Nandrolone: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on July 19, 2023
4 min read

Nandrolone is a type of anabolic steroid. Anabolic steroids include testosterone and lab-grown (synthetic) forms of testosterone. Doctors prescribe anabolic steroids, including nandrolone, to treat some illnesses and injuries.

Some athletes -- professionals as well as everyday athletes and even adolescents -- misuse steroids like nandrolone to build muscle and boost performance.

But studies show that overuse or misuse of nandrolone or any other anabolic steroid could be bad or dangerous for your health. That’s why it’s so important to use the drug only by prescription and under a doctor’s care.

Doctors sometimes prescribe nandrolone for illnesses and injuries including:

  • Burns
  • Allergic reactions
  • Eye injuries, especially to the cornea
  • Brittle bones (osteoporosis)
  • Body wasting (cachexia)
  • Anemia from cancer
  • Appetite loss from cancer
  • Prostate and breast cancers

Steroids help healing, in part, because they lessen the activity of the immune system. Your body fights infection and germs with white blood cells and other chemicals that can lead to inflammation. By reducing this immune activity, steroids can lessen inflammation and tissue damage, as well. The downside is that it can raise your risk of infection.

If they need to give you nandrolone, your doctor will prescribe a dose that’s safe and appropriate for your condition. Make sure they know about any other medicines you’re taking, including steroids, and whether you’ve used them before.

Misuse usually starts with a purpose -- most often to help athletes build muscle or improve performance. But the FDA has not approved nandrolone to enhance athletic performance. Because of the serious health risks, most sports organizations have banned anabolic steroids like nandrolone.

In addition, nandrolone is a Schedule III controlled substance under federal law. That means it carries a risk of abuse and addiction. It also means that misuse can be a federal offense, punishable by hefty fines and even prison time.

Even the typical prescribed dose of nandrolone for an illness or injury (about 0.4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight a day) can have side effects like headaches, bloating, diarrhea, belly pain, jaundice, high blood pressure, and changes in menstrual cycle. Athletes often use 10 times this amount or more to boost muscle mass or performance. That can lead to even more serious effects.

People who misuse anabolic steroids like nandrolone may swallow them or rub them into their skin. But the most common way to use nandrolone is to inject it into a muscle.

Some of the most serious effects seem to be in the liver, where tumors may grow, and on the endocrine system, the complex system of glands that make the hormones that control your breathing, digestion, growth, and reproduction, among other things.

Symptoms of misuse include:

Some of these problems may go away when you stop taking nandrolone, but others could last a long time. There’s even some evidence that nandrolone could promote the growth of cancer in certain cases.

If you’re concerned about your health, your fitness, or your body image, talk to your doctor about healthy ways to improve them. A certified personal trainer may also be able to help.

Because of the widespread use of nandrolone among professional athletes, the governing bodies of many sports require testing. Some whose tests have found nandrolone have claimed that it’s a “false positive.” This is a possibility for a number of complex reasons.

One explanation has been “it must have been something I ate.” There is some science behind the claim: Studies in 2000 and 2001 showed that people who ate certain kinds of pork (specifically, from an uncastrated male boar) had enough nandrolone in their urine to raise questions about whether they had misused the drug, even though they hadn’t.