Although most people tend to concentrate on the strength gained by anabolic steroids, there are a number of other reasons that they have been used. Because the use of steroids for medicinal purposes has become prohibited for those interested in pursuing an athletic career, doctors have replaced them for a variety of uses. Although they can still be prescribed for a number of different health reasons, some of these uses are more psychological health rather than strictly physical, but the uses are nonetheless to ensure the health of the patient. As anabolic steroids act as testosterone, they can be used to supplement a person’s natural testosterone and allow a person that either needs or desires some of the advantages of that to lead a better life.
For example, they can be used to stimulate bone marrow. While they have been replaced in that use by synthetic protein hormones, most notable epotein alfa, that stimulates the blood cell precursors, they were used for decades as part of the therapy for some hyploplastic anemias such as leukemia or kidney failure; basically, the lack of red blood cells due to incomplete or failing tissues. They were also used to stimulate growth in children with growth failure until the development of synthetic growth hormone due to its limited side effects. Anabolic steroids could also be used to induce puberty in boys, but the only steroid used for that purpose now is testosterone.
However, they are some uses for which they are still used. They can be given to elderly men to increase the amount of lean muscle mass and prevent bone loss. A trial substituting a low dose of testosterone to supplement the low amount of testosterone found no benefit to physical performance, body composition, insulin sensitivity, or any other factor of quality of life; the steroids were slightly better overall. The steroids also helped the libido of the elderly males as well. On the flip side, they show some promise as a potential male contraceptive, one that is reliable, safe, and easy to reverse.
A steroid treatment for gender dysphoria has been proven to work as well. Among females that would prefer to be read as male or ambiguous, including the non-binary transgender and others, the treatment produces secondary male characteristics, such as a deeper voice, increased bone, muscle mass, and red blood count, as well as more facial hair, and an enlargement of the clitoris. In combination these allow for a person wishing to affect a sex change to do so, at least partially. Admittedly this more therapeutic than other uses, but it does do the job.
All told this does mean that anabolic steroids can be used for more than just increasing bone and muscle mass, especially for those that do not mind sacrificing a potential athletic career.