Nandrolone

Nandrolone is an anabolic steroid used to treat anemia, osteoporosis and other conditions. It’s a synthetic version of testosterone. Some athletes use nandrolone to build muscle, but these uses are illegal in the U.S. and most of the world. Nandrolone can cause serious side effects and should only be taken with a healthcare provider’s supervision.

Overview

What is nandrolone?

Nandrolone (Deca-Durabolin®) is a synthetic (made in a lab) version of the hormone testosterone. It’s also known as nandrolone decanoate and 19-nortestosterone. Nandrolone is a type of anabolic androgenic steroid. Healthcare providers prescribe nandrolone to treat some forms of anemia. It can also help build tissue in people with weakened or damaged tissue.

As with many other anabolic steroids, nandrolone is commonly misused. Some bodybuilders and teens use nandrolone to “bulk up,” or gain muscle mass. Some athletes use nandrolone to try and boost their performance. But this is dangerous.

Prescription nandrolone provides health benefits, but its use comes with risks of serious side effects. You should only take nandrolone under the close supervision of a healthcare provider.

How does nandrolone work?

Providers give nandrolone as an injection (shot) into a muscle. Once in your body, it behaves a lot like testosterone. Testosterone is a sex hormone called an androgen. Testosterone also has “anabolic” properties. This is why nandrolone is called an “anabolic androgenic” steroid. The language offers clues about how nandrolone works:

  • Anabolic: Anabolism is the process of building muscles, bones or other body structures. Testosterone promotes tissue growth and expands muscle mass.
  • Androgenic: Testosterone is an androgen. It’s most known for stimulating the development of sex characteristics in men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB).

Scientists modeled nandrolone after testosterone because of testosterone’s anabolic (tissue-building) power. They boosted its anabolic properties while weakening its androgenic properties. So nandrolone has more tissue-building power than testosterone but is a weaker sex hormone.

Still, nandrolone is a sex hormone. The side effects associated with nandrolone occur because it behaves as an added sex hormone in your body.

What is nandrolone used for?

Healthcare providers primarily prescribe nandrolone to treat anemia associated with chronic kidney failure. Anemia involves not having enough healthy red blood cells. Nandrolone boosts red blood cell production.

Providers also use nandrolone to treat:

Some studies suggest that nandrolone can help heal damaged joints.

How should I use this medicine?

Use nandrolone only as prescribed by a healthcare provider. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies nandrolone as a Schedule III controlled substance under the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990. This means having or using nandrolone without a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider is illegal.

Nandrolone is currently unavailable in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously approved it for use, but there aren’t any manufacturers or distributors with current approval to provide it within the U.S.

Healthcare providers who prescribe nandrolone take care to determine the appropriate dosage. They check for side effects so that people can receive nandrolone as safely as possible. It’s essential to take this medicine according to a provider’s instructions.

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What are the side effects of using nandrolone?

General side effects include:

Side effects vary based on your age and sex. Some of these changes are reversible when you stop taking the medicine. Others are permanent. This is why it’s essential that a healthcare provider catches any side effects early and adjusts treatment.

Men and people assigned male at birth (AMAB)

Before puberty, side effects include penis enlargement and frequent erections. After puberty, side effects include:

Women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB)

Nandrolone may cause you to develop sex characteristics associated with people AMAB. Side effects include:

Children

Nandrolone can affect bone development in children. It can cause a child’s bones to stop growing before they reach their full height. Your healthcare provider will regularly monitor your child’s bones if they take nandrolone.

What are the benefits of using nandrolone?

Nandrolone can help manage certain conditions. Nandrolone:

  • Promotes red blood cell production.
  • Promotes muscle endurance and healing.
  • Builds lean muscle mass.
  • Increases bone density.

What are the risks of using nandrolone?

Taking nandrolone without a prescription is especially risky. Many bodybuilders who use nandrolone take it at higher doses than a healthcare provider would safely prescribe. This increases your risk of side effects.

Nandrolone also poses more serious risks, including:

  • Blood-filled cysts in your liver (peliosis hepatis): These growths can lead to liver failure and are potentially fatal. Usually, the cysts resolve when you stop treatment. Often, however, they don’t cause symptoms until your condition has progressed.
  • Liver tumors: Most of these tumors are benign and go away once you stop treatment. Still, some cases have been malignant (cancer).
  • Hardening in your blood vessels (atherosclerosis): Plaque can build up in your arteries. The buildup can lead to cardiovascular disease and increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Even when taken at the appropriate doses, nandrolone can cause heart failure and liver damage.

What should I tell my healthcare provider before taking this medicine?

Your healthcare provider will take a complete medical history before prescribing nandrolone. Certain allergies or conditions may prevent you from taking it.

Let your provider know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding (chestfeeding). You shouldn’t take nandrolone during pregnancy. Whether you can pass on nandrolone to your baby in breast milk is unknown. Follow your healthcare provider’s guidance.

Where is nandrolone currently available?

Nandrolone is available in Australia, Belgium, China, India and the United Kingdom. It’s not available in the U.S. The manufacturer stopped making nandrolone for reasons unrelated to its safety or effectiveness.

Additional Common Questions

Why is nandrolone banned?

Although it’s still FDA-approved to treat certain medical conditions, nandrolone is no longer marketed in the U.S. Because it’s a Schedule III controlled substance, it’s illegal to use nandrolone without a prescription.

Both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) include nandrolone on their prohibited lists. The WADA is an international agency that combats drug use in sports. The organization prohibits performance-enhancing drugs that may endanger athletes.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Nandrolone can help people with certain conditions regain strength and feel better. Still, because nandrolone behaves like a sex hormone in your body, it can cause side effects. It’s essential to take this medicine under the guidance of a healthcare provider. They can monitor your response and test for signs of complications. They can help maximize the benefits you receive from this medicine while reducing the risks.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/27/2023.

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