavailable almost anywhere. I can’t
imagine who’s using it.
• Drugs like captopril, carvedilol, and digoxin were used for improved functioning of the cardiovascular system, to lower blood pressure, and to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction.
These, I can only imagine, are being used per a doctor’s ‘script.
• Strictly cosmetic (non-performance enhancing) drugs like esiclene, melanotan II, and thiomucase were also popular. Melanotan II is a drug that activates melanin to give the user a
tan (yeah, it’s an injectable tan), and Thiomucase is a topical ointment purported to tighten the skin. The only real surprise here is the esiclene, which is a drug typically used by precontest bodybuilders in the hours before they go on stage, because it causes localized swelling. I haven’t heard of anyone using this in over a decade, and haven’t seen it on any price lists in at least as long. Its use has widely been usurped by more permanent site enhancement oils.
• Fat burners and anorectics like 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP),clenbuterol, epinephrine, amphetamine/methamphetamine, and thyroid medication (T3) and were used for suppression of
appetite, increased metabolism, and for overall fat loss.
• Also popular were the various growth hormone releasing peptides (GHRPs) and insulin. Although I’m focusing on how steroid users are using other ancillary drugs (i.e. the drugs that “go
with” a steroid cycle), the actual study mentions a lot of other drugs that they claim are “ancillary,” but don’t really fit my criteria: alcohol, and cannabis/cannabinoids, cocaine, etc…
The next major term the researchers identify is “cycle” – generally, cycle is used to describe the on versus off periods (the cycle itself is the “on” part) of steroid use.
However, the researchers note that there is a more current trend to use the word “cycle” to simply refer to the rotating of compounds, and not an indicator of being “on” or “off.” Here, they note that there is a trend known as “blasting and cruising” – technically, this means a continuous “on cycle” without going off, but alternating between periods of high and low doses. Another form of cycle that doesn’t involve going off entirely is called “blitz cycles,” which is where users rapidly change compounds in an effort to prevent tolerance and androgen receptor down-regulation.
In my experience, cycling on and off is something that we see in less experienced users. After several years of going on and off steroids, many find it beneficial (or at least they believe it is) to stay on permanently, alternating a low dose of testosterone (commonly what would be prescribed for legitimate hormone replacement therapy) with considerably higher doses and more esoteric compounds.
If I were to guess, I’d say that average doses have gone up considerably since the ’90s and 2000s. There are probably a lot of reasons for this, but as with any drug, the primary reasons are probably economics and availability. In the ’90s, hand-to-hand deals in gym parking lots were standard. The internet changed all of that, as did underground labs – more anabolics are more widely available, and are less expensive, than they were 20 years ago.
Sagoe D, McVeigh J, Bjørnebekk A, Essilfie M-S, Andreassen CS, Pallesen S. Polypharmacy among anabolic-androgenic steroid users: a descriptive metasynthesis. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. 2015;10:12. doi:10.1186/s13011-015-0006-5.