What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

One of the most common desires for young men (and even some women) is to be big and strong. Almost every person goes through a period in their life in which they want to look their best. Naturally achieving the kind of muscle you’re currently imagining might range anywhere from the difficult to the impossible. This fact leads many people to look for shortcuts or advantages during training and this invariably brings up the option of steroids. What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa? Are steroids legal in South Africa and what are the repercussions for taking them?

Steroids used for bodybuilding (called anabolic steroids) are classified by the Medicines and Related Substances Act as a schedule 3 drug. As such they are illegal when used without a prescription.

Prescriptions (which must be obtained from an authorised prescriber) can be obtained for a once-off use that may not exceed a 30-day period or repeat prescriptions can be received that may not exceed a 6-month period.

What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?
What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

Many readers may point out that they know many individuals who obtain steroids without prescriptions or for more than 6 months. This disconnect between the laws on the books and the real world scenarios can most likely be attributed to the level of law enforcement.

“It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable”

– Socrates

What is the Penalty for using Steroids Illegally?

While the use of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is technically illegal, the enforcement of such laws is often quite lax and minor violations are usually given little attention.

In this sense, illegal steroid use can be viewed similarly to the use of marijuana. The focus of law enforcement in these cases rests mainly on those who distribute and sell the drugs rather than those who use them. While the legislation does allow for the punishment of up to a 10-year prison sentence, there are not really any divisions tasked with enforcing these laws on such a minor scale.

What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?
What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

If you happen to be caught with a small amount of illegal anabolic steroids, you’ll most likely face a small fine and maybe a criminal record. If you’re a first-time offender, the penalty will probably be even lighter.

Really, the crime is only taken very seriously when a person is found guilty of distribution on a large scale. Some individuals even report that they do not have to seek out dealers and are instead offered steroids at gyms or via personal trainers.

Should Steroids be Illegal?

Some may argue that the rise of illegal steroid distribution has only occurred because of the lack of pathways that could allow for legal purchasing. They point out that the decriminalisation of such violations could allow for easier policing and the dismantling of black markets.

On the other hand, many concerned citizens point out the inherent health risks that come along with steroid legalisation as abuse of anabolic steroids can result in a plethora of complications.

What are the Dangers of Steroid use?

Not all steroids are alike and health conditions may vary depending on what you take, that said, some common occurrences are as follows

Anabolic Steroid Use      On MenOn Women
Short Term    Acne  
Enlarged Breasts
Hair Growth or Loss
Changes in libido
Increased LDL cholesterol levels  
Hair Growth or Loss
Menstrual Irregularities
Deepening of Voice
Shrinking of Breasts  
Long Term    Liver Damage
Mood Disorders
Prostate Cancer
Heart Conditions  
Liver Damage
Mood Disorders
Heart Conditions  
Dangers of Steroid use

Another, equally worrying condition associated with steroid abuse is that of both physical and mental dependence. This dependency can make it difficult for many people to stop using steroids.

Can Steroids Affect your Height?

While steroid use can’t make you any shorter, it may slow down or even stop puberty completely in both boys and girls. As this is the time in your life when you do a lot of growing, it is advisable to stay off steroids during your teenage years unless you’re very comfortable using ladders.

Do Steroids Make you Aggressive?

There is evidence to suggest that the hormonal changes caused by steroid use can cause individuals to become more aggressive and thus more prone to fighting while using the drugs.

What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?
What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

It should be noted however that detractors to such studies have pointed out the relatively low number of test subjects in each sample group, this may cause the findings to be less accurate than they otherwise could be.

Do Steroids Make you Infertile? What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

Many men worry that steroid use might hurt their chances of one day starting a family. In this regard, there is both good news and bad news.

The bad news is that steroids do appear to lower rates of fertility in men, the good news is that these effects seem to usually undo themselves over time once the individual stops taking the steroids.

How Do People use Steroids?What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

Due to the complications mentioned above, prolonged use of anabolic steroids is often avoided. In order to still get the benefits of the drugs without too many downsides, steroid users have developed the following systems

  • Cycling – Steroids are used for a period of between 6-12 weeks, after which the individual ‘takes a break’ from usage for a number of weeks to prevent some of the more serious side effects.
  • Stacking – Many different types of steroids are used all at once to capitalize on their effectiveness without exposing the body to any prolonged usage.
  • Pyramiding – The amount of steroids used is slowly increased over time, reaching the highest amount halfway through the cycle before being reduced once more.
What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

What are the Alternatives to Steroids? – What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

Whether scared off by the health risks or the illegality of anabolic steroids, many people prefer to instead trust in legal alternatives that purport to offer similar results. The most common example of such a product is probably Creatine though there are others available like MMP or DMAA.

No doubt, many of us have already heard about the potential health problems that arise from things like Creatine, many of which bear a striking similarity to those associated with illegal steroids, that said there appears to be little in the way of evidence to suggest these issues do exist.

In Conclusion – What does the Law say regarding Steroids in South Africa and what happens if you’re caught using them?

The Medicines and Related Substances Act classifies anabolic steroids as a schedule 3 drug and as such, the use and possession of steroids is only legal if you also have a valid prescription.

Prescriptions can be legally issued for either a ‘once-off use’ lasting no more than 30 days or on a repeat prescription lasting for no more than 6 months.

What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?
What is the Law on Steroids in South Africa?

Technically, any individual caught with anabolic steroids and no relevant prescription can be arrested and charged, however, the enforcement of such laws is seldomly prioritised and attention is usually focused on steroid distributors and related black-market enterprises.

Actual penalties for illegal steroid possession would most likely be quite light and would probably involve a small fine. If the individual happens to be a first-time offender it is possible that the punishment will amount to a slap on the wrist.

On the other hand, those found in possession of huge quantities of schedule 3 drugs with the intention to sell them could face far harsher sentencing including a lengthy stay in prison.

There are a huge host of side effects and health risks associated with steroid use and, in particular, with steroid abuse. These range from short-term issues like hair loss and irritability to long lasting effects like liver problems and mood disorders.

There are also alternatives to steroids such as Creatine. These products are usually classified as supplements and are thus legal. Creatine itself also seems to have few identifiable side effects which might make it the ideal substitute.

Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although in many instances, our posts cite the constitution, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.

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