SINGAPORE - They have fanciful names like dianabol, stanozolol and deca durabolin.
But these substances can be harmful for those taking them without a doctor's prescription, in a vain attempt to improve their bodies.
While stories of free drug use circulate in pro-athlete circles, casual gym rats here are taking to the 'roids too, thanks - or no thanks - to unscrupulous trainers and dealers who sell these substances on the black market.
The New Paper on Sunday (TNPS) has found that it is not difficult obtaining them.
All it takes is the persona of a potential client who wants the drugs to bulk up or slim down faster.
A personal trainer offered, over the phone, to sell us the goods.
He quoted a price of $70 for 100 tablets of clenbuterol - a substance that claims to help burn body fat quickly.
He then assured the reporter that he has a constant supply of the stimulant and was eager to meet up to close the deal.
TNPS also managed to contact a dealer, an executive in a engineering company, who sells these substances to people in his gym-going circle to make a quick profit.
In a Facebook conversation, however, the 30-year-old self-confessed gym rat stressed that he sells them only to people he knows.
But it did not take much to persuade him into peddling some to an undercover reporter, pretending to be keen on bulking up.
The rendezvous took place in a park in the eastern part of Singapore, where the man sold the reporter 100 pale yellow anabol tablets for $70.
A vial of a substance known as stanozolol, which can be injected, also changed hands for $120.
The tiny vial, containing 20ml of fluid, comes in a box. On it, a warning read: "For animal treatment only."
TNPS understands that anabolic steroids here are often brought in by people who get them from Thailand, where they are available off the shelves.
The reporter was told that stanozololis "a very effective steroid" and that it "can really enhance your performance in the gym".
Research shows that stanazolol is an anabolic steroid which helps promote muscle growth.
It cannot be bought without a prescription here.
Sports medicine physician Dr Chiam Tut Fu, from SportsMed Central at Novena Medical Centre, warns categorically against people using the drugs meant for animals.
He says the misuse of anabolic steroids can lead to complications such as liver problems, an increase in incidence of heart disease and higher blood cholesterol levels.
And if users decide to inject themselves with the steroids, the part injected can be at risk of infection.
Anabolic steroids not all bad
Anabolic steroids have their proper medical uses.
For instance, it can help patients, who have lost substantial mass after surgery or who have muscular degenerative diseases such as HIV or muscular dystrophy, regain much-needed muscle tissues.
Anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are substances regulated under the Poisons Act in Singapore, says the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).
HSA adds that these substances can be legally supplied only on a doctor's prescription or under the supervision of a pharmacist as they are potent substances and may cause adverse effects.
"Anyone found guilty of an offence under the Poisons Act is liable on conviction of a fine of up to $10,000 and or imprisonment for a term of up to two years," it warns.
Steroid use is spreading to even recreational gym-goers, who are turning to these drugs as a shortcut to achieving their "fitness" goals.
A 31-year-old personal trainer, who wants to be known only as Judy, says: "It is very common nowadays. In the past, only bodybuilders took them. Today, there are more young people taking them.
"Whenever I am in the gym, I often get people approaching me to ask if I sell such substances.
"I don't sell them, but as long as someone is willing to pay, it is not too difficult to find someone who does.
"Some personal trainers make up to 100 per cent profit from selling these substances. Stanazolol can sell up to $300 for a bottle."
A fitness manager in a local gym, Ms Celest Tan, 35, admits to using clenbuterol a few years ago.
"I took it out of curiosity. I wanted to lose weight too. So I bought 100 tablets of clenbuterol in a pack," she reveals.
Ms Tan weighed 66kg and wanted to lose 10kg.
Once she attained her ideal weight of 56kg, she stopped taking it.
"I worked out very vigorously every day and I didn't feel tired at all," she says.
But she adds that taking the substance gave her adverse side effects.
"My heartbeat was very fast and my hands were trembling. I also suffered from insomnia.
"I know the adverse effects in taking them. Some are irreversible. So I stopped."
Beware hidden side effects
Beware the hidden side effects
Used for weight loss and performance enhancement
Possible side effects: Cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart muscle), hypertension, palpitations, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, tremors, nervousness and anxiety
Used to build muscles and increase strength
Possible side effects: Liver complications, high blood pressure, acne, hair loss, blood-clotting disorder, jaundice, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and depression
Used as a fat burner
Possible side effects: Increased heart rate, palpitations, tremors and tardive dyskinesia (involuntary repetitive movements)
This article was first published in The New Paper.