Steroids are used primarily to quickly build muscle and shrink recovery time after an injury. But those taking steroids for illicit purposes, rather than out of medical-supervised necessity, might not realize just how dangerous they can be.
Use of anabolic steroids can have serious side effects, such as strokes, blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver damage and severe mood swings including aggression and depression.
"The use of anabolic steroids is exactly like playing Russian roulette with your body, because you have no idea where that product is actually coming from," said Special Agent John Gilbride, who heads up the DEA's New York field division.
"There is no quality control premium being placed on the production" of the drugs, he added.
Gilbride said that in almost all of the illegal labs raided, authorities found unsanitary conditions. They also identified more than 30 companies in China that allegedly supplied the chemicals needed to produce steroids.
DEA officials said the precursor drugs from China were shipped to the United States where drug dealers would then use their labs to produce the finished steroids.
It is unclear which, if any, government agency in China regulates chemicals exported from the country.
Worry is already spreading over who is on the lists of users. The NCAA and major professional sports leagues have contacted the DEA, but the agency says there are restrictions on turning over the identities of users because of ongoing investigations.
But the question remains -- how far should the DEA take the investigations of individual steroid users? Should they arrest teenagers who are using?
The DEA will only say some steroid abusers will be arrested on a case-by-case basis, but for now the primary focus is on taking down traffickers.
DEA officials say they have to target the suppliers, because the demand is clearly there.