Is Testosterone Replacement Therapy the Same as Steroids?
Posted: September 9, 2020
When you think of testosterone, what comes to mind? Many think of unnaturally large muscles and aggressive behavior. However, this generally isn’t an accurate picture of this hormone. Many people view testosterone this way due to illegal anabolic steroid use. Testosterone replacement therapy can help men with low testosterone who experience symptoms like low libido, fatigue, weight gain, and even difficulty concentrating. Unfortunately, many men do not seek treatment for these symptoms due to the misconception that all testosterone medications are bad or illegal like the performance enhancing drugs that some athletes use. There are actually many differences between therapeutic testosterone and steroids.
What is Testosterone Replacement Therapy?
First, you may be wondering what testosterone replacement therapy is. This is a medical treatment often used to help men suffering from low testosterone. Humans naturally produce testosterone, which is responsible for many different functions in the body. For example, testosterone is responsible for the development of the penis and testes, voice deepening during puberty, and facial and pubic hair growth. It may also play a role in libido, muscle size and strength, bone growth and strength, and even maintaining mood. As we age, however, testosterone levels naturally start to decline. Some men experience a significant reduction in testosterone, which can lead to life-altering symptoms, such as:
- Sexual difficulties
- Low libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decreased semen production
- Weight gain
- Loss of muscle mass
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decrease in bone mass
Some men with hypogonadism, or low testosterone, may even experience hot flashes, reduced facial or body hair, and other symptoms. One treatment option for hypogonadism is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). The aim of testosterone therapy is to help reduce symptoms and help bring your testosterone back into healthy ranges, which is anywhere between 350 and 1000 ng/dL.
What Are Steroids?
By contrast, steroid abuse is the illegal use of anabolic-androgenic steroids to try to increase muscle mass or athletic performance. The word anabolic means muscle building, while androgenic means producing male characteristics. What we commonly refer to as steroids do contain androgens such as testosterone. However, these drugs often also include other chemicals that aim to enhance physical performance or appearance. For example, many illegal steroids contain growth hormone and even insulin.
While in some cases testosterone replacement therapy and illegal steroids have identical ingredients, it’s how you use them that makes the difference. Steroid abusers generally take much higher doses in order to achieve a certain physique. Most steroid abusers are weight lifters and body builders in their 20s and 30s, some competitive athletes also use steroids as performance enhancing drugs. Unfortunately, this abusive use of anabolic-androgenic steroids has given testosterone replacement therapy a bad rap due to symptoms of too much testosterone and other chemicals in steroids. For example, “roid rage” can be a sign that someone is abusing steroids. However, TRT is a legal, prescribed treatment for conditions like low testosterone.
The Difference Between Testosterone Replacement Therapy and Steroid Use
There are several differences between using medical testosterone and abusing steroids. Testosterone replacement therapy can be a helpful treatment for low testosterone just like any other medication you may take for health conditions. TRT is also completely legal because it’s prescribed by a physician. There are some other key differences between testosterone replacement therapy and steroids.
Lower Doses with Testosterone Replacement Therapy
The main difference between steroid abuse and testosterone injections is the dosage. Testosterone replacement therapy uses smaller doses with the aim of bringing your hormone levels into normal, healthy ranges. This generally means using the smallest dose needed to help increase testosterone levels in your bloodstream.
By contrast, steroid users generally use much higher doses than is recommended by a doctor. In fact, doses can be anywhere between ten and 100 times higher than the maximum dosage a doctor would prescribe. This can increase testosterone and other hormone levels beyond the natural limit and can put your health at risk.
Potential Side Effects
Because of the difference in dose and sometimes chemical composition of TRT and steroids, this leads to different potential side effects. Testosterone replacement therapy is generally safe for most men with hypogonadism. This is because it is approved for treating low testosterone levels. Testosterone injections aren’t addictive and may help relieve your symptoms. Our physician will sit down with you and review your medical history, overall health, and also discuss risks and benefits to help you decide if testosterone therapy is right for you and also help monitor dosage and side effects to help keep you safe, just like when you start any other medication.
By contrast, because steroid abusers use drugs illegally and without a prescription, there is no medical oversight for safety. In addition, such high doses can cause side effects like paranoid jealousy, aggression, delusions, mania, and impaired judgement. Long-term side effects include organ damage. This is generally attributed to the extreme doses, mixes of other chemicals, and lack of medical guidance when using steroids.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy is Ongoing
While some steroid users do use their drugs continuously, most use in phases. For example, cycling is using multiple doses for a time, stopping dosage for a while, and then starting again. Plateauing is another common term associated with illegal steroid use. This is where someone constantly changes the dose or type of drug to try to prevent developing a tolerance.
By contrast, men using testosterone replacement therapy generally receive continuous doses to keep baseline, optimized levels. TRT is often a life-long treatment for those with low testosterone to help them continue to feel great and help reduce the effects of hypogonadism. While our physician may adjust your dose, this is only when needed to help you maintain healthy testosterone levels.
Medical Monitoring with Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone replacement therapy involves working with a physician on an ongoing basis for prescribed testosterone medication. From a legal standpoint, this is the difference between testosterone therapy and illegal steroids. Steroid abusers don’t have a doctor monitoring and prescribing the drug.
By contrast, if you need treatment for low testosterone, our team evaluates your hormone levels to diagnose you with hypogonadism and then designs a custom treatment plan to help you feel better. Then, we offer ongoing monitoring of your hormone levels, symptoms, and health status while receiving hormone injections.
At Low T Center, we offer advanced men’s healthcare based on your lifestyle. Our goal is to help you on your path to better overall health. We take a broad approach to your health, which means we evaluate you for underlying causes of your symptoms. Then, we create a personalized treatment plan based on your condition and life. If you’ve been feeling fatigued, less interested in sex, or noticed unexplained weight gain, schedule an appointment today to learn why and discuss how we can help you feel your best.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.