Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal and Detox

Steroids share withdrawal symptoms, like headaches and muscle pain, with many other addictive substances. The most dangerous withdrawal symptom is depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.

What is Steroid Withdrawal?

Man with headache
Headaches are a common symptom of withdrawal.

People addicted to anabolic steroids may experience withdrawal when they stop taking the drugs. This happens because of the hormonal imbalance caused by steroid abuse.

Steroids mimic the male sex hormone testosterone. The bodies of steroid users become used to having an increased level of testosterone. While someone is taking steroids, their body attempts to adjust the levels of testosterone to normal. It does this by decreasing its own production of testosterone.

The withdrawal symptoms from steroids are a result of low levels of natural testosterone in the body. These symptoms persist until the body can restore its normal production of testosterone.

Although the physical effects of withdrawal are rarely dangerous, many users go into major depressive episodes and have suicidal thoughts.

Those who are coming off steroids suddenly should be carefully monitored for suicidal behavior. People with a history of depression should consider checking into inpatient rehab for treatment where doctors can prescribe medications to lessen withdrawal symptoms.

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Withdrawal Symptoms

Anabolic steroids can produce effects such as increased energy, libido, concentration and a sense of confidence. However, the withdrawal symptoms of steroids are essentially the opposite of the drug’s effects.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal Duration

The duration of withdrawal symptoms from steroids varies from user to user. Two factors that increase the length of withdrawal are the dosages and frequency of use. Those who take higher doses of steroids for a longer period of time usually have a longer duration of withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from several days to two weeks.

Other factors that impact the duration of withdrawal are the types of steroids the user was taking. Not all steroids are created equally—some stay in the user’s system longer. Steroids that stay in the body longer take longer to leave the body.

The time over which a steroid stays in a user’s body is known as the drug’s half-life. It takes longer to withdraw from steroids with longer half-lives. The half-lives of some commonly abused steroids include:

  • Equipoise (veterinary steroid) – 14 days
  • Deca-durabolin – 14 days
  • Durabolin – 4.5 days
  • Winstrol – 24 hours
  • Anavar – 9 hours
  • Anadrol-50 – 9 hours
  • Dianabol – 6 hours
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    Withdrawal Timeline

    Days 1-2The first symptoms of withdrawal begin at some point within five days of the user’s last dose, depending on the half-life of the steroid. Symptoms start faintly and may include irritability, headache and nausea.
    Days 3-5Once withdrawal symptoms start ramping up, former steroid users experience decreased energy and alertness. Psychological symptoms like depression and anxiety also start getting worse during this time.
    Days 6-7Withdrawal symptoms often peak the second week after the user’s last dose of steroids. Abdominal pains, nausea and weight loss are common. Steroid users may also reach the height of a depressive episode and struggle with insomnia.
    Week 2Minor withdrawal symptoms may persist after the second week of quitting steroids, but these symptoms pale in comparison to the previous week. Soon, withdrawal symptoms fade out completely.
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    Anabolic Steroid Detox

    Steroid detox is the process of the drugs leaving the body. Getting steroids out of a user’s body is the first step toward recovering from an addiction to these drugs.

    When you completely stop [taking steroids], you might find yourself prone to mood swings, sleeplessness. And then, I found myself emotionally sensitive. But it only lasted about two weeks. And then it was sort of back to normal.

    - Former bodybuilder Eugene Robinson, NPR, 2014

    A doctor-assisted detox is recommended for people who heavily abused steroids. Doctors can prescribe medications during detox to lessen withdrawal symptoms. Some drugs can help restore normal hormonal balances in steroid users. Doctors may also prescribe medication for pain and depression.

    Doctors may recommend a tapering down strategy as part of detox for those who used extremely high doses of steroids. Tapering down allows users to gradually reduce their dose over time to prevent a drastic shift in their hormone balance.

    Treatment for Withdrawal Symptoms

    People who have experienced steroid withdrawal should seek treatment to prevent any negative outcomes. There are inpatient and outpatient rehabs that can guide users safely through withdrawal.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy is also an effective treatment for those overcoming an addiction to steroids. This type of therapy targets the underlying reasons for steroid use, such as body image issues and depression. If an underlying problem goes untreated, a relapse into steroid use is more likely. Contact us now to find treatment for steroid withdrawal.

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