People abuse steroids to look more fit, build muscle faster, and enhance athletic abilities. However, these people can also become addicted to steroids, making it difficult for them to quit on their own.
Anabolic steroids are found in pill form and as injectable liquids and topical gels or creams. Street names for steroids include juice, stackers, and roids. Some of the most common brands of steroids include the following:
Some steroid users have also been known to use veterinary steroids, like Equipoise for horses, because these drugs are often cheaper, more accessible, and produce comparable results.
What Are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic drugs that stimulate the male sex hormone testosterone. They activate components of DNA in muscle cells that increase the production of proteins that build muscle fibers and tissue. This action can result in increased muscle growth and body mass in a brief period of time. These elements also increase bone minerals and affect the function of the immune, reproductive, and central nervous systems and many organs.
Anabolic steroids can be obtained with a prescription and have important medical purposes. Doctors may prescribe anabolic steroids to treat a myriad of medical conditions, including delayed puberty and hormone imbalances in men and muscle loss due to disease, among others.
Anabolic steroids alter the way in which the body builds muscle. During exercise, people incur small tears in their muscles, and when these heal, the muscle tissue becomes stronger than it was before. Anabolic steroids hasten the healing process, and this helps people exercise harder, more frequently and with greater results.
Any use of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription, beyond its application or intended purpose, or in doses higher or more frequently than prescribed, is considered to be abuse, and is illegal. Those who abuse anabolic steroids often take much higher doses than would normally be prescribed, perhaps up to 100 times higher.
Some people who abuse anabolic steroids for a prolonged period eventually reach a high tolerance, leading to the use of multiple types of steroids simultaneously—also known as “stacking.” This pattern of use places individuals at a much greater risk of adverse anabolic steroid side effects and health complications.
People abuse anabolic steroids primarily to improve their physical appearance and athletic performance. For example, some athletes and bodybuilders use steroids to gain a competitive edge and get bigger, feel stronger, and increase confidence.
For many, the pressure to remain competitive is a significant factor in the decision to use steroids. However, many people who use steroids just want to improve their appearance. Contrary to common belief, most steroid users do not engage in competitive athletics, but primarily want to become leaner and increase muscle.
Methods of Steroid Abuse
There are three ways people commonly abuse anabolic steroids:
Stacking – taking multiple types of steroids at once or combining oral and injectable formulations.
Cycling – a process of taking multiple doses for several weeks, discontinuing use for several weeks, and then start using steroids again. Steroid abusers use off-cycles to allow time for the body to produce its own testosterone and reduce damage to internal organs.
Pyramiding – a method of using steroids during a cycle. The cycle begins with a low dose which gradually increases to a maximum dose in the middle of the cycle. In the second half of the cycle, the user tapers down their dose.
Anabolic Steroid Addiction
Anabolic steroids are either prescribed to or illegally obtained by people who want to become stronger and build muscle mass in a relatively short amount of time, often contributing to increased confidence and self-esteem. There are more than 100 types of anabolic steroids, but only a fraction of them have been approved for medical use. Although steroids don’t induce euphoria or a “high” like most other addictive substances, those who routinely abuse these drugs are still at risk of developing an addiction.
The addictive potential of anabolic steroids is often related to the obsessive and compulsive behavior that a person may engage in to improve their physical appearance and strength in a short period of time. Just like a person who is trying to lose weight can become psychologically addicted to diet pills, a person who is using steroids may continue to do so for fear of losing muscular gains or not making new ones.
People with a history of substance use disorders and mental health conditions may be at a higher risk of abusing anabolic steroids. This is especially true of those who suffer from body dysmorphia, a condition in which the person has an irrational obsession with the appearance of one’s body (or a part of one’s body) and focuses on a flaw that others may not perceive as such.
People who use steroids may also develop a tolerance and experience withdrawal symptoms, including low sex drive, loss of appetite, mood swings, depression, fatigue, and insomnia, when they discontinue use. Withdrawal symptoms such as these are a hallmark sign of dependence and addiction.
Other signs of addiction include the following:
- Spending a significant amount of time and money obtaining and using steroids
- Neglecting responsibilities at home or work
- Continuing to use steroids despite side effects such as hair loss
- Having persistent conflicts with friends and family
- Experiencing severe depression due to withdrawal
People who use steroids for an extended period of time disrupt the natural hormonal balance in their bodies. When a person dependent on steroids abruptly stops using the drugs, they can become depressed and even suicidal due to these hormonal imbalances.
For this reason, a person looking to quit steroid use should seek help. In treatment for steroid addiction, health providers can prescribe medications to restore a healthy hormonal balance and reduce symptoms of depression. Although rare, people who use large amounts of anabolic steroids may overdose, which can lead to coma, heart attack, and stroke.
Dangerous Drug Combinations
Anabolic steroids can mitigate the pleasurable effects of certain drugs. The diminished high of other substances that results from steroid use may compel some users to consume higher amounts of those substances than they normally would. This behavior significantly increases the risk of overdose.
Other drugs commonly abused by anabolic steroid users include:
- MDMA (ecstasy)
Steroid users who abuse other drugs often choose stimulants such as cocaine and Adderall for boosts of energy and decreased appetite. Unfortunately, mixing stimulants and steroids increases aggressive tendencies and puts stress on the heart.
Heavy alcohol consumption while using steroids can also lead to extreme aggression. Using these substances in conjunction may have a long-term effect on behavior and can exacerbate an addiction. People who abuse alcohol and steroids simultaneously are also more likely to commit violent crimes.
Furthermore, some people accidentally become addicted to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate away undesirable anabolic steroid side effects, such as insomnia and aggression. A study of men who suffered from heroin addiction found that 9% started taking the drug as a result of their steroid use.
Getting Help for Addiction
Many people don’t realize that steroids have properties that can drive addictive behaviors and can be hard to quit without professional help. In fact, just like with other drugs, many steroid users who attempt to quit on their own relapse.
For this reason, all persons who suffer from an addiction to substances are encouraged to undergo comprehensive treatment that includes evidence-based services vital to the recovery process, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, peer support, and aftercare planning. Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers these services to patients in both partial-hospitalization and outpatient formats.
If you are suffering from an addiction to steroids or other substance(s), help is available. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options!