Is Testosterone a Steroid? Unveiling the Truth about Anabolic Steroids

Ever wondered if testosterone is a steroid? If so, you’re not alone. The majority of men have a rather abstract understanding of testosterone and the role it plays in the male body. While most of us realize its significance in regulating sex drive and building muscle, categorizing testosterone does not come as easy.

This confusion mainly stems from the multifaceted nature of steroids. The truth is that not all steroids are equal. In fact, there’s a wide range of natural and synthetic steroids. Some present effective therapy options and others have been heavily stigmatized by society.

But with steroids being such a vast group, understanding the differences, functions, and the why behind them is imperative. 

Does that mean testosterone is a steroid? It’s true — testosterone belongs to a group of steroids referred to as anabolic steroids. Let’s find out what that means exactly.

What Are Steroids?

Steroids in the simplest terms, refer to compounds with a highly specific molecular structure that constitute four fused rings. This configuration has been known for almost 90 years since steroids were first identified in 1935. Testosterone is one example of a steroid. But there are many more.

There are a multitude of steroids that your body produces naturally, including steroids that are solely produced in the adrenal glands (located above your kidneys), and some steroid hormones like estrogen, produced in the adrenal gland and gonads. 

But you can also find many man-made steroids — like performance-enhancing steroids, or synthetic steroids mimicking natural steroid hormones like synthesized testosterone, or corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory steroids and highly effective in treating inflammation in your body.

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Is Testosterone a Steroid?

The short answer is yes. Testosterone is a type of steroid. It occurs naturally in your body and is produced by the testes, more specifically by the Leydig cells. Your adrenal glands also produce dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which can be transformed into testosterone as well.

Testosterone is part of a larger group called anabolic (androgenic) steroids and while it’s naturally occurring, testosterone can also be synthesized. The term anabolic refers to the ability to promote the synthesis of molecules, in this case, muscle mass. But testosterone is also androgenic, marking its affiliation to so-called androgens — which are sex hormones.

Anabolic steroids are DEA schedule III drugs, which means that they present a moderate to low risk of physical and psychological dependence. They can be subcategorized into two main groups:

  • 17 alpha alkyl derivatives 
  • 17 beta ester derivatives

While some steroids can be harmful, testosterone prescriptions can be extremely beneficial for people with various medical conditions. Testosterone is primarily prescribed for people with hypogonadism (low testosterone) and patients with osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.

Testosterone is also a critical steroid for patients with delayed puberty as it can accelerate growth, and increase bone maturation and testicular volume.

In men who don’t produce enough testosterone of their own, man-made testosterone (anabolic steroids) can help alleviate the byproducts of testosterone deficiency. Some of the symptoms include anemia, erectile dysfunction, reduced energy, and depression. 

While prescription anabolic steroids written for legitimate medical conditions can provide an array of benefits, sometimes anabolic steroids are misused, adding to the controversy surrounding the use of steroids.

Anabolic Steroids vs. “Regular” Steroids

We have established that testosterone is a steroid but how exactly is it different from other steroids out there? To answer that question, we need to understand that the body naturally produces four types of steroids: androgens, oestrogens, progestogens, and glucocorticoids.

Both androgens and oestrogens play a role in sexual differentiation and can affect cognition. Progestogens can impact neuroprotection, while glucocorticoids have been associated with stress and memory. 

Synthesized steroids come in various shapes and sizes, meaning they are available for different clinical indications and via numerous routes (including pills, injections, inhalers, gels, and nasal sprays). These synthesized steroids mimic hormones usually produced by the adrenal glands (and sometimes gonads) in your body.

Corticosteroids are an important group of steroids with anti-inflammatory properties that can help with redness and swelling. Other steroids suppress the immune system’s ability to fight disease, which can aid in treating autoimmune disorders, including lupus.

There are also performance-enhancing steroids out there. These are used illegally to improve athletic performance and usually include a form of man-made testosterone to help accelerate muscle growth.

The Stigma Surrounding Steroid Use & Misuse

If testosterone is an approved anabolic steroid, why is there such misconception and stigma surrounding the use of steroids? Or the use of testosterone in particular?

The truth is that the misuse of anabolic steroids is not uncommon and can lead to an array of complications, as steroids would be administered without the supervision of a physician and in much higher doses than they are approved for.

The abuse of some of these performance-enhancing steroids can potentially cause heart disease, liver damage, and blood clots, and constitutes a higher risk of contracting Hep B, Hep C, or HIV.

Research into the stigma of anabolic steroid use found that participants stigmatized the use of steroids more than that of marijuana. The degree of stigmatization was determined to be comparable to that of so-called hard drugs.

As steroid misuse by athletes remains common, so does the misconception surrounding the use of steroids. However, steroids occur naturally in your body and perform critical functions. Additionally, most synthesized steroids are used in their proper medical context and provide legitimate and effective treatment to people diagnosed with certain conditions.

Testosterone is a Steroid and Can Benefit Men with Low T

You’ve learned that testosterone is indeed a steroid but also that steroids aren’t all the same. Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) that uses testosterone under clinical supervision to treat low testosterone can have profoundly positive ramifications on your overall health. 

Due to its nature as a steroid and controlled substance, it’s important to consult with your doctor before using testosterone. Your doctor will ask you to provide a blood sample for a thorough lab assessment and to determine your serum testosterone levels.

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In most instances, TRT will only be prescribed by your treating physician if your lab work indicates a clinical testosterone deficiency and you’re experiencing symptoms.

There are many forms of TRT that you can take to help alleviate symptoms like fatigue, erectile dysfunction, and low libido. TRT was designed to support you on your journey and improve your life quality, one step at a time.

Are you ready to learn more about what TRT can do for you? Visit our blog here to read more about TRT. 

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