Addiction to Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are hormones sometimes used by people who want to gain muscle or improve physical performance. Although the effects of these drugs may seem beneficial at first, their misuse may lead to addiction and other negative effects. Read further to find out more about anabolic steroid addiction.

While people use prescription anabolic steroids for legitimate medical uses, they are also abused by people in the bodybuilding communities or by athletes who want to maintain their fitness. The difference between anabolic steroids and other illicit substances is that steroids do not produce euphoric effects. Withdrawal symptoms may occur when people stop using steroids.

People who regularly use these drugs beyond the prescription limits have a high risk of becoming addicted. Additionally, people who use anabolic steroids regularly often find themselves developing higher levels of tolerance. Higher tolerance to steroids, withdrawal symptoms, and the desire to take substances beyond their regular dosage limits are all signs of addiction.

Anabolic steroids are various synthetic drugs that have chemical structures that are similar to testosterone, a hormone found in males. Women also have testosterone in smaller amounts.

The drugs are medically known as anabolic-androgenic steroids. The term anabolic means that steroids are capable of building muscle, while the term androgenic refers to their abilities to create physically masculine features.

Other drugs known as corticosteroids are different from anabolic steroids. Corticosteroids are used to treat allergic reactions and reduce reactions of the immune system. A common corticosteroid is prednisone. The effects of corticosteroids are different from anabolic steroids because they do not build muscles or contribute to masculine features.

Various anabolic steroids are available through prescriptions and many have medical applications. Some common applications for anabolic steroids include:

  • Delayed onset of puberty – A condition that occurs when males reach late adolescence but do not produce masculine physical features.
  • Hormone imbalances – Some men have difficulties producing testosterone naturally, which may create health problems and affect their physical appearances.
  • Muscle atrophy due to disease – People who have lost muscle tone may use anabolic steroids to regain their strength.
  • Various types of anemia – The testosterone-mimicking properties of anabolic steroids may help increase red blood count.

People may ingest anabolic steroids in different forms: as pills, gels, creams, or subcutaneously (under the skin) injections. Some common street terms for anabolic steroids include roids, juice, hype, or stackers. Brands of anabolic steroids include:

  • Dianabol
  • Anadrol-50
  • Winstrol
  • Anavar
  • Oxandrin

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In other cases, people who abuse anabolic steroids use variants prescribed by veterinarians. For example, Equipoise is a common steroid prescription that is affordable, easily accessible, and may produce the same physical results as substances created for human use.

Manufacturers have created several types of anabolic steroids. The goal of researchers and chemists is to retain the effects of anabolic steroids while reducing androgenic side effects that may cause addiction or other health risks. Different types of anabolic steroids include:

  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Stanozolol
  • Nandrolone
  • Methandrosteolone

There are more than 100 types of anabolic steroids that have been developed, but there are only a handful of variants that are for human and veterinary use.

All of the anabolic steroids mentioned above are schedule III drugs, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This designation means that the drugs require prescriptions to be used medically. Many illegal anabolic steroids are smuggled from other countries, illegally diverted from U.S. pharmacies, or created in secret illegal laboratories.

Many anabolic steroid users take the drugs in pill form. Some want faster results, so they use hypodermic needles to inject the substances between their skin and muscles. Seeking dramatic results in their bodies, people may use the drug over and over again, which may create anabolic steroid abuse and eventually addiction.

Individuals who use ten to 100 times more the recommended dosage of anabolic steroids should be given immediate medical attention. Using higher doses may be another sign of drug addiction.

Some users take different variants of anabolic steroids to achieve more dramatic effects. This practice is called stacking and is used to activate muscle growth. To produce more significant results, steroid abusers take the drugs in six-week to tweleve-week cycles.

During the first portion of the cycle, users take low dosages and move gradually to higher doses. In the second half of the cycle, users reduce their dosages. They repeat this two-part process during the course of six to twelve weeks. According to medical data, these methods do not work and may even pose health risks when performed continuously.

Users of anabolic steroids may have unique experiences relating to dosages and tapering from anabolic steroids. Some take them for medical purposes, such as treatment for hormonal imbalances or muscle atrophy.

Even when they use the drugs and stop using them in correct ways, people may notice a wide range of withdrawal symptoms related to anabolic steroid addiction. The symptoms may include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of focus, loss of appetite, anxiety, insomnia, reduced libido, and cravings for more steroids.

Driven by a desire to avoid the withdrawal symptoms of anabolic steroids, people may use more of the drugs than their recommended dosages. This phenomenon makes anabolic steroids addictive to people who are more susceptible to addiction. While anabolic steroid addiction may produce fewer addictive effects than methamphetamine (meth), cocaine, or heroin, increased tolerance to anabolic steroids may create drug dependence and addiction.

Like other drugs, anabolic steroids travel through the body’s circulatory system and may affect the heart and the liver. People who abuse the drugs may have a high risk of developing heart or liver disease, especially if they used them long term.

Below are some physical effects that men and women men and women may experience during anabolic steroid use:

Aside from this, you may also notice other withdrawal symptoms when you or a loved one tries to quit using anabolic steroids. For example, people may show signs of anxiety, restlessness, decreased appetite, loss of focus, or irritability.

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are sometimes highly coveted drugs due to their ability to boost physical strength and confidence. But many people overlook the potential damage that these drugs may create. There are several long-lasting and irreversible health risks that anabolic steroids may produce.

For example, chronic users may experience heart attacks, strokes, liver problems, kidney problems, and psychiatric issues. People who withdraw from steroids may experience depression and thoughts of suicide. To alleviate these symptoms, they may start using again.

In some instances, users suffered from contamination after injecting anabolic steroids. Using steroids in this way may cause infections, abscess, tetanus, hepatitis, and HIV, among other possible risks.

Here is some information about anabolic steroid abuse:

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that there are over 500,000 eighth and tenth graders have abused anabolic steroids.
  • Many anabolic drug abusers do not think that this drug addiction poses life-threatening risks.
  • Approximately 1,000,000 Americans have used anabolic steroids in their lifetime.
  • There has been a significant increase of anabolic steroid abuse among teenagers since 1991.
  • Some National Football League (NFL) players have been suspended for anabolic steroid use. Most professional sports organizations have banned the substances.
  • Anabolic steroid abuse affects law enforcement, as police officers have exchanged other types of drugs for anabolic steroids.

Effects of Steroids in Men and Women

There are various effects of anabolic steroids that may be noted in men and women. Since anabolic steroids mimic testosterone, men and women who use them experience different physical effects.

Short-term effects

  • Lower sperm count
  • Impotence
  • Difficulty urinating

Long-term effects

  • Heart problems
  • Liver damage
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast development
  • Testicle shrinkage

Short-term effects

  • Reduced breast size
  • Excessive hair

Long-term effects

  • Lower voice
  • Increased clitoris size
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Infertility

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Dangerous Drug Combinations

Combining anabolic steroids with stimulants such as amphetamines may produce aggressive behaviors. One study found that such combinations produced aggressive behavior in laboratory animals as well as people.

Effects of the combinations of anabolic steroids and amphetamines may last for three weeks after the last dosage. Experts say that these combinations may alter the brain and produce violence, aggressive behavior, and suicidal tendencies.

Cocaine and anabolic steroid combinations may alter cardiac (heart-related) functions. The combinations increase the thickness of the walls of the heart’s ventricles more than using either one of the substances only.

Continuously using both anabolic steroids and cocaine may burden the heart significantly. It could increase the heart rate and put people at risk for heart attacks or heart failure.

Alcohol and anabolic steroid combinations are similar to stimulant combinations. Mixing alcohol and anabolic steroids may decrease inhibitions and heighten people’s willingness to behave aggressively.

People who continually use alcohol and anabolic steroids lose control because the substances cause brain dysfunction. The practice of mixing anabolic steroids with alcohol has been linked to hate crimes and violent crimes.

Recognizing Anabolic Steroid Addictions

If you are worried that you or a loved one is suffering from anabolic steroid abuse, one of the first steps is to determine the signs of drug abuse. Some common signs of anabolic steroid addiction include:

  • Quick shifts in moods – People taking the drugs may experience fits of rage but calm down after the effects of the drugs fade. The intense high and low expression of emotions may be a possible sign of anabolic steroid addiction.
  • Anxiety and restlessness – People who abuse anabolic steroids may show signs of extreme worry and irritability and may be unable to relax. The signs may occur when the drugs wear off but may become long-term psychological problems if people do not seek treatment.
  • Steroid cravings and evidence of drug use – People who abuse anabolic steroids may have packages, bottles, or packs of the drug, as well as needles or other paraphernalia in their homes. They may express their need to take the drug, even when it is not readily available.
  • Increased secrecy – Some users try to hide their addiction by isolating themselves or not engaging with people as they normally do. They stop going to work or school or neglect family duties or other responsibilities.

Treatment for Steroid Addiction

Anabolic steroid addiction may be treated like other types of drug problem. Some of the first steps are to acknowledge the addiction and seek professional help.

Treatment for Steroid Addiction

Addictions to anabolic steroids may be treated like other types of drug problems. The first steps are to acknowledge the addiction and seek professional help.

Drug detox

Drug detox (detoxification) is a medically-assisted program that aims to remove the remnants of anabolic steroids from the body. It aims to normalize bodily functions and restore them to the states people experienced before the drug abuse occurred. Detox also aims to minimize the dangerous effects of withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy is another component of anabolic steroid addiction recovery. Clients in inpatient or outpatient programs may meet with behavioral therapists to help them adapt mindsets and decision-making strategies that help them toward recovery progress.


Psychiatrists and other doctors may prescribe medications such as antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other substances that counter the effects of anabolic steroids. In some instances, doctors may also prescribe synthetic hormones to rebalance testosterone levels.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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