A Guide to Anabolic Steroids Drug Testing

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Our ongoing series is thought out to raise awareness about the consequences of drug use in a legal context. Several articles have already been published about the misuse of amphetamines, ketamine, cannabis, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and tramadol.

This article focuses on anabolic steroid drug testing.

Anabolic steroids are an artificially made version of the male sex hormone, testosterone. Also referred to as Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs, they are often misused by bodybuilders and athletes to build muscles and improve their performance. 

In the UK, they are classified as a Class C substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which means they represent less of a risk for abuse and dependence than Class A or B. That being said, anabolic steroids are still regulated by the law and their illegal possession can be sanctioned with 2 years in prison. For its production and distribution, it’s up to 14 years, plus an unlimited fine.

  • Will anabolic steroids show in a drug test?
  • How long do anabolic steroids stay in your system?
  • What types of methods are available for anabolic steroid testing?
  • What factors influence anabolic steroid detection?
  • Why might a court-ordered anabolic steroid test be necessary?
  • What happens if an anabolic steroid test comes back positive?
  • How DNA Legal can help 

Will Steroids Show in a Drug Test?

Yes, anabolic steroids can be detected but it depends on the drug test. The results may vary depending on the specific test type, the timing of the test, and the individual being tested.

It is important to note that according to a study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, anabolic steroids may not show up on standard drug tests, such as at-home kits, which are typically designed to screen street drugs.

How Long Do Anabolic Steroids Stay in Your System?

The amount of time anabolic steroids stay in your system depends on the type of steroid, dosage, consumption method, and whether it's been mixed with other drugs.

Anabolic steroids don’t typically give you the ‘high’ or euphoria that most drugs do and according to scientific studies, the effects can last for decades due to the long-term changes that the substance causes within the body.

Traces of the drugs can be detected in the body for extended periods, as shown in the table below:

Body System Time in System
Blood Up to 14 days
Saliva Up to 24 hours
Fingernail 3 to 8 months
Hair Up to 12 months depending on hair length
Urine Up to 28 days

What Types of Methods Are Available for Anabolic Steroid Testing?

Urine Test: Within 28 Days

Urine tests are the most widely used and accurate way to test for steroids. A urine test will detect steroids in a urine sample for up to 28 days. The detection window will vary depending on various factors, like the quantity of steroids consumed and the metabolism of the person tested.

Blood Test: Within 14 Days

Providing fast and accurate results, blood tests are another commonly used method to screen for steroids in the system, with a detection span of up to 14 days after consumption. 

Hair Test: Within 12 months

A hair drug test is a non-invasive method to identify the presence of steroids in an individual’s system. Traces of steroids will remain in the keratin fibers, allowing law enforcement agents and healthcare professionals an extended window of detection of up to 12 months. 

How a hair drug test works closely depends on the hair length. Hair grows 1cm per month on average, and a hair drug test can detect substance use for as many months as there are centimeters. For example, if an individual’s hair is 12 cm long, then it can detect 12 months of drug use. 

This method stands out for its capacity to build a month-by-month report of drug usage patterns over time, which law enforcement professionals often tend to ask in court cases like child custody disputes.

Fingernail Test: Within 3 to 8 months

While a fingernail drug test isn’t as popular as a hair or urine test to detect steroids, it is a highly accurate method and provides an extended period of time for detection of the drugs, from 3 to 8 months.

Fingernail tests work similarly to hair tests in the sense that when an individual takes steroids, it enters the bloodstream and passes through the blood vessels into the keratin fibers, where traces will remain until enough growth happens.

Saliva Test: Within 24 hours

Though it is not a commonly used steroid testing method, a saliva test can be done to detect the substance. The detection window it provides is relatively short, and this test is often used alongside urine or blood tests for more accurate results.

What Factors Influence Anabolic Steroid Detection?

The duration of time steroids can be detected in the body depends on several factors, including:

  • Test sensitivity 
  • Type of test
  • Steroid dose consumed
  • Method of consumption
  • Frequency of use
  • Time of use
  • Body mass/Body fat
  • Presence of other substances
  • Age
  • Hydration levels
  • Type of steroids

Why Might a Court-Ordered Anabolic Steroid Test Be Necessary?

Law enforcement professionals might request a court-ordered steroid test if they see it as necessary to support a case. 

One of the side effects of anabolic steroid usage is aggressive behaviour, so a test might be ordered by the court to gather evidence for a child custody dispute case to evaluate if the parent is fit to care for their child and if the child’s well-being is put at risk.

What Happens if an Anabolic Steroid Test Comes Back Positive?

If an anabolic steroid test comes back positive, it can have serious legal implications. Consequences depend on the reason for the test but a positive result will strengthen legal proceedings.

In the case of child custody disputes, a positive anabolic steroid test may influence the court in their decision-making process and could affect visiting rights with the child.

That being said, a positive anabolic steroid test does not immediately make the person guilty or unfit to care for a child. In some cases, individuals who are willing to go through rehabilitation and ask for support to deal with their drug abuse problems can later request the decision to be reconsidered.

How DNA Legal Can Help

This complete guide focused on the different anabolic steroid testing methods, the detection times, and the implications of a positive result. It's essential to understand steroid misuse can have serious personal and legal consequences.

DNA Legal is here to help, offering our guidance and expertise whether you need anabolic steroid drug testing for personal or legal reasons.

Understanding the details of anabolic steroid detection is key to making educated decisions about the next steps.

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