Are Anabolic Steroids Legal?

legal-anabolic-steroidsSince 2004, anabolic steroids have been considered a Schedule III drug, in the same category as Vicodin, barbiturates, and veterinary tranquilizers.  Thus, it is a federal offense to possess anabolic steroids, and an even greater offense to possess them with the intent to sell them.  Anabolic steroids are available under four names of drugs, nandrolone, oxandrolone, oxymetholone, and stanzolol.  Common street names for anabolic steroids include arnolds, gym candy, pumpers, roids, stackers, weight trainers, and juice. Legal anabolic steroids are a thing of the past, unless used in medical treatment.

Anabolic steroids are a synthetically produced variant of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone.  These drugs are used to promote masculine characteristics, build tissue, and increase muscle mass.  Anabolic steroids are used medically for various conditions but are most widely known for their illegal use by bodybuilders, sportsmen and women.  They have numerous deleterious side effects and are classified as a controlled substance in most countries.

Anabolic steroid use has been banned by most sports regulating authorities.  Most of these authorities regularly check athletes for steroid use through blood and urine samples and test for their presence with gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy.  Legal anabolic steroids can be acquired by prescription for the treatment of diseases such as anemia, breast cancer, and post-surgical muscle wasting.  Until recently, the use of anabolic steroids, other than their legal usage, was by athletes and body builders.  Recently, there seems to be a significant increase in the number of young people taking the drug (some as young as 15) to build their upper bodies as a means of impressing friends.

Users of anabolic steroids sometimes use the drug for its induced feelings of strength, aggression and confidence.  Law enforcers are concerned that the increased aggression associated with steroids use may account for the increase in the number of young people committing violent crimes.  Children and teenagers who take anabolic steroids regularly increase their risk for adverse skeletal growth, and adults who take them may suffer psychological effects and heart disorders.

Anabolic steroids can be taken orally, injected intramuscularly, or rubbed on the skin.  They are most often used in cyclic patterns and involve taking multiple doses of the drug over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. Most users combine several different types of steroids in hopes of producing larger muscle size than the use of just one type of steroid would produce.

The legality of anabolic steroids varies from country to country.  In the United States, anabolic steroids are listed as a Schedule III controlled substance, making the first offense of simple possession without a valid prescription a federal crime, punishable with up to one year of prison time and a minimum $1,000 fine.  If convicted of distribution or intent to distribute anabolic steroids, a defendant may find the penalty to be more severe with up to five years in prison with a possible increase of up to ten years. Trafficking of anabolic steroids is punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, even if the conviction is the individual’s first felony drug offense. With a second felony anabolic steroid trafficking offense, the maximum period of imprisonment and the maximum fine both double.

Legal anabolic steroids are frequently produced in pharmaceutical laboratories, however in locations where strict laws exist, they are also produced in small homemade laboratories. These laboratories are created in kitchen sinks, usually from raw substances that have been imported from abroad.  In countries where homemade laboratories are located, the steroids are obtained through black market trade, must be smuggled across international borders for sale, and are many times associated with organized crime. Highly organized black marketers handle up to $400 million worth of the drugs a year.

Until recently most underground steroids were legitimately manufactured pharmaceuticals that were diverted to the black market through theft and fraudulent prescriptions.  More effective law enforcement coupled with greater demand forced black marketers to seek new resources for distribution of their illegal products.  Consequently, sales are now made in gyms, health clubs, on campuses, and through the mail.  Suppliers may be drug dealers or they may be trainers, physicians, pharmacists, or friends.

Defenses for possession, distribution, or trafficking of anabolic steroids include the affirmative defense of entrapment, illegal/unreasonable search and seizure by police, lack of custodial interrogation rights of the police and lack of probable cause.

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