Treatment for Steroid Addiction
Anabolic steroid abuse and addiction should be treated like any other drug problem. With its high risk of dependency and severe withdrawal symptoms, this classifies steroids as an addictive substance regardless of it not producing a stereotypical euphoric “high” for users. Inpatient and outpatient treatment centers can help those addicted to steroids beat their addiction and build a healthier, natural lifestyle.
Treating a steroid addiction involves a supervised detox, medication and behavioral therapy.
Mental health counseling helps recovering addicts cope with mood swings during steroid withdrawal. Through continued therapy, users relearn how to function without steroids. It’s important to get treatment from a counselor and a physician with experience treating steroid addiction. These professionals often collaborate to develop the most effective treatment plan.
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Inpatient rehab is one of the most effective ways to treat people heavily addicted to steroids. It’s also a good option for people with a history of depression, anxiety or anger issues. Inpatient treatment removes the steroid user from their normal environment so they can safely detox and reprogram their addictive behavior. Most rehabs follow a rigorously structured routine consisting of one-on-one counseling, support groups, mealtimes, family visits, activities and sometimes chores.
Inpatient rehab may last anywhere from 28 to 90 days depending on the severity of the addiction and detox needs.
Everybody in rehab is evaluated for their treatment needs. This helps addiction specialists determine how steroids have impacted the user’s behavior and hormonal balance. The first step is to help the user detox safely. A medically assisted detox can ease steroid withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. During detox, doctors help the body readjust to life without steroids. Sometimes this involves a tapering down approach where users gradually reduce their steroid dose before completely quitting.
Doctor’s may also prescribe medications during detox, including:
A physician or endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in hormone treatment) can prescribe medications to help balance testosterone levels.
A psychiatrist may prescribe an antidepressant such as Prozac or Effexor. It’s important to continue therapy because these medications can take 2-6 weeks before they start working.
This drug can help reduce withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, muscle aches and cramping. It can also lower high blood pressure caused by steroid use.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are commonly prescribed for pain relief.
Steroid users in rehab usually begin therapy as soon as they start detox. Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy can immediately address issues like depression, whereas it can take weeks for some medications to have an effect.
A good therapist understands the motivations that lead to steroid use. Athletes who used steroids to be more competitive should have a therapist that understands competitive athletics and the user’s specific sport. Therapists can help steroid users shift from a competitive mindset to one of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Behavioral therapists can also help treat co-occurring mental disorders that led to steroid use. Many young men have started using steroids because of body image issues, something that has been referred to as “reverse anorexia.” These young men feel pressure to use steroids because they believe their muscle size is inadequate. Counselors can help steroid users feel good about themselves and their bodies.
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Ongoing Treatment and Strategies to Prevent Relapse
People with a mild to moderate steroid addiction often choose outpatient treatment because they can maintain their home life and continue going to work. People in outpatient treatment still make regular visits to a counselor and physician.
The biggest battle recovering steroid addicts face in outpatient treatment is avoiding relapse. If a user in recovery isn’t removed from their environment, they encounter more temptations to take steroids. There are several steps former steroid users can take to prevent a relapse.
Tips to Prevent a Steroid Relapse
Even after completing detox or inpatient rehab, former steroid users should continue seeing a counselor. Continuing therapy strengthens techniques that teach people to cope without drugs. It also helps if unforeseen difficulties or temptations in life occur.
Those who are prescribed medications should continue taking the drugs until a doctor says it’s okay to stop. Discontinuing medications to treat steroid addiction can cause a re-emergence hormonal issues or withdrawal symptoms that may spark a sudden relapse. Some medications like antidepressants carry their own withdrawal symptoms, which can cause a major depressive episode.
Triggers are people, places and things that a person associates with using steroids. Old workout partners or gyms can trigger a craving. Taking note of personal triggers and making an effort to avoid them can prevent the sudden desire to use steroids.
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Getting Help Now
You shouldn’t wait to get help for a steroid addiction. The side effects of long-term steroid use can lead to lasting complications, including liver damage, heart disease and infertility. Yet, some people are hesitant to quit because they are afraid of what they will look like without steroids.
Paul Solotaroff wrote about his difficulties with intense steroid abuse. Once he decided to quit, after a steroid-related trip to the emergency room, he struggled as withdrawal symptoms kicked in and he began losing weight. But he eventually made a comeback and is now a successful writer for several national publications.
My appetite returned, and some portion of the old vigor. I went back to training after years in exile and slowly, gratefully built a body out of battered parts.
The first step toward recovering from a steroid addiction is determining what kind of treatment you need to fit your specific needs. Contact one of our addiction specialists to learn about your options and find out what treatment center is right for you.
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