Addiction to Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids are prescription medications often abused by people who want to look and be more fit. Even though steroids don’t chemically produce euphoria like a typical addictive substance, those who regularly abuse these drugs are at risk of developing a severe addiction.
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.
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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:
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.
There are three common ways people abuse anabolic steroids. They are:
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 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 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].
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.
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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
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.
A 2007 study found that 77 percent of college students who admitted to using steroids also abused at least one other drug.
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. Contact a dedicated treatment specialist now to learn more about your treatment options.
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