There are many different types of steroids but all have a similar base structure they derive from. The simpilist steroid contains 17 carbon atoms bonded in four cyclical rings. Three of these rings are cyclohexane, meaning they contain six carbon atoms in a cyclical pattern connected by single bonds. The fourth ring is cyclopentane, meaning five carbons in a cyclical pattern all connected by single bonds.

This is only the building block for many other steroids, which often have many chains coming off of one of the rings.
Below are some of the more complex and more common steroids, the most familiar being cholesterol and testosterone, some of these steroids are important for bodily function but some, like testosterone have been used by athletes to illegally enhance performance.

Cholesterol is found in cell membranes and it regulates the membrane fluidity, or the viscosity of the lipid layer that makes up the membrane. The hydroxyl group of the cholesterol molecule bonds with the other lipids in the membrane and the bulky hydrocarbon chain become embedded into the lipid bi-layer, reducing the fluidity. The reduces fluidity makes the cell more resistant to solvation and increases rigidity. About 75% of the body's cholesterol comes from the liver while the other 25% originates in the animal products people eat.

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Anabolic Steroids
The full name for these steroids is anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS)
These steroids are the ones most familiar to the public because of their controversy and many side effects. Steroids work by mimicking the process testosterone undergoes in muscle growth. The hormone penetrates the membrane of a cell and connects with the androgen receptor, which then travel to the nucleus and give directions to the cell to create more protein and enlarge the muscle fiber. The hormones allow for the body to stay in a state of anabolism for longer periods of time. Anabolism is the process in which monomers combine to create polymers, like amino acids combining to create proteins. This facilitates growth of proteins and therefore the muscle. By prolonging the anabolic or "building" stage, the catabolic (breaking down) stage is limited, providing more proteins for muscle synthesis.
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Natural testosterone --------------------------------Synthetic steroid

The enhanced muscle growth caused by steroids will not continue long after an athlete stops using them, and once off of the hormone, it can be harder to synthesize the muscle naturally because the body has not had to produce as much natural testosterone. The side effects experience the same effects, depending on the dosage and term of usage, the side effects could be permanent or could go away soon after use. Many of the side effects in females are longer lasting and more serious, because the androgenic(male) traits are enhanced by use of AAS, the side effects are more noticeable and less appealing in women. Steroids can essentially make men more feminine due to a loss of natural testosterone, while they make women more masculine because of the excess male hormone.

side effects
  • increased vocal chord size
  • enlargement of the breasts in men or shrinking in women
  • suppression of natural sex hormones
  • reduced sperm count (sometimes becoming sterile)
  • unusual and excessive hair growth
  • testicular dystrophy
  • increased irritability
  • heart problems
Medical Uses
Anabolic steroids actually have positive effects on those whose bodies can not create the sufficient hormone amounts
  • bone marrow creation
  • growth in undersized children
  • appetite stimulation
  • induction of delayed puberty
  • prevention of bone loss
  • hormone replacement in those who can't naturally create enough

The following video is very long and shows the many opposing viewpoints concerned with the use of steroids and the side effects that come from them.

Nicholas T. What type of test are available to detect steroid use and how do they work? What are some side effects for males and females?

Sara K.- Since steroids cause an irregularity in both testosterone and epitestosterone levels this instability can be detected in urine samples. Aside from urine samples other ways to detect steroid use is in hair follicles or in blood samples. Some side effects for males using testosterone are loss in pleasure drives, breast and prostate enlargement, and a decrease in hormone levels, other side effects in women would be infertility, menstrual irregularities, and masculinzing effects such as the production of facial hair and permanently deepened voice.

David K. The body naturally produces a set amount of testosterone. Testosterone is produce in a 1:1 ratio with another similar hormone called epitestosterone. The main difference between the two hormones is that testosterone has performance enhancing benefits. Athletes that take steroids have abnormally larger amount of testosterone, while having normal levels of epitestosterone. A urine sample is needed for one method of testing. The urine is analyzed for it testosterone to epitestosterone ratio. If the ratio is 4:1 or greater there is substantially evidence of steroid use. However, approximately 5% of professional athletes naturally have a 4:1 ratio. Due to this, after the urine test there is a second confirmation test. Natural testosterone has a similar carbon-13 to carbon-12 ratio. Synthetically create testosterone has more carbon-13 than carbon-12. A isotope ratio mass spectrometer is used to view the ratio of the two isotopes. If the amount of carbon-13 atoms is three carbon-13 atoms per thousand or more, its is confirmed that steroids are being used.

Bianca V. Do steroids have more of an effect on males or females or does it have the same amount of effect for both? Why?
Cade W. Steroids have some similar effects on both men and women but some are different. The increased testosterone in women can lead to the enhancement of masculine traits like hair growth, decrease in the size of the breasts, and augmentation of sexual organs.In males, the excess testosterone can lead to some more feminine characteristics because the body doesn't produce the required natural testosterone. This can lead to testicular dystrophy, enlargement of the breasts, deeper voice, and in some cases, a large increase in irritability.

Blake M- How do steroids work in general? For example, how would testosterone go about blocking the body's production of cortisol? Is it a reaction with the gland that produces this chemical, or something more? Also, in what other ways are steroids put to use besides for weightlifting gains? Are the uses of steroids numerous, or are there instead few popularly practiced uses for steroids?

It is clear that steroids harm the body with use. Is there any way to create synthetic steroids or growth hormones that do not negativly affect the body? Also, once one stops taking steroids, the affects on the muscles wear down and the muscles become weaker exponentially. Would there be a way, or is there any research towards making steroids that have lasting permanent affects on the body?
- Cole K.

Cade W. - There are many steroids that are produced naturally in the body that do not harm the body at all, they actually aid in the body's functionality. These steroids include many lipids, cholesterol, and natural testosterone, while most of the focus of this page was directed towards anabolic steroids, there are many more classes that are not harmful when regulated or produced by the body. The time the muscle stays is dependent on how long the use was and the dosage. A small amount of steroids can show little side effects and a noticeable strength increase. Theses gains may not last as long and the size of the muscles may decrease after use because the muscle is used to having many micro tears and a long anabolic phase, so once the use of steroids is stopped, it is harder to gain muscle without them. Someone who used steroids for a longer period of time will experience less muscle loss once the use is stopped but the side effects will be great in number and further natural gains will be very difficult for the body to get used to.

Noor Wafayee- Bianca, steroids can be used to help someone who is sick have more energy. Also it can enhance a person's performance and appearance. It also helps someone with delayed puberty problems.