Sometimes I think we live in two separate realities existing within the same space. In one reality, steroids are dangerous drugs used by cheats and raging addicts who could fall over dead at any moment. This is the reality of the general public and popular media. In the other reality, steroids are amazing drugs that can battle disease, fight aging, and safely take a man beyond the genetic cards dealt him – if he's smart about their usage.
In an effort to combat the bad reputation given to steroid users (thanks in part to pro-bodybuilders and others who abuse these drugs), I've often pointed out that today's intelligent steroid user could be your next door neighbor – a cop, a lawyer, a teacher, an executive, even a professional in the field of medicine. Not all steroid users are walking stereotypes of bloated pros or ignorant teenagers popping D-bol because they want to be "all swole."
The last time I explored this "new reality" of today's steroid user, I talked to law enforcement officers. This time I sat down with three men who work in the field of medicine. Here's what they had to say.
T-mag: How are you involved in the medical field?
Dr. Muscle: I'm an Internal Medicine physician.
T-Doc: I'm a physician also, board certified in Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine.
Nurse Arnold: I'm an RN at the premier medical facility in the Midwest. I've worked in many areas throughout the hospital including various surgery floors, rehab, labor and delivery, kidney units, plastic surgery etc. I work at the emergency center right now. I've pretty much been there, done that.
T-mag: How did you become interested in steroids?
Dr. Muscle: I was a big reader of MM2K back in its heyday, and Dan Duchaine was my first real intro to steroids. Naturally, because of my profession, I thought I'd learn more on my own since we're taught so little about steroids in school. The more I learned and the more myths that were debunked, the more interested I became in pursuing that route.
T-Doc: It really began when I was in medical school. I'd been involved with weight training since high school and continued to work out regularly. I had, of course, heard of steroids, but never actually knew anyone who'd used them (or at least admitted to using them).
During my third year of med school, one of my classmates suddenly gained a surprising amount of muscle mass in a fairly short period of time. This guy was actually pretty skinny at first and then almost overnight he was bigger than I was! I was training with the guy at times, so I knew what he was doing exercise wise and it was nothing out of the ordinary. I also knew from being around him that he wasn't all that committed to following a strict diet.
So I began to pester him about what was going on. After a while, he told me about his steroid use. I didn't really start using steroids at that time, but the idea stayed with me. I continued to read and study about steroids and eventually decided to give them a try myself.
T-mag: How about you, Nurse Arnie?
Nurse Arnold: I'd always trained with weights from age 13, bought one of those Charles Atlas kits and that was my introduction. Steroids came much, much later, 20 years after I began training. Even though I had a decent build, it intrigued me what it would be like to have the Superhuman, comic book physique.
T-mag: What's a typical cycle like for you? How many cycles do you do per year?
Dr. Muscle: I'm not interested in getting "too big," whatever that means. I also can't make drastic physique changes unless I want somebody knocking on my door questioning me. My first cycle was an eight weeker with half a gram of Test alone. I kept about ten pounds of LBM [lean body mass] at the end of that.
I've added a few things to later cycles like tren and winny, but I tend to stay away from stacking lots of things at once. I'd run about two to three cycles a year in the past, but haven't touched a thing in over a year. It's mostly paranoia on my part and the legal issues right now. I really thank you guys at T-mag/Biotest for MAG-10. No worries about the legal status and it works, albeit a bit more slowly than a decent sized stack of roids.
T-Doc: In the past I've generally done two cycles yearly. They generally were eight week cycles. In addition, I've utilized Bill Roberts' "two on/four off" cycle plan for periods of time as well. For the most part, I've used either a Testosterone based cycle (for example, Testosterone enanthate at 750mg to one gram weekly), or a combination of trenbolone along with oral Winstrol or Dianabol (or both).
T-mag: Do you feel you're compromising your health in any way by using steroids? What precautions do you take?
Nurse Arnold: I minimize the health risks with frequent lab checks to assess hepatic and lipid function. I don't stay on a cycle forever and I don't overtax my liver for the sake of any one cycle.
T-mag: Any health problems, Dr. Muscle?
Dr. Muscle: Not at all. In fact, I think I'm probably healthier than 95% of people out there. I pay attention to my diet. I train with weights and do some moderate cardio. My cholesterol level is great and my liver's just fine.
It amazes me that people who eat at McDonald's three or four times a week are going to tell me that I'm unhealthy because I use substances that I've learned about and understand fairly well. I guess they think a bacon cheeseburger's much better for you than a little Test!
As far as precautions go, I use ancillaries in the same manner that most people do. Anybody can find out the proper way to do this from the guys on the T-mag steroid forum. I also run some basic blood work before, during, and after a cycle just to monitor things. It's usually my experience that liver enzymes will go up during the cycle and trend back down to normal after. This isn't an indicator of permanent damage, just a little stress. The biggest precaution I use is common sense.
T-Doc: This is a tough question. In terms of risk, I must say that I do feel that steroid use has certain inherent health risks, but so does most of our life activities. There's certainly health risks involved with smoking, eating burgers, driving a car, riding a bicycle, rock climbing, and so on. There's no way to eliminate all risk, but I do believe that risk can be minimized in most cases.
For example, when I drive a car, I try to stay alert, drive defensively, don't drive excessively fast, and so on. When I ride a bicycle on the street, I wear a helmet, use reflectors, and watch for cars. When I use steroids, I limit my use to short, planned cycles, with plenty of off time between cycles. I monitor my liver functions, lipid profile, and blood pressure. I also use anti-estrogen agents with any aromatizing steroids. With these precautions, I feel that the risk is acceptable.
T-mag: Fair enough, but let me play devil's advocate for a minute here. "You guys are just as bad as doctors and nurses who smoke! What the hell are you thinking?" How do you respond when someone comes at you with that attitude?
T-Doc: I'd be quite happy if that question was as bad as it got! In reality, most of the population (both medical and non-medical) would say that steroid using doctors are far worse than doctors who smoke. Surprisingly, a large number of doctors do smoke, and it's often the specialties that you'd least suspect (cardiologists, for example) who seem to be the main offenders. They're accepted. I hardly ever hear anyone say anything about their smoking, even when they adamantly advise their patients to stop smoking.
On the other hand, if I were open about my steroid use, I certainly would be open to much more criticism (and even licensing sanctions). Personally, I don't feel that my steroid use is as bad as smoking. I'd argue that there's not a lot of evidence that short, well-planned cycles with the proper precautions have anywhere near the health risks of smoking.
Also, for the steroids to work well, you must generally follow some pretty healthy lifestyle habits. For example, I exercise regularly, watch my diet, control my bodyfat levels, don't drink excessively, and don't smoke. It's relatively uncommon to see a smoker who does all of these things.
Dr. Muscle: Well, first of all, I don't tell anybody about my use. It's none of their business and would put me in danger. If the situation did occur, I'd tell them that those are two totally different situations. There's no benefit at all to smoking. It's a feel-good activity that causes a multitude of health problems down the road if used on a chronic basis. That could also be true of steroids if you don't educate yourself before actually using them. If you're well informed and stay on top of your health, there's no reason why you should have any long-term consequences from a few cycles a year.
T-mag: Okay, so why do others in the medical field demonize steroids and make them sound worse than crack?
Nurse Arnold: Because my co-workers are idiots! Most of them were educated twenty or thirty years ago when demonization was in full swing. I think people are afraid of what they don't understand.
Dr. Muscle: Agreed. It's just plain ignorance. Combine that with anecdotal horror stories, which may or may not be true, and you get misinformed doctors. Yes, it happens to us. Readers would be utterly shocked to know how little we learned about steroids in medical school. It was literally about twenty minutes' worth of a lecture and filled with the same ignorant garbage you hear doctors spew. I guess PhD's in pharmacology aren't much more informed.
T-Doc: Most doctors have never had any direct exposure to either crack cocaine users or to steroid users. They really don't know a lot about either. This is understandable as there's really no practical use for such knowledge in most doctors' practices. What they do "know" about steroids is what they've seen in the popular media, and this has been propagandized to such a degree that it's almost laughable.
T-mag: If a man can surgically become a woman, then be given hormones to grow breasts, why can't a man be allowed to legally enhance his muscle mass with hormones? Most of us at T-mag would like to see doctors able to prescribe steroids at safe bodybuilding dosages. Health issues would be taken care of and the black market will dry up significantly. Will this ever happen in your opinion?
Dr. Muscle: I agree with you guys, but I doubt it will ever happen in our lifetime. There's just this stigma associated with it that people can't seem to get past. If you even mention the word "steroid" you get a knee-jerk negative reaction. These are the same people that read medical journals nearly every day and stay up to date on the latest drugs, treatments courses, and other therapies for their patients. It's amazing how they can stay in the dark about this one subject because they're not willing to learn. I think that's the main problem. If they applied themselves to truly learning about AAS, we'd see a different situation.
T-Doc: Also, if a woman wants to enhance her breast size for simply cosmetic reasons, a plastic surgeon can perform a surgical procedure (which does have significant health risks) to accomplish this. The male patient who wants a larger chest can also have pectoral implants, but he can't legally be given bodybuilding doses of steroids to help increase muscle size!
I don't believe this will change in the near future. There simply aren't enough doctors or patients lobbying for this, and as long as steroids remain Class III controlled substances, very few doctors will want to deal with the hassle of steroid prescription.
Nurse Arnold: It won't happen because the results would be horrific, what with all these foaming-at-the-mouth, modern day chemistry experiments going on. Prescribing steroids, even for legitimate HRT, makes doctors as antsy as a cat on a hot tin roof.
But you make a good point about those seeking gender re-assignment and the like. "We can and will help you go to extreme physical reconstruction, on top of which we'll bombard your body with more female hormones than can be found at any metropolitan nightclub on a Saturday night. We'll do all this and more, but you just ain't getting' no steer-oids!"
T-mag: HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) seems to be a good first step.
Dr. Muscle: In my opinion, it has the possibility to be a gateway to supraphysiologic doses for muscle-building purposes. Whether it evolves into that is another question. I really like HRT and like patients' reactions to it. Guys feel great on it and feel much younger.
T-Doc: Yes, it's a good first step. What it can accomplish, for example, is to gain a wider acceptance of the use of Testosterone. Currently, Testosterone has been demonized in the popular press and is blamed for almost everything that's wrong with the world. Perhaps if Testosterone HRT becomes more common, this misperception will fade.
Nurse Arnold: Yes, it's a good way to help chip away at the mindset so that the very word "steroid" becomes less heinous.
T-mag: True, but I've even heard Androgel users condemn steroids! I really think the general public doesn't realize that HRT involves the administration of an "evil" steroid! Anyway, as medical professionals who use steroids, you obviously think they aren't evil, but let's not trivialize the dangers. Where are most steroids users screwing up when it comes to their health? What are they doing wrong?
Dr. Muscle: Anything you can think of, people are probably doing: never-ending cycles, multiple orals for long periods of time, no ancillaries.... In general, it's people who have no idea what they're doing before they start. A lot of people want a quick fix without doing any legwork of their own.
T-Doc: What are they doing wrong? The main thing is that they start using the drugs without an adequate knowledge base. Go to any of the bodybuilding boards and you'll see individuals posting questions that make it clear they have next to no steroid knowledge, and yet they've already started a cycle. Obtaining this knowledge base can be difficult, but information is much more accessible now than when I started.
The problem is that misinformation is more accessible as well. Sorting things out can take quite a while for the individual without a strong medical or science background, but I can't imagine starting a course of self-administration without knowing as much as possible about the risks involved.
As far as the common mistakes, they include using excessively long cycles, not taking anti-estrogen precautions, using unclean or poorly made drugs, and not utilizing proper sterile injection technique.
Nurse Arnold: Most steroid users I see would rather leap right in with minimal education or trust their dealer to set up their cycle and all sorts of nonsense. It's like the blind leading the dumb.
T-mag: Do you have any personal guidelines as to when or if a person should try steroids?
Dr. Muscle: This is up to the individual, but I think you have to have a few years of training under your belt no matter what age you start. Also, there's no reason in the world anyone under the age of 21 should touch them. There's just no need when your body's ready to grow anyway.
As for giving an actual age, that's hard because some people are more mature physically than others even into their early 20's. A 23 year old, physically mature individual with five years of training under his belt is more ready than a 24 year old in his first or second year of training. I don't think I can stress enough that people need to see what they can do naturally with their diet, training, and supplementation before they even consider steroids.
T-Doc: The main guideline is that they learn as much about the drugs as possible, including the risks, and are able to make an intelligent and informed decision if they want to accept those risks. I also would suggest they wait until they've finished growing and have a good base of natural training, perhaps reaching or at least approaching their natural genetic limitations.
Nurse Arnold: I think a person should be a minimum of 27 years of age. By then this person should have accrued a good 15 years under the iron and be at his "genetic ceiling."
T-mag: Just out of curiosity, do your co-workers suspect anything?
Dr. Muscle: I doubt it, but I could be wrong. People around me know I like to train and keep in shape, but I'm not a really big guy. I started out rail thin like a lot of guys, so although I've put on a lot of muscle over the years, I'm not what most would consider "big." It's even harder to tell when I have a shirt and tie and sometimes a lab coat on as well.
Nurse Arnold: My co-workers knew me before I started steroids and I was fairly large and muscular by then, so if you combine that with the blousy nature of our scrubs and lab coats...well, let's say only the people who know what to look for see the difference.
T-mag: Anyone suspect you, T-Doc?
T-Doc: Yes. Many of my co-workers do indeed think that I'm using steroids. When asked directly however, I simply tell them of the many nutritional supplements that I use and the training program I follow, all of which is true.
T-mag: What are your stats, by the way?
T-Doc: 5' 10" (almost), 235 pounds at 9% bodyfat currently.
Dr. Muscle: 5'10", 185 pounds. Body fat varies, but usually in the to 8-10% range.
Nurse Arnold: 6'1", 225 pounds. Body fat is about 7% right now. My wife hates it when it gets lower than that.
T-mag: As medical professionals, you're surrounded by drugs, some of which may be used for bodybuilding purposes. Ever take a few "samples"?
Dr. Muscle: No, and that's also because I tend to stay away from situations that would have the potential to compromise myself professionally. It's not at all an ethical problem, but I don't want to get caught with my hand in the cookie jar, if you know what I mean.
T-Doc: I certainly have taken samples of various medications (which isn't in any way illegal), but almost none of them are used for bodybuilding purposes, aside from the occasional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent for muscle soreness. Many of the drugs bodybuilders use aren't even available from pharmacies in this country, and of the ones that are, there are no drug companies sampling them. You simply don't see samples of Testosterone enanthate sitting around.
Nurse Arnold: Arimidex is always around, and being so expensive, added to the fact that no one would suspect anything with that drug, well, there is temptation.
T-mag: What happens if a guy tells his doctor about his steroid use? Should he even do that?
Nurse Arnold: If he tells his doctor he'll get shot down, followed by a lecture filled with erroneous information and maybe even a visit from the substance abuse people. That's what I've seen.
Dr. Muscle: He can tell me without any worries, and it's actually happened in the past. Everything that's told to me is confidential. What I can legally do is run some basic blood work and help the guy educate himself so that he takes as little risk as possible. I cannot and will not do anything illegal professionally, regardless of my opinions about steroids.
T-Doc: I certainly believe that a steroid user should be able to talk to his doctor. Patients tell me about their use of crack cocaine and other street drugs all the time and I still treat them to the best of my ability. Hopefully, the steroid user would have a doctor who could accept his steroid use (but not necessarily condone it), and continue to treat him impartially.
As to what would happen, it would depend on the doctor. In most cases, if not all, they could expect to be advised that they should quit. In many cases, they may be treated to a lecture on the evils of steroids. This may include some significant misinformation, depending on the physician.
An entirely separate question is whether or not a steroid user should tell his physician. This depends on the situation. If I cut my hand and presented to my local emergency department for sutures, I wouldn't volunteer information about my past steroid use. On the other hand, I probably would tell my regular physician, who might be managing some chronic health condition I might have or be in charge of monitoring my general health.
T-mag: What are the biggest health myths you hear about moderate steroid use?
T-Doc: All steroids will kill your liver and kidneys, steroids cause cancer, any steroid use will make you impotent, steroid rage is a major problem etc. All myths.
Nurse Arnold: They'll sterilize you for life. They'll make your penis extraordinarily small. All that new muscle will put an unbearable strain on the cardiovascular system and will "turn to fat." That one leaves the world's finest physicists scratching their heads! And of course I've had a doctor tell me that my high protein diet would kill my kidneys.
Dr. Muscle: It's basically the same myths you hear perpetuated on the Internet. Roid rage is the biggest one. I've never seen it before. If you're an asshole to begin with, you'll be an asshole on 'roids. Exploding livers, brain tumors, permanent testicular atrophy, penis shrinkage... . All things I've heard about and all things I've never seen or experienced.
Lyle Alzado did us a great disservice by attributing his brain tumor to his steroid use. The fact of the matter is that people get brain tumors. People like to blame something for things that occur without reason. It's a sad case and I think he was genuine in his concern, but misguided and incorrect. All that story did was serve to put a huge negative story out there about steroids.
T-mag: Thanks for the no BS interview, guys. It's been enlightening.