A Case for the Decriminalization of Anabolic Steroids



The war on drugs, by most people’s measure, has been a complete failure, wasted trillions of dollars, and has caused our prison population to explode, mostly for non-violent drug offenders. It’s unjust that one can spend years or decades in prison without having physically harmed another, nor deprived them of their property. While I believe all drug policy is a public health issue, not a criminal one, today I’ll focus on a very misunderstood class: anabolic steroids.


The criminalization of anabolic steroids use has never made sense, as they’re nothing like other street drugs. There are no steroid junkies robbing people to get a fix, no used syringes in our parks, and no “steroid labs” blowing up as meth labs do. Steroids, over time, do produce a heightened sense of well-being, but no immediate high. Users don’t have withdrawals when they stop, although they may feel depressed as their body slowly restores its natural production. Few people blow through all their money using steroids, either. From a pharmacy, and without health insurance, a 10 week supply costs between $50 and $70, the same cost per week as a visit to Starbucks.


Anabolic steroids, for the most part, have very subtle effects. “Roid rage,” a term I hate to use, is just something coined by the media to make a story sound more interesting. In reality, documented cases of steroids causing psychotic aggression are extremely rare. There are even positive benefits from using steroids beyond looking better and being stronger. The long-term health benefits of fat loss and increasing your metabolism far outweigh any short term health concerns. If you use steroids for a short while, and put on 10 or 15 lbs of lean muscle, it will be very difficult to overeat enough to ever become obese. There’s very little evidence that steroids put anyone at risk, either to themselves, or to others.

Why do people use steroids?

  1. To look and feel better. By the American Journal of Addiction’s estimates, 2.9-4 million people, ages 13-50, have used anabolic steroids, which is about 1% of our country’s population. This greatly outnumbers all of the professional athletes using them for sports, meaning the vast majority of users are your average citizen, and use them for personal reasons. There’s certainly nothing wrong or immoral about wanting to look and feel better. Health food and supplement stores are filled with products claiming to help achieve those goals, some and are unsafe, as the supplement industry is mostly unregulated. Anabolic steroids have been proven to safely lower body fat and increase muscle, two health benefits that our increasingly overweight country needs.

  3. For medical purposes. Have you seen those commercials lately advertising drugs to treat “Low T?” That “T” stands for testosterone, a natural anabolic steroid produced by our bodies. Testosterone therapy has remarkable effects, and is essential to combat the effects of aging. It causes men to think more clearly, be happier and more motivated, it increases sex drive, promotes lean body mass, and decreases risk of death from nearly all causes, including cardiovascular events (heart attacks). With testosterone, men are able to live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Steroids also have many other medical uses, from helping serious burns victims heal, decreasing post-surgical recovery time, to combating the wasting effects of HIV. With so many health benefits, anabolic steroids are under-utilized by the medical industry.

  5. To gain a competitive advantage in sports. This is, by far, the minority of users, as most people are not professional athletes, and I doubt many people are taking steroids to help them get ahead in their bowling league. Steroids cannot teach you to hit a baseball more frequently, or perform a 720 on a snowboard, hard work is what makes professional athletes so elite. Steroids, though, can make you much stronger, as well as heal faster from injuries. While many consider this cheating, that’s the decision of each sporting organization, and they can choose to ban or allow steroids at their discretion. The rules of a game should be decided upon, investigated by, and penalties imposed by that organization, not the police. The athlete may be guilty of poor sportsmanship, but those actions shouldn’t be considered criminal in nature, much less carry the possibility of jail time.


Anabolic steroids are used by people to become more healthy and attractive, or at worst, to break the rules of sports organizations to gain a competitive edge. None of these uses is a danger to public safety, and our tax dollars would be better spent fighting real crime instead.

~Peter Trzos, MD





Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming

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 Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming


Back in November of 2010, the city of Wyoming adopted a new zoning ordinance that states uses that are contrary to federal law, state law or local ordinance are prohibited. This including the manufacture or possession or marijuana, so it is a violation of the ordinance for a city resident to raise or possess marijuana, the city asserts. Violators are subject to injunctions and civil sanctions, including fines.

In a city of about 73,000 residents, one man sued to overturn the medical cannabis ban. John Ter Beek is a state-registered user who has diabetes and a painful neurological disorder, according to the lawsuit. The city admitted that “the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana are subject to the zoning code of Wyoming.” The city argued, the federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 USC 801 incorporates the federal law by reference, although the MMMA cannot preempt the ordinance. The trial court ruled in favor of the city and dismissed Ter Beek’s complaint, but in a published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the ordinance is invalid under the MMMA and that the CSA does not preempt Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

In contrast, the MMMA permits medical use as defined in MCL 333.26423, providing immunity for a qualifying patient from being ‘subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege.’ Civil injunctive relief that could be used to prohibit any medical use of marijuana within the city would constitute a ‘penalty in any manner’ as proscribed under this statute. According to the appellate court, a city ordinance that purports to prohibit what a state statute permits is void. Under a similar statute, it recognizes 99 out of every 100 marijuana-based arrests in the United States are made under state law. This will declare that changing state law will have the practical effect of protecting from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marijuana. To grant immunity only from state prosecution and other penalties avoids the absurd result that the MMMA purportedly preempts federal prosecutions, and avoids conflict with the CSA.

In Thursday’s ruling, Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, the Supreme Court held that it was not impossible to comply with both federal drug laws and Michigan’s medical marijuana act, in regards to the case Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming. The Court directed the parties to address:

1) Whether the defendant city’s zoning code ordinance, which prohibits any use that is contrary to federal law, state law, or local ordinance, is subject to state preemption by the Michigan Medical Marijuana act (MMMA)
2) If so, whether the MMMA is subject to federal preemption by the federal Controlled Substances on either impossibility or obstacle conflict preemption grounds.


 Furthermore, the state’s high court held that the city’s ordinance directly conflicts with the state medical marijuana act, creating a violation of the way in which Michigan’s Constitution separates powers of the state and its municipalities.

The Bad Science Behind Breathalyzers


Breathalyzers Aren’t Accurate


We’ve all seen, or at least heard of a breathalyzer before. They’re those things the cops have you blow into if they suspect you’ve been drunk driving.


The machine displays a number, which is supposed to be your BAC, or blood alcohol content. People blow air into these things, how can they possibly tell how much alcohol is in your blood?
If you’ve ever been given a DUI after blowing a 0.08%, and faced very harsh penalties because of it, the answer may make you angry. The truth is, breathalyzers don’t accurately measure BAC, they guess it. They’re so inaccurate that a scientific paper was published criticising them, with the researchers stating:

“Accordingly, as has been argued, the blood:breath ratio
should be regarded as nothing more than a statistical convenience
suitable for defining the limits of a particular universe. Its use to
derive individual blood-alcohol levels from breath alcohol levels
has little scientific justification, and, more particularly, its use in
this way for law enforcement can only be deplored. We reiterate
our view that breath analysis is not an acceptable method for
accurately determining blood alcohol concentrations.”

Wow, that’s quite the terrible review. Let’s examine how breathalyzers work, and see why their results shouldn’t be trusted.

How Breathalyzers Work

Breathalyzers measure the amount of alcohol vapor in your breath, which is supposed to be representative of how much is in your blood. The idea is that alcohol diffuses out of your blood, through your lungs, and into the air. Many things can cause the reading to be inaccurate. Coughing, vomiting, and even burping can cause alcohol from your stomach to splash into your mouth, which would give a higher BAC reading. Certain medical conditions, such as GERD, diabetes, cavities, and the rare and interesting auto-brewery syndrome can all cause falsely high readings, as can simply dieting. Breathalyzers have been proven unreliable for people with respiratory diseases, such as COPD or asthma.

The ratio of alcohol in your breath to how much is actually in your blood is just guessed at, and decided upon when the machine is calibrated. The assumed ratio is 2100:1, and used the basis to calculate an estimate of your true BAC. The number given can’t be trusted, because the actual ratio can be anywhere from 1300:1 to 3100:1, and it changes as time passes! The BAC estimates done by breathalyzers are assumed to be reliable in court, but that’s far from the truth. These aren’t rulers measuring inches, they’re guessing machines that aren’t even accurate when used on healthy people. The only reliable way to know a person’s BAC is to draw blood; it can’t be measured from breath alone.

~Peter Trzos, MD




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