In our experience, there are several "levels" of steroid users or wannabe users. Here are a few we've observed:

Level 0: On this level we have the dumbass teenager. This mentally challenged kid may not even hit the gym regularily, but he wants to get "swole" real fast like "that dude in that movie about cops and stuff." His training knowledge is limited to bench pressing and curls in the squat rack and his diet consists of Cheetos and Pepsi. Despite this, he's decided he's ready to juice.

If this kid takes the plunge, chances are he won't even know what kind of steroid he's using or the side effects associated with it. He makes zero effort to learn anything about what he's doing. When asked what steroid he's taking, he may respond with "the pill kind." If using steroids was like being a painter, he'd be the guy who eats paint and sticks brushes up his nose.

Black market dealers love the level zero guy because he'll pay $300 for a pack of Tic-Tacs with the word "steer-oids" scrawled on the container with a magic marker. Intelligent users of anabolics want to choke him to death slowly for giving the rest of them a bad name.

Level 1: This guy does have somewhat of a clue, but he has a long way to go. He probably knows the name of a few different steroids, but still doesn't know enough to put together an effective and relatively safe cycle.

A level one can often be spotted because he asks about deca-only or oral-only cycles. He's heard of ancillary drugs like Clomid and Tamoxifen but may not know one from the other or how to use them. He's trying, but needs to do a lot more reading before he travels over to the dark side. At least he understands the basics of proper nutrition and smart training, unlike the level zero idiots.

Level 2: This fellow is starting to see the big picture. He's been reading everything he can find and spends a lot of time listening to the veterans on steroid forums. He's beginning to understand that some of these guys know what they're talking about and some don't. (Once a person can begin to differentiate between the smart vets and the blowhard wannabes, he knows he's learning something.)

A level two guy has also begun reading all the steroid info in the previous issues of T-mag. He understands the practical side of steroids and he's now delving into the science behind them. He could probably pull off a successful steroid cycle, but may still be overlooking something that'll get him into trouble.

Level 3: This guy has done his research. He's read every book and article he can find on steroids and the various ancillary drugs. He's also maximized his training and nutrition before he ever touches a steroid. He understands the practical side, the science and probably even the history of steroid use. Although he could probably use steroids the rest of his life (appropriately cycled) without major problems, he continues to learn everything he can.

Level 4: Only a handful of people ever reach level four. These guys usually have advanced degrees related to pharmaceuticals, chemistry, and/or medicine. They're not only formally educated, they've also had years of experience working with steroid users and have experimented with the drugs themselves. Most of the T-mag contributors who write extensively about steroids fall into this category.

What level are you at? To help you find out, we've put together this little SAT or Steroid Aptitude Test. Just answer the questions below, then read the answers and explanations provided at the end.

True or False

1. "Pyramiding" or "tapering" helps ease your body into and out of a steroid cycle.

2. Taking time off helps to clean out your receptors.

3. It takes about three or four weeks for your cycle to "kick in" and for you to start seeing results.

4. Just because a drug is illegal doesn't mean it's always better than a legally obtained supplement.

5. Tren can lead to hair loss but taking finasteride can help.

6. Roid rage is largely a myth.

7. Androgens manufactured for "veterinary use" aren't effective in humans.

8. Using small cycles for short periods of time allows you to retain gains because you're only building a little muscle at a time.

9. Spot injections can't cause much, if any, localized growth.

10. All steroids are anabolic.

11. All steroids are androgenic.

12. Oral steroids are safer than injectables.

13. All steroids aromatize.

14. All steroids reduce to DHT.

15. There's no way to prevent aromatization.

16. Steroids will cause your hair to fall out.

17. Steroids cause cancer.

18. Steroids will cause your prostate to turn into a Swiss Ball.

Short answer

19. Define gynecomastia.

20. Name two drugs that can help prevent gyno.

Extra Credit

21. In what year was the first androgen isolated? What was it and how was this accomplished?

22. What is the content of Testosterone in human testicles? How much do the average testis weigh? On average, how much Testosterone is actually produced in eugonadal adult men per 24-hour period?

23. Why are androgens like Testosterone propionate and trenbolone acetate available in lower concentrations than, say, Testosterone cypionate or nandrolone decanoate?

Answers

1. False. The act of pyramiding has no valid basis. Introducing the androgen into the body at a lower concentration and then increasing the dose doesn't allow the body to become "accustomed" to the exogenous compounds in any way.

Furthermore, tapering only prolongs the time it'll take to regain HPTA functioning. Taking the lower dosages causes LH suppression yet barely provides any anabolic effect, perhaps none at all! So, if you're a person who likes to get LH suppression with minimal gains, go ahead and "pyramid."

2. False. Androgen receptors have been shown to up-regulate in response to administration of exogenous androgens. There's no such thing as "plugging up" or "cleaning out" a receptor. It's a matter of increasing (up-regulating) or decreasing (down-regulating) androgen receptor expression and, going further upstream, increasing or decreasing AR mRNA expression.

3. This is false. There's no time where an androgen magically "kicks in" and results ensue. It's simply a matter of achieving a high enough androgen concentration in the blood, maintaining it, and then allowing protein to accrue. Over time, those few hundred grams of LBM equate to pounds of LBM and thus a significant change is seen.

4. This is true. People seem to think that if something is illegal, it's because it works so well – almost too well. The fact is this has nothing to do with the legality of a drug or compound. More often than not, it's judged by its potential for addiction.

Take clenbuterol for example, which isn't allowed in the US but can be purchased in Mexico and a few other countries. Just because it has to be smuggled into the States doesn't mean it's superior to a good over-the-counter supplement. HOT-ROX beats the snot out of clen, for example. Want me to prove it? Already have! Check out these two articles:

HOT-ROX vs. Clenbuterol and T3 in an Epic Cage Match

Smart Answers to Tired Old Arguments

5. False. Taking finasteride will only help in a case where the androgen can be 5-alpha reduced, forming a more androgenic compound. Trenbolone doesn't 5-alpha reduce and thus taking a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor like finasteride will do nothing to help you.

However, topical spironolactone, applied to the scalp, may help. Flutamide is another androgen antagonist, which could help in that regard. Just keep in mind that they should only be applied to the scalp. (1)

6. Very true. Essentially, it's been demonstrated that high dosages of Testosterone administered to healthy men didn't cause an increase in aggressive behavior or temper. One did note, however, that it may increase the likelihood of such behavior in those who are already suffering from a psychological problem(s).

In other words, if you find people mistaking you for Mike Tyson, it's not a good idea to use androgens. For normal men however, it doesn't seem to pose any problems. (2-5)

7. This is false. A molecule of Testosterone cypionate is a molecule of Testosterone cypionate, regardless of whether there's a dog on the front of the vial or a major pharmaceutical company's name.

8. False. This is due to the degree of suppression the androgen causes, water retention and the degree of lipolytic effects. See my Steroids for Health, 2003 article for the details. The Triple Shot article also has some info.

9. True. This is due to the inflammation and the sheer volume of oil being injected, leading to direct swelling of that particular area. Whether or not this can aid in fascial stretching I don't know for certain, but in my opinion there's really no point in doing such a thing. Stick to the classically accepted injection sites, those being the glutes, quads, and deltoids.

10. False. Not all steroids are anabolic. For instance, estradiol and progesterone are both "steroids" yet neither is considered to be an "anabolic" steroid. People too often confuse the word "steroid" with "anabolic steroids." This also often leads to the skinny-fat guy in the bar telling you he's on "roids" and when you ask him what the name is he says, "Prednisone." Um, yeah, you're hardcore, bro!

11. False. Because a molecule is classified as a "steroid" by classic nomenclature doesn't mean it's androgenic. Cholesterol, progesterone, estradiol, cortisol, etc., are all "steroids" yet aren't androgenic. What makes a steroid androgenic? A steroid should only be considered androgenic if it interacts to a significant extent with the androgen receptor and initiates transcription.

12. False. While it may sound safer because you're not injecting yourself with a sharp needle, androgens which have a methyl group at the C-17 (also called 17 alpha-alkylated) are in fact more hepatotoxic than those which are not. They may also cause a greater negative alteration in blood lipids. Nonetheless, even the hepatotoxicity associated with 17 alpha-alkylated androgens is blown out of proportion.

13. This is false as most of the androgens we currently have available to us don't aromatize. Oxandrolone, methenolone, oxymetholone, stanozolol as well as the androgens in MAG-10 don't aromatize, just to name a few. Oh, and if you don't know what aromatize means, then you probably don't need to be using steroids!

14. False. Again, in order for an androgen to 5-alpha reduce to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) you typically need a double bond at the C-4. Again, most available androgens today don't reduce to DHT.

15. False. Such compounds like letrozole and anastrozole prevent aromatization from occurring by acting as aromatase inhibitor. Need to know more? Check these out:

T-man Vs. E-man

16. This is sort of a trick question because some do and some don't. One could initially state that only androgens which 5 alpha reduce and/or those that bind avidly to the androgen receptor can cause androgenic alopecia. However, we all know that isn't necessarily the case. We can't simply say that only those androgens which bind avidly to the AR cause alopecia as there are quite a few steroids that do, yet don't seem to have much of a negative effect on the hairline. Along the same lines, nandrolone 5-alpha reduces in the scalp but to a less androgenic compound, 5 alpha-dihydronandrolone (DHN), and thus it ends having a rather mild effect on the hairline. This is also why one shouldn't use finasteride with any nandrolone product as it'll actually increase the likelihood of experiencing androgen alopecia.

So with that being said, we're forced to rely more on anecdotal evidence. Methenolone, stanozolol, nandrolone, oxandrolone and Testosterone (when used with finasteride) all seem to have a mild effect on the hairline. Trenbolone, methandrostenolone (this is variable) and in some people even stanozolol, seem to cause quite a bit of alopecia.

17. This is false. There's absolutely no evidence to support the idea that anabolic steroids cause cancer in any tissue. In fact, steroids are used to treat cachexia associated with HIV, cancer, severe burns, renal and hepatic failure, and anemia associated with leukemia or kidney failure. Indirectly, via the catalytic conversion of Testosterone to estradiol, Testosterone could perhaps increase the likelihood of breast and prostate cancer but again, this can be circumvented by using aromatase inhibitors.

18. False. While DHT does seem to play a role in BPH, estrogen may play an even larger role. Most men who aren't sensitive to androgen induced BPH will be fine using essentially any androgen, although, using small doses of finasteride while using Testosterone isn't a bad idea provided that it's not done in the long term. Then again, I'd certainly hope everyone knows enough not to go "on" for five years straight. For more info, check out these articles:

Estrogen's Dirty Little Secret

19. Gyno is the development of breast tissue in males. In most cases, it's estrogen-mediated but in some cases progesterone-mediated. GH/IGF-1 and prolactin also seem to play a role in the enlargement of the glandular portion of the breast (proliferation of ductules and stroma).

20. Tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen or estrogen antagonist. Anastrozole, an aromatase inhibitor which prevents the formation of estradiol in the first place.

21. 1931. Tschering and Butenandt isolated androsterone. They extracted approximately 15 mg of it from ~15,000 liters of male urine. It wasn't until 1935 that Laqueur isolated our favorite androgen, Testosterone, from bull's testicles. This indicated that androsterone was a metabolite of Testosterone, excreted in the urine. Imagine the joy of handling urine and bull testicles! We should certainly thank these men for their selfless efforts.

22. The Testosterone concentration in the testicles is ~300 ng/g of wet tissue weight. The average adult testis weigh ~15 grams. (Total testicular content is ~ 9 mg)

On average, a eugonadal adult produces approximately 5-7 mg every 24 hours. Keep in mind, though, that T-mag staffers have testis that weigh several pounds each.

23. In general, the longer the carbon chain of the ester, the more lipophilic (fat loving) the androgen molecule is and thus the more you can dissolve in the oil (solvent) without the use of a co-solvent (e.g., benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate).

In order to achieve the same concentration with shorter carbon chain esters as you would with a longer carbon chain ester, you'd need substantially more co-solvent. The problem is that the typical co-solvents we use can cause hypersensitivity reactions (nausea, vomiting, headaches, inflammation at the injection site) as well as irritation and even necrosis (tissue death) if high enough concentrations are used.

Pass or Fail?

When we first decided to put together this little test, we thought we'd set up a scoring system so you could see whether you passed or failed. However, there's a problem with that idea. You see, some questions would be worth more than others.

For example, it's probably not that big of a deal if you missed a question about the history of steroids or a detailed question about the science behind them. After all, you can safely drive a car without knowing about Henry Ford or the science of internal combustion engines. But if you didn't know what gynecomastia was or how to prevent it, man, your little oversight could've cost you several thousand dollars – the price of getting the man-boobs surgically removed!

So, maybe this little quiz taught you that you're not yet knowledgeable enough to use steroids. On the other hand, perhaps you thought that steroids caused cancer or automatically made your hair fall out, and now you know they're not quite as evil as you thought they were. Whichever the case, hopefully you learned something.

School's Out

These days, there's no excuse to be ignorant about performance enhancing drugs. For them or against them, using them or just thinking about using them, with T-mag's previous issues section and FAQ, you have a mountain of info at your fingertips. The only way to fail is to not take advantage of the information.

References Cited

1) Adamopoulos DA, et al. Beneficial effect of spironolactone on androgenic alopecia." Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1997 Dec;47(6):759-60

2) Tricker R, et al. "The effects of supraphysiological doses of testosterone on angry behavior in healthy eugonadal men – a clinical research center study." J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1996 Oct;81(10):3754-8

3) Bhasin S, et al. "The effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men." N Engl J Med. 1996 Jul 4;335(1):1-7

4) O'Connor DB, et al. "Exogenous testosterone, aggression, and mood in eugonadal and hypogonadal men." Physiol Behav. 2002 Apr 1;75(4):557-66

5) Anderson RA, Bancroft J, Wu FC. "The effects of exogenous testosterone on sexuality and mood of normal men." J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1992 Dec;75(6):1503-7