The short answer to the question, as far as the United States is concerned, is that are no legal anabolic steroids without a valid prescription. They may be legally prescribed by doctors for legitimate health reasons, but they are not available over the counter. Using anabolic steroids illegally can be alluring to athletes or bodybuilders who desire faster muscle accumulation, either for aesthetic reasons or for strength and performance, but there is evidence for negative short- and long-term health effects.
Anabolic steroids, commonly referred to simply as steroids, affect the body by mimicking the male sex hormone testosterone. Male sex hormones are called androgens. Testosterone is a powerful androgen and is the hormone primarily responsible for male sexual characteristics. Testosterone itself sometimes is used as a steroid, though there are a number of synthetic correlates or derivatives that can be injected, swallowed or applied topically.
Steroids might be taken illicitly to enhance muscle size, strength, endurance or recovery, all of which can be desirable results for athletes. One reason that using them can be tempting is that they can reduce the training time usually needed to see results and the recovery time necessary after workouts. This use is not supported by doctors. For this reason, there are no legal anabolic steroids in most professional athletic organizations around the world.
The dangers of steroid abuse include damage to the liver, acne, hardening of the arteries and general cardiovascular damage. Problems specific to men include infertility; damage to the testicles, including a decrease in size; and enlarged breasts. Side effects for women include hair loss, lack of a menstrual cycle and masculinizing effects such as decreased breast size or increased facial hair. Health problems are the primary reason that there are no legal anabolic steroids in many countries.
In the U.S., anabolic steroids are a Schedule III drug, and possession without a prescription is punishable by fines or possibly a prison sentence if the offense involves trafficking. Steroids are controlled substances in many countries, but mere possession might not be a punishable offense in other countries. Legal anabolic steroids can be purchased in Mexico, and this has led some U.S. citizens to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in order to obtain them. Anyone who does so and transports them back to the U.S. risks fines or possibly criminal penalties if the amount is large enough.
Doctors prescribe legal anabolic steroids for people who have hormone deficiencies, particularly men whose bodies do not produce enough testosterone for normal growth and development. They also can be used to treat osteoporosis or severe immune diseases such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The steroid-like supplement androstenedione, commonly called andro, is no longer legal in the U.S. Supplementary creatine, which does not have steroid-like properties, remains legal.