Treatment For Steroid Addiction

Anabolic steroid abuse and addiction should be treated like any other drug problem. Despite the fact that steroids do not cause a stereotypical euphoric “high,” they still have the potential to lead to dependency resulting in possible withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient and outpatient treatment centers can help those addicted to steroids beat their addiction and build a healthier, natural lifestyle.

Treating a steroid addiction may involve supervised detox, comfort medication, and behavioral therapy.

Medical professionals can monitor those addicted to steroids for depression and suicidal behavior during detox.

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.

Inpatient Rehab And Detox

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, medical professionals help the client physically stabilize while the drug is being eliminated from the body. 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:

  • Synthetic hormones

    A physician or endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in hormone treatment) can prescribe medications to help balance testosterone levels.

  • Antidepressants

    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.

  • Clonidine

    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 have access to therapy in detox; however, intensive therapy does not usually begin until the user has stabilized and has transitioned to either inpatient rehab or outpatient.  Treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy can immediately address issues like depression, whereas it can take weeks for some medications to have an effect. Therapists assist the client to adjust to life without steroids. Life skills and relapse prevention are primarily learned after detox when the individual is more stable, less distracted by withdrawal symptoms, and can obtain the new knowledge and skills.

A good therapist seeks to understand the client by asking questions, such as what is their motivation for use. 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 health conditions 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” but is more properly called body dysmorphic disorder or muscle dysmorphia. This is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder. These young men feel pressure to use steroids because they believe their muscle size is inadequate. Counselors help teach recovering steroid users learn healthy coping skills, improve their self-esteem, and feel better 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, continue going to work or school, and care for children. Different outpatient treatment programs meet the different needs of different clients, and some are more intensive than others. Most outpatient programs require participants to meet two or more times per week for at least a few hours each session. Outpatient treatment typically involves group therapy, individual therapy, and family therapy.

Outpatient therapy is often used as an aftercare or step-down program after inpatient treatment. It assists the client transition back into daily life and maintain their recovery. Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment doesn’t include supervised medical care. However, often case managers are often available for referrals. One must have a behavioral health professional complete a substance abuse and mental health evaluation to order to determine that outpatient care is the right choice for that client.

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

  • Continuing therapy

    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.

  • Taking medications

    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.

  • Avoiding triggers

    Triggers are people, places and things that a person associated 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.

- Paul Solotaroff, Men’s Journal, 2010

The first step toward recovering from a steroid addiction is determining what kind of treatment fits your specific needs. Contact a treatment provider today to learn about available options.



Jeffrey Juergens

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  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

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  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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