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Anabolic Steroid Addiction and Abuse

People abuse steroids to look fitter, build muscle faster and enhance athletic performance. These people can become addicted to steroids, making it hard for them to quit on their own.

Addiction to Anabolic Steroids

WeightsAnabolic steroids are prescription medications often abused by people who want to look and be more fit.

Even though steroids don’t produce euphoria like a typical addictive substance, those who regularly abuse these drugs are at risk of becoming addicted.

People taking steroids may also develop a tolerance to the drugs and experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them. These are both signs of an addiction.

Other signs of an addiction include:

  • Spending large amounts of time and money getting or using steroids
  • Ignoring responsibilities at work or home
  • Continuing to use steroids despite physical side effects like hair loss
  • Having persistent issues with friends and family
  • Experiencing severe depression as a result of withdrawal

People who take steroids for a prolonged period of time disrupt natural hormonal balances in their bodies. When someone addicted to steroids suddenly stops taking the drugs, they can become depressed and even suicidal due to these hormonal imbalances.

Someone looking to quit taking steroids should look for help. In treatment for steroid addiction, doctors can prescribe medications to restore healthy hormonal balance and reduce depressive behavior.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic drugs that mimic testosterone, the male sex hormone. The full name of these drugs is “anabolic-androgenic steroids.” The word “anabolic” refers to the drug’s muscle-building effects, and “androgenic” refers to its masculinizing effects.

There is another type of steroid, known as corticosteroids, which shouldn’t be confused with anabolic steroids. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are often used to treat allergic reactions. These steroids don’t have the same effects as anabolic steroids, as they don’t facilitate muscle growth and don’t mimic the male sex hormone.

Anabolic steroids are available with a prescription and have important medical applications. Doctors prescribe anabolic steroids to treat several medical conditions, including:

  • Delayed puberty
  • Hormone imbalances in men
  • Muscle loss due to disease
  • Certain types of anemia

Anabolic steroids come in the form of pills, injectable liquids and topical gels or creams. Street names for anabolic steroids include juice, stackers, hype and roids. Some of the most common steroid brands include:

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

Some steroid abusers have even been known to use veterinary steroids like Equipoise because these drugs are usually cheaper, more accessible and produce similar results.

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Steroid Effects and Abuse

Any use of anabolic steroids without a doctor’s prescription is abuse. It’s also illegal. Those abusing anabolic steroids often take ten to 100 times a doctor’s recommended dose.

Anabolic steroids change how the body builds muscle. During exercise, people create small tears in their muscles. When it heals, the muscle tissue becomes stronger than before. Anabolic steroids quicken the healing process. This helps people exercise harder, more often and with greater results.

People abuse anabolic steroids to change their physical appearance and abilities. Some athletes and bodybuilders use steroids for a competitive edge. Bodybuilders may use the drugs to get bigger, feel stronger and increase their confidence. Some football players use steroids before a game to feel more aggressive. And for years, several major league baseball players have taken steroids for more power at the bat.

For many, the pressure to stay competitive is a major factor in the decision to use steroids. However, many people taking steroids just want to look better.

“Contrary to common belief, most [anabolic steroid] users do not engage in competitive athletics, but simply want to become leaner and more muscular.”

H.G. Pope Jr., Treatment of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Related Disorders, 2015

There are three common ways people abuse anabolic steroids. They are:

  • “Stacking” – Stacking is taking multiple types of steroids at once or mixing oral and injectable formulations. Many steroid abusers believe stacking increases results, but this method has not been scientifically proven.
  • “Cycling” – Cycling is a process of taking steroids during predetermined periods of time, usually 6-12 weeks. Users who are cycling take multiple doses for several weeks, stop for several weeks, and then start taking the steroids again. Steroid abusers use off-cycles to allow the body to produce its own testosterone and to reduce damage to internal organs.
  • “Pyramiding” – Pyramiding is a method of taking steroids during a cycle. In the beginning of the cycle, users start with a low dose and gradually increase to a maximum dose mid-cycle. In the second half of the cycle, the user slowly tapers down their steroid dose.
The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 375,000 young men and 175,000 young women in high school abuse anabolic steroids every year.

Even though males make up the majority of those abusing steroids, females also turn to the drugs for a better physique. In an article for the New York Times, one woman described her decision to take steroids as a teenager. Dionne Roberts was a popular cheerleader who wanted six-pack abs.

“It’s not uncommon to strive for that four-pack or six-pack, even in girls. Being in shape is not just a masculine thing. So I mentioned to a friend on the football team that I was interested in [steroids].”

Dionne Roberts, New York Times, 2008

Roberts easily acquired her first cycle of steroids but ultimately regretted the decision to use them. The drugs induced aggression and a serious depression that sent her to the hospital, where she was placed on suicide watch. Roberts eventually moved past her difficulties with steroids and graduated college.

Although rare, people taking large amounts of anabolic steroids may overdose. Steroid overdose may lead to coma, heart attack and stroke.

Dangerous Drug Combinations

Anabolic steroids can reduce the pleasurable effects of certain drugs. The diminished high caused by steroids leads many users may take higher doses than they normally would. This increases their risk of overdose.

Some drugs commonly abused by steroid users include:

Steroid users abusing other drugs often turn to stimulants like cocaine and Adderall for an energy boost and decreased appetite. What many people don’t realize is that mixing stimulants and steroids heightens aggression and puts stress on the heart.

Abusing alcohol while taking steroids often leads to excessive aggression. Taking these substances together may have a long-term impact on behavior and can worsen an addiction. People abusing alcohol and steroids together may be more likely to commit violent crimes.

Some people become addicted to opiates like heroin in an attempt to self-medicate insomnia and aggression caused by steroids. A study of men with heroin addiction found that 9 percent started taking the drug because of their steroid use.

Steroid Abuse Statistics

1/5012th graders

Approximately 1 in 50 students in the 12th grade used steroids in 2014. This seemingly low percentage accounts for tens of thousands of high school seniors.

77percent

A 2007 study found that 77 percent of college students who admitted to using steroids also abused at least one other drug.

9.1%NFL players

In a survey of retired National Football League (NFL) players, 9.1 percent of players admitted to using anabolic steroids during their career.

Many people don’t realize steroids are addictive, and it can be hard to quit without help. Many steroid users who quit on their own relapse. If you’ve been struggling with an addiction to steroids, help is available. Call now to learn more about your treatment options.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: January 22, 2016

  1. Food and Drug Administration. (2015). Teens and Steroids: A Dangerous Combo. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm373014.htm
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Anabolic Steroid Abuse. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/anabolic-steroid-abuse/letter-director
  3. New York Times. (1989). Users of Steroids Risk Addiction, Two Researchers at Yale Report. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/08/sports/users-of-steroids-risk-addiction-two-researchers-at-yale-report.html
  4. Mayo Clinic. (2015). Anabolic Steroid (Oral Route, Parenteral Route). Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/anabolic-steroid-oral-route-parenteral-route/description/drg-20069323
  5. Kanayama, Gen, PhD. M.D. (2010). Illicit Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Use. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2883629/
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs
  7. Pope Jr., Harrsion G. (2014). Treatment of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Related Disorders. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-88-470-5322-9_28
  8. Grossfeld, Stan. New York Times. (2008). A Sad and Revealing Tale of Teen Steroid Use. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/sports/20iht-doping20.10225773.html?pagewanted=all
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). How are Anabolic Steroids Abused? Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/anabolic-steroid-abuse/how-are-anabolic-steroids-abused
  10. Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education - Dopinglinkki. Interactions of Steroids and Intoxicants. Retrieved on October 7, 2015 from: http://www.dopinglinkki.fi/en/info-bank/doping-substances/interactions-anabolic-steroids-and-intoxicants
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