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The Difference Between Corticosteroid and Anabolic Steroids

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 14, 2023
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Studies show that steroids can build muscle mass, boost strength, and treat hormonal problems in men.

While anabolic steroids and corticosteroids have beneficial effects, it is essential to understand the difference between the two types of steroids before starting any treatment.

I’ve gone through in-depth research to educate my gym clients about how these two types of steroids differ.

Let’s take a closer look.

Quick Summary

  • Steroids are used to treat muscle loss induced by some diseases. However, some people misuse anabolic steroids to gain muscle and boost performance.
  • Corticosteroids treat multiple skin disorders and can speed up muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Anabolic steroid addiction may cause severe health problems, including depression, liver damage, kidney problems, and high blood pressure.
  • Urine tests can detect the presence of illegal steroids for weeks after an athlete has stopped using them.

What Are Anabolic Androgenic Steroids?

Close up shot of a steroid pill

Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones that stimulate tissue growth and muscle development.

The most common medical use for anabolic steroids is to treat health conditions such as delayed puberty, impotence, and wasting syndromes such as AIDS.

Health practitioners might prescribe anabolic steroids to people who lose muscle mass because of cancer [1].

What Are Corticosteroids?

Corticosteroids are a type of medication that can be used to treat a variety of conditions that cause swelling and irritation.

They work like the hormone cortisol, produced by your adrenal glands. They are also used to treat severe conditions such as immune system disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer [2].

Steroids may help Corticosteroid medications slow down or stop the immune system processes that cause inflammation.

What's the Difference Between Anabolic Steroids and Steroids?

Close up shot of steroid in a bottle and syringe

Corticosteroids are a class of hormones that includes cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, and cortisone.

They can be further divided into glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids [3]. These hormones play an essential role in the regulation of the immune system.

Scientifically, corticosteroids are steroids.

However, the term steroid often refers to anabolic steroids as well. Anabolic steroids are a class of hormones that includes testosterone, estradiol hormone, and lipid cholesterol.

Both anabolic steroids and corticosteroids are signaling molecules that bind to receptors on cells.

Corticosteroids bind to the glucocorticoid receptors, whereas anabolic steroids bind to the androgen receptors, leading to different body results [4].

Anabolic steroids promote muscle growth, whereas corticosteroids suppress the immune system.


Close up shot of a doctor holding a steroid syringe

Corticosteroids can quickly treat a wide variety of conditions when you stick to the prescribed dose.

Steroids can help with allergies like severe poison ivy rash, asthma, joint pain, and skin conditions while enhancing recovery [5].

This can help athletes and bodybuilders relieve symptoms such as pain, swelling, and redness.

Anabolic androgenic steroids are man-made versions of testosterone, often used for both medical and athletic purposes.

They can help you gain body mass, lower your body fat percentage, increase muscle strength and endurance, and maintain overall male sex characteristics [6].

Steroids can also increase bone growth and improve performance in strength-related sports, such as weightlifting. In addition, steroids can help maintain muscle strength when you have a condition like liver disease.

Side Effects

A doctor holding a bottle and syringe of steroids

Even though steroids have many benefits, it is important to weigh the risks before taking them.

Some serious side effects include hypertension, high heart rate, extreme mood swings, acne, unusual hair growth, severe fluid retention, roid rage, liver damage, and steroid weight gain.

These symptoms are particularly noticeable if you take more than the dose legally prescribed [7].

In addition to the side effects of steroid misuse mentioned above, women who take corticosteroid drugs may also develop some male sex characteristics, such as facial hair growth, voice deepening, or changes in the jawline.

One of the most noticeable side effects is a deepening of the voice.

This is caused by the steroids stimulating the growth of the larynx, or voice box. Steroids can also cause irregular menstrual cycles and can even lead to infertility [8].

Related Articles:

Are Anabolic Steroids Addictive?

Anabolic steroids can be addictive [9]. People misusing anabolic steroids may develop a tolerance to the drugs and become dependent on them. If you stop taking anabolic steroids suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms.

If you think you may have a problem with anabolic steroid abuse or any other appearance and performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs), it is vital to seek help from a drug abuse treatment specialist.

Treatment typically includes counseling and behavioral therapy to help you stop anabolic steroid addiction.


Do Corticosteroids Cause Muscle Growth?

Yes, corticosteroids cause muscle growth. Corticosteroids work by slowing the breakdown of protein in the muscles. This means that more amino acids are available for the muscles to use, leading to increased muscle mass.

Are Corticosteroids Banned in Sports?

Yes, corticosteroids are banned in sports. Drug testing can detect steroids in a person's system for weeks after they have stopped taking them, so athletes who use them are at risk of getting caught and facing severe penalties.

How to Stop Taking Steroids?

If you're looking to stop taking steroids, it's important to do so gradually. Abruptly stopping anabolic steroid use can trigger mood swings, fatigue, achy muscles, and a number of uncomfortable symptoms.

If you were taking steroids to treat an illness, your symptoms might also come back.

What Are the Three Types of Steroids?

The three types of steroids are oral, topical, and nasal sprays. Oral corticosteroids are taken by mouth to reduce inflammation, while topical steroids are applied to the skin, nasal sprays, and inhalers.

What Is Anabolic Steroid Used for?

Anabolic steroid is used for treating ailments, including delayed puberty and muscle weakness.

Choose Safe Steroids

I always advise my clients to boost their testosterone levels with a good diet before considering taking supplements.

Steroids will not give you a perfect body in a few months but they can still speed up your progress and make your training more efficient.

However, with so many options on the market, it can be hard to know which ones are right for you. I've tested a wide variety of steroids and compiled a list of the best legal steroids to help you make a decision:

Be sure to check which products our testing revealed to be the most efficient and reliable.


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