Steroids and Alcohol: The Risks of Mixing Both, Side Effects, Abuse and Addiction

Steroids and Alcohol: The risks of mixing both

Updated March 2023

What Are the Risks of Mixing Steroids and Alcohol?

Mixing alcohol with illicit or prescription medications is not uncommon, and the risks are often highlighted. However, you may not have heard about the implications of mixing steroids and alcohol and the potentially damaging physical and mental side effects this combination may cause. At Step by Step Recovery, we know that addiction impacts everyone differently and alcohol addiction often occurs alongside other types of substance abuse, such as cocaine and ketamine.

Additionally, addiction to prescription medicines, such as pregabalin and drinking alcohol, has the potential to lead to alcohol addiction and long-term health issues. This is also true for steroids and alcohol. However, the risks are not considered great as with many other prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. Most doctors who prescribe anabolic–androgenic steroids (AAS) acknowledge that taking steroids and drinking alcohol in moderation is okay and unlikely to cause any problems.

The concern arises when a person abuses one or both substances. For example, someone who takes anabolic steroid injections for bodybuilding or uses them off prescription will have an increased risk of dangerous mental and physical side effects when drinking alcohol. Moderation is key when it comes to steroids and alcohol.

What Are Steroids Used For? 

There are two main types of steroids, corticosteroids and anabolic steroids. However, they work differently, and several differences exist between them.

Corticosteroids are commonly used to reduce inflammation in the body. These steroids are used to treat various diseases, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis. They work similarly to cortisol by slowing or stopping the immune system from triggering inflammation. 

Common types of corticosteroids include:

  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Methylprednisolone.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male hormone, testosterone, that can be prescribed by a doctor to men when they cannot produce enough testosterone naturally. It is also commonly prescribed if you experience loss of muscle mass due to cancer, HIV, AIDS and other health issues. 

Anabolic Steroid Abuse and Addiction

Anabolic steroids can be bought online or from dealers in various forms. Because injectable forms of anabolic steroids are the most popular for illicit use, there is also a risk of infection and developing painful abscesses. Common street names for anabolic steroids are:

  • Juice
  • Stackers
  • Hype
  • Pumpers
  • Roids
  • Gear
  • Gym candy.

Brand names for anabolic steroids include:

  • Anadrol-50
  • Oxandrin
  • Winstrol
  • Restandol
  • Anavar
  • Deca-Durabolin,
  • Dianabol.

A few reasons exist why you might take steroids without a prescription. The most common is to enhance athletic performance, which is very common in professional bodybuilding circuits. However, while the misuse of steroids does not create a “high,” it can still dramatically impact your mood and health. Additionally, stopping the use of large doses does create withdrawal symptoms. 

Are Anabolic Steroids Illegal?

Anabolic steroids purchased without a prescription are categorised as class C drugs and are legal if you can prove that they are for your own personal use. Selling them online or posting or delivering them via a courier or freight service is illegal. It is also illegal to supply or sell them, and you can serve up to 14 years in prison if you do.

How Common Are Fake Anabolic Steroids?

Research has indicated that 36% of anabolic steroids(AAS) sold on the black market are counterfeit. And a further 37% are mislabelled and produced by laboratories without external controls or regulations. Furthermore, due to the lack of controls, injectable steroids sold on the black market, often through online sites, contained microbiological contamination. This is extremely dangerous as steroids are injected directly into the muscle, significantly increasing the potential of forming abscesses and skin necrosis (death of skin tissue).

How Can You Reduce the Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids

There is a lot of misinformation around steroid use, and various methods of using steroids that are supposed to help reduce the side effects. But no research supports that the way you take anabolic steroids can limit the side effects.

Some ways steroids are taken include: 

  • Cycling — Taking steroids for a set period and then stopping for a rest period before repeating the cycle.
  • Stacking — Taking multiple types of anabolic steroids at the same time
  • Pyramiding — This is a combination of stacking and cycling, and generally involves starting on a lower dose of one or more anabolic steroids and then increasing it gradually until you reach a maximum dose. You stop for a period at this point, before starting the same process again.

Additionally, other drugs are reported to counteract the effects of steroids. However, this is not scientifically substantiated.

Common Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids

Common anabolic steroid side effects include:

  • Acne
  • Fluid retention
  • Mood disorders
  • Painful urination
  • Hair loss or growth
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Shrinking testicles, breast growth
  • Changes to the menstrual cycle in women
  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • High blood pressure.

Long-term anabolic steroid side effects include:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Damage to the liver
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infertility and sterility
  • Psychological dependence and addiction
  • Deepening of the voice. 

Common Side Effects of Mixing Steroids and Alcohol

Mixing medications with alcohol is often accidental at first. However, when combined, some medications can intensify the “buzz” that alcohol produces. The same can apply to mixing alcohol and steroids, and most of the time, the implications aren’t considered. 

Unlike other medications, mixing alcohol and steroids doesn’t create a buzz, but you may drink alcohol when on steroids to feel calmer or relaxed. As with other medications, regularly mixing steroids and alcohol can have dangerous consequences.  

Some side effects of using anabolic steroids and alcohol alone can include aggressive mood swings, volatility, emotional instability and other serious health complications. When steroids and alcohol are mixed, these symptoms can all be exacerbated. 

Common effects of steroids and alcohol include:

  • Memory loss
  • Erratic eye movements
  • Poor judgement and paranoia
  • Aggression.

Mixing alcohol and steroids raises long-term risks of:

  • Liver damage
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Diabetes (linked to mixing alcohol and Prednisone)
  • Ulcers
  • Osteoporosis 
  • Hearing loss and deafness
  • Psychological disorders (depression and suicidal thoughts).

Other physical effects of mixing these two substances include:

  • Dehydration
  • Chest pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Allergic reactions.

There are also psychological side effects that come along with mixing steroids and alcohol. You may start to develop an unstable mindset, also known as “roid rage,” psychosis and mania. This volatile behaviour, and lowered inhibitions increase the chances of violence and physical harm. 

Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms 

If you’re taking steroids on prescription, your doctor will likely taper your dose when it’s time to come off them to minimise the possibility of any adverse reactions. When used off prescription in much higher doses, anabolic steroids pose significantly increased risks of withdrawal symptoms when stopped. 

If you’re using anabolic steroids long-term, your body will have developed a tolerance to these. This means that the brain becomes dependent on the presence of steroids in the system to perform basic functions. Suddenly stopping using these drugs may cause withdrawal symptoms, including: 

  • Mood disorders 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Joint and muscle pain.

If you begin to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, you may take more steroids to keep these side effects at bay. This will provide short-term relief, but it is also keeping you in a vicious cycle of taking steroids and putting your physical and mental health at great risk.

Anabolic Steroid Overdose

You may think it isn’t possible to overdose on anabolic steroids, but while it is rare, it can happen. Overdosing on steroids can result in a stroke or heart attack or induce a coma. 

Three symptoms of a steroid overdose are increased body temperature, trembling and convulsions. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or someone else, contact 999 immediately. 

Steroid and Alcohol FAQs

What are the side effects of drinking alcohol while taking steroids?

While alcohol and steroids present side effects, when taken individually, combining these substances can make these more severe. Side effects of drinking alcohol while taking anabolic steroids include liver damage, cardiovascular damage and psychological issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts. 

How will mixing steroids and alcohol affect my workout?

Using steroids to improve your physical appearance is not sustainable, but if you do mix steroids and alcohol, you can effectively ruin the results you’re working so hard for. This is because alcohol can negatively impact the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, which regulates the male reproductive system. 

When alcohol interacts with this system, it begins to lower the levels of testosterone and oestrogen levels increase. This, in turn, means the body becomes prone to storing fat and losing muscle mass, reducing the effectiveness of steroids altogether. 

Do steroids make you fat?

Steroids can alter the body’s metabolism and how it uses and stores lipids, amino acids, protein, carbohydrates, and glucose. These factors can increase your appetite and how your body stores fat and water, encouraging weight gain and fluid retention. 

When you take steroids, fat may be stored around the face, neck and abdomen. Even if you successfully control steroid weight gain, you should expect to appear heavier while on these drugs due to fat redistribution.

Can you have a beer on steroids?

While a beer or two might not impact your health while taking anabolic steroids, drinking beer often can cause a range of related issues. To avoid any complications arising, it’s always best to seek advice from your doctor and avoid drinking beer whilst using steroids. 

How will alcohol and steroids affect my immune system?

Individually, anabolic steroids and alcohol can negatively impact the immune system and significantly reduce basic functions. Combining the two substances has a greater potential to suppress the immune system and can increase your risk of falling sick more often.


At Step by Step Recovery, we offer free advice on supporting and treating addiction. We provide outpatient addiction treatment in London and at our residential rehab in Essex. For confidential advice, please complete our online assessment form or call our free phone number on 0800 170 1222.

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