Soon they were everywhere: my pillow, between my teeth, falling onto the pages of books. I became hyperaware of the way wind felt through my hair: now much colder on the top of my scalp. Not a single follicle seemed moored to my skin. Then one sleepless night the steroids also triggered insomnia , my testicles shrunk. Testicular atrophy is the most well-known side effect of steroid abuse.

Female users suffer the opposite reaction: Their clitorises become so swelled that in extreme cases they resemble a tiny penis. Basically, you inject so much testosterone that you rob your gonads of purpose; they enter dormancy for the duration of your cycle.

How to Tell If Someone Is Using Steroids

And while I knew this would happen, the physical sensation was beyond horrible. This rude clenching inside my scrotum, a pair of tiny hands grasping the spermatic cords and tightening into fists. Within days they had shrunk to half their normal size: sad, shriveled grapes. Cranial swelling -- most often a Neanderthal-like ridge forming above the user's brow -- is commonly associated with HGH, or human growth hormone, originally made from the pituitary glands of fresh cadavers.

But cranial swelling assumes many forms: In addition to "caveman brow," some users find semisolid lumps forming on their foreheads. Some grow to the size of hard-boiled eggs and require surgical removal.

The next morning, an inspection in the bathroom mirror: Was that a slight swelling across the top of my eyebrows? It seemed impossible -- this only happens in extreme cases. My own perceived bulge was not altogether solid, sort of mushy, but I had this terrifying sense my bone structure had somehow been altered. This was the primary fear I ran up against: Were these changes happening? Would they subside once I quit 'roiding, or were they permanent? I could handle rampant hair loss, a caveman head, shrunken testicles, hell, even tits, so long as it was temporary.

What if it wasn't? I've been shooting my glutes, and while it's relatively painless, the skin has gone tight and I'm guessing the oil hasn't dissolved. I stick my thigh instead. The needle goes in half an inch before hitting a major nerve. My leg bucks uncontrollably, knee nearly striking my forehead.

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Blood leaks from the puncture down my leg. I try my calf. Sitting cross-legged, ankle propped on knee, I push the needle in. Goes in easy, but when I aspirate, the syringe fills with blood: hit a vein. Wipe the needle with rubbing alcohol, try another spot: blood again. Boot the excess onto a paper towel, plug a fresh needle onto the syringe, try again: blood. It's bubbling out of my thigh and the neat triangle of holes in my calf. What am I, all veins? End up back at my glutes.

After injecting, I regret it: A bubble of oil the size of a pearl onion now lies an inch under my skin. When I massage it, the bubble wobbles, all of one piece. It's still there come nighttime. I feel it pressed against my hipbone, solid as a ball bearing. Like the princess with a pea under her mattresses, I have a hard time sleeping. To embark on a steroid cycle is to devote yourself to rituals.

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  8. Wake up, eat, medicate, work out, eat, work out, eat, medicate, sleep. Repeat daily for sixteen weeks. Eating becomes a ritual. To maximize muscle growth, you must take your weight and eat its equivalent in grams of protein per day. But I pushed my target further: Consider that a great source of natural protein -- a can of tuna -- contains thirteen grams.

    I'd have to eat more than twenty-five cans a day. The max I was ever able to ingest was twenty, forked straight from the can. It is sheer lunacy to eat twenty cans of tuna. I managed to choke down six cans a day, supplemented with five to six protein shakes, and I still fell short of the target.

    I went through four 2. I kept shoveling a limited spectrum of foodstuffs -- tuna, oatmeal, egg whites, boiled chicken -- into my mouth like a robot. Thankfully, Equipoise, developed to increase lean body weight in horses, gave my appetite a healthy boost. Injections become a ritual. Run the vials under hot water to warm the oil. Draw 1 cc Equipoise, 1. Tap the syringe to release air bubbles, push the plunger until a bead forms at the pin tip.

    Swab the injection site and inject slooow, massaging to help it soak in.

    Signs and Symptoms

    Wasn't much different from how any addict went about things. You reach a point where the careful steps and resultant anticipation becomes as heady as the rush itself.


    Sometimes I couldn't stop shaking as I prepared my needles. The workout becomes a ritual. But I'd push myself past the limit. I'd lift until my arms hung like dead things. I took postworkout naps in the locker room, spread out on a bench, too exhausted to walk home. Once I caught the smell of ozone, saw these awful black lights, came to sprawled on the gym floor. The prostate is an organ I associate with old men. Surgical-gloved fingers. Not in any way an organ I should be cognizant of.

    Who uses anabolic steroids and why?

    And yet I was, as this benign organ had swollen to the point that it felt like a fist-sized balloon pressed against my testicles. Another fairly common side effect for some professional bodybuilders is prostatitis, which can get to such an extent that they require catheterization.

    Imagine steroids as an A-bomb: If your testicles are ground zero, your prostate lies squarely in the fallout zone. I was urinating fifteen times a day. A swollen prostate crimps the urethral tube, making it torture to piss. It also crowds the bladder, making it feel as if you always need to piss, even if there's nothing to pass.

    I'd stand over the toilet, coaxing, cajoling, only to produce a squirt. My urine took on the disturbingly rich hue of cask-aged brandy. I heard "vigorous manual relief" helped ease prostate pain. But when I tried this, it felt as though the pipe connecting the sperm factory to its exit had been clothespinned -- not much came out, and the little that did looked embarrassed.

    How to Tell If Someone Is Using Steroids | Men's Health

    I became obsessed with manual relief. Three or four times a day I was manually relieving myself. With all that extra testosterone, it didn't take much to get the motor humming. I was relieving myself to photos of muscle-bound women gracing tubs of protein powder.

    I was relieving myself to Vanna White. I relieved myself to a perfumed insert ripped from a magazine.