Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones that enhance muscle growth and increase male sex characteristics. They’re sometimes prescribed to help teen boys who have delayed puberty, or to older men who are losing muscle mass too quickly due to certain diseases.

But these synthetic hormones are best known as supplements taken by bodybuilders and athletes to build muscle and improve athletic performance.

Viagra is a medication usually prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). It works by opening up the arteries for greater blood flow. Some people use Viagra to help move anabolic steroids through their bloodstream.

That’s not the only reason men who take steroids may also try Viagra. Among the many potential side effects of steroid use is ED. That means steroid users may want to take Viagra simply to improve their sex lives.

It’s important to first understand that both anabolic steroids and Viagra require a doctor’s prescription. It’s illegal and unsafe to use either of these drugs without the guidance of your doctor. Abusing steroids or Viagra can lead to serious health issues and drug interactions.

That said, there’s no evidence that taking steroids and Viagra as directed by your doctor is harmful if you’re healthy. Short-term steroid use may boost your sex drive and Viagra may improve your sexual function.

However, if you’re dealing with health problems from steroid abuse, such as heart disease or liver disease, you should not take Viagra. It can affect blood pressure and circulation, which in turn can have an impact on organ function. It can also impact medications you may take for your heart or liver.

Anabolic steroids prescribed for medical reasons can be safe, especially in the short term. But the side effects of long-term steroid use are still not clear, even under the careful supervision of a doctor.

The potential harm of anabolic steroid abuse is well-documented. Some of the most serious concerns with steroid use is that it can cause an enlarged heart and increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These changes raise the risks of stroke and heart attack. Serious liver and kidney problems can also happen in younger steroid users.

Anabolic steroids can be taken in a variety of ways: injections, pills, patches worn on the skin, and gels or creams rubbed into to the skin.

Like naturally occurring hormones, such as testosterone, anabolic steroids have both anabolic and androgenic properties. Androgenic effects refer to changes in sexual characteristics, such as deepening your voice. Anabolic properties refer to things like muscle growth.

Anabolic steroids are designed to enhance muscle growth. But this is done at the cost of unhealthy androgenic side effects, such as:

  • breast enlargement
  • shrinking of the testicles
  • baldness
  • acne
  • decreased sperm count

Prolonged anabolic steroid use also can lead to:

Steroids can actually become addictive. Athletes may think they’ll only use steroids for one season, or for a short time to speed up injury recovery. But they may find that it’s not so easy to quit. This increases the risk of serious side effects and long-term health problems.

If you’re struggling to stop steroid use, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-662-HELP.

Viagra is the brand name of the ED medication sildenafil. Viagra helps the arteries supply more blood to tissue in the penis, which causes an erection.

While most men can take Viagra without a problem, it does have some possible side effects, such as:

Those health risks and others associated with Viagra increase if you abuse the drug or use it frequently for multiple sex partners. According to a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Medicine, abusing Viagra increased the likelihood of unsafe sex practices and sexually transmitted diseases.

Viagra and steroids pose additional risks when taken with certain other drugs. The interactions can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions.

Medications that may interact negatively with Viagra include:

  • nitrates to treat high blood pressure or chest pain
  • other ED medications, such as tadalafil (Cialis) and vardenafil (Levitra)
  • alpha blockers, which are prescribed for high blood pressure and for an enlarged prostate
  • protease inhibitors, which are used to treat HIV and hepatitis C
  • blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), which are prescribed to help prevent dangerous blood clots

If you have a prescription for Viagra, be sure to give your doctor a list of all your medications, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Your doctor may need to adjust the dose of a particular medication to safely add Viagra to your regimen. Or, you may need to investigate alternative treatments to Viagra.

If you take anabolic steroids, you should avoid warfarin and other blood thinners, or at least discuss their use with your doctor. Steroids can increase the effects of blood thinners, raising the risk of severe bleeding complications.

If you take anabolic steroids outside the supervision of a doctor, you should stop immediately. There are rarely physical health risks from quitting steroids, but there are mental health risks, including depression and suicidal thoughts.

Consider talking with a therapist about quitting steroid use to help you cope with the withdrawal. Seeking the help of an addiction specialist is especially important if you’re having trouble quitting on your own.

For some people, gradually reducing your steroid use down to zero over a period of several days may help ease the withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medications, such as other synthetic hormones, antidepressants, and an anti-anxiety drug that helps ease muscle aches.

Contact local addiction centers in your community and ask about counseling and other services for steroid abuse. Your local health department or hospital may also have resources for you.

If you take steroids for medical reasons, be sure to ask about the safety of adding Viagra and any other drug to your medication regimen. Your individual health issues may affect whether Viagra is right for you. If you take anabolic steroids without a prescription, you should strongly consider quitting.

Keep in mind that while there may not be any direct interactions between steroids and Viagra, they can cause some similar side effects. Both can affect blood pressure and cause sleep problems. If you notice these or other side effects from either steroids or Viagra, discontinue use and tell your doctor.

Rather than turn to anabolic steroids, which are unsafe shortcuts to gain muscle mass and improve athletic performance, you will find safer results if you put in the work to train in a healthy way.

Work with an athletic trainer on exercises to help with your specific sports goals. Building muscle mass comes from resistance training and a healthy diet. A trainer or dietitian who works with athletes can help you design an eating plan that provides the right number of calories and protein amounts to help you build muscle.