Anabolic Steroid Addiction - Are Steroids Addictive?

Anabolic Steroid Addiction Treatment

It hasn’t been determined what percentage of steroid users may develop a steroid use disorder.

However, substance use disorders are described as continued use of the substance despite harmful consequences. And for steroid users, these may include physical or psychological problems.

Are Steroids Addictive?

steroid addiction

Anabolic steroid users might also give up previously important activities for fear of missing workouts, violating dietary restrictions, or being prevented from using steroids. Steroid users also usually spend large amounts of time and money purchasing the drugs and they may try to stop or reduce their use without success. This may be due to depression, anxiety about losing muscle mass, or other unpleasant effects of withdrawal.

These are all symptoms of addiction. So yes, steroids can be addictive for some people.

What Are Steroids?

Bodybuilders, athletes, and some young people may use steroids illegally to enhance their athletic performance or appearance. The types of steroids used for these purposes are usually anabolic steroids. These are a group of stimulant drugs that include the male sex hormone testosterone and its synthetic substitutes. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for developing sex characteristics. It is found in large amounts in males and small amounts in females.

Steroids are a group of compounds produced by the bodies of all animals, including humans. They occur naturally or can be synthetically produced. Different groups of steroids include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Androgenic steroids
  • Oestrogenic steroids
  • Anti-inflammatory steroids

Steroids may be prescribed by a physician to treat some illnesses such as:

  • Testosterone deficiency
  • Certain kinds of anemia
  • Some types of breast cancer
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Muscle-wasting conditions such as muscle atrophy

When Did Steroid Use Start?

The use of steroids began with bodybuilders and weightlifters in the late 1950s and has since spread to other sports. Many drugs, including steroids, have been banned from sporting competitions to protect the health of athletes and to ensure fair competition

Steroid Addiction Risks

For young people, the risks of steroid use are particularly high. If steroids are used while a person is still growing, they can cause several problems including stunted growth. There is also the risk of transmitting HIV and other bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B and C due to unsafe injecting practices. Injection can also cause damage to the muscles, scarring, and infection at the injection site.

Although the side effects of steroid use are reversible in men, it isn’t necessarily true for women. Side effects for women are more likely to be permanent. Many steroids are made illegally and may contain harmful, unknown substances that may increase the side effects.  Frequently, black-market steroids are made for animals and some might not contain any anabolic steroids at all.

Health Effects of Using Steroids

Anabolic androgenic steroids have two types of effects. Anabolic effects include increased muscle growth. The androgenic component increases the body’s male characteristics. For our purposes here, the word steroid refers to anabolic and androgenic steroids.

Using steroids can cause many negative psychological and physical side effects. Some of these effects can’t be reversed and some may lead to death. The effects vary from person to person depending on:

  • Physical size
  • Gender
  • Diet
  • Exercise level
  • Age
  • General health
  • Purity
  • Amount used
  • Whether used by injection or orally
  • Shrinking testicles
  • Impotence
  • Testicular cysts
  • Lower sperm count
  • Hair loss
  • Pain when urinating
  • Breast development
  • Decreased production of testosterone
  • Facial hair growth
  • Menstrual cycle changes (it may stop)
  • Clitoris enlargement
  • Deepened voice
  • Decreased breast size
  • Hair growth on the back and bottom
  • Infertility

Steroids and Pregnancy

Most drugs can affect an unborn child. The use of anabolic androgenic steroids is definitely not recommended if you’re pregnant or considering pregnancy. Women are less likely to become pregnant if using anabolic androgenic steroids, and if they are already pregnant, these steroids can cause the development of male secondary sex characteristics in a female fetus.

  • Acne
  • Bloating
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Cancer
  • Increased risk of injury
  • High cholesterol
  • Decreased immune function
  • Increased strength and muscle size
  • Damage to the heart and kidneys
  • Insomnia
  • Urinary tract infections

side effects of steroids

How Do Steroids Affect You Mentally?

Anabolic steroids act at the androgen receptors in your brain to affect gene expression and cellular functioning. Along with regulating the pathways involved in developing male characteristics, the activation of androgen receptors also produces a rapid increase in calcium levels in skeletal muscle, heart, and brain cells.

Research has shown that anabolic steroids also interact with certain other receptors that can explain the increased anxiety reported by steroid users. Furthermore, animal studies show that steroids increase serotonin levels in the areas of the brain associated with mood, and dopamine levels in the reward-related regions.

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that plays an important part in many body functions. Levels that are too high or too low can cause physical and mental health problems. Dopamine plays a part in how we feel pleasure. Too much or too little of this chemical messenger can lead to many health issues including Parkinson’s disease.

In people who have a susceptibility to mental health problems, steroid use can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Social and emotional problems
  • Problems with relationships with family and friends

Many people who use steroids often report that they experience:

  • Mood changes
  • Increased aggressiveness (roid rage)
  • Violent behavior
  • Frustration
  • Anger, irrational behavior
  • Dependence or addiction

Why Are Steroids Addictive?

A study was done to test the damage that steroids have on the brain. The researchers found psychological and physical dependence and pleasure. People form a delusional dependence on the chemical injection. In most cases, the use of a drug promises to produce a euphoric, or “high” experience.

But for steroid users, there may be feelings of guilt and grief when they stop using the drug. They often will feel distressed as their muscle mass converts to fat after use and they will experience joint pains and spasms.

Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal

This means that more of the drug is needed to achieve the same effects as previously with smaller amounts.

Individuals who use steroids may become dependent and keep using them in spite of the health risks and side effects. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the criteria for steroid dependence include:

  • Tolerance for the drug has developed
  • Withdrawal symptoms when stopping or reducing use
  • Using steroids to relieve or prevent withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance for the drug has developed
  • Consistently decreasing the length of steroid “off periods” or stopping them completely
  • Lack of ability to decrease or quit using steroids because of the anxiety caused by muscle size decrease
  • Spending a significant amount of time acquiring and using steroids, along with doing muscle-related things such as diet planning and weight lifting.
  • Giving up pleasant hobbies to take part in muscle-related activities and steroid use
  • Continuing to use steroids in spite of physical or mental health problems

Withdrawal from steroids happens when a person has developed a dependence. When a person stops using the drugs, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. The most dangerous symptom is depression because it may lead to suicide attempts. Reports indicate that some people experience:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings
  • Deceased sexual drive
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle pain
  • Anorexia

Treatment for Anabolic Steroid Addiction

are steroids addictive

Most of the time, people who use steroids do not get treatment for their use. One study reported that 56% of users had never told their doctor about their use. Also, many internet sites devoted to anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs question the professionalism of healthcare providers and provide their own medically questionable advice on their use.

Underlying Causes

Currently, it is recommended that the treatment for steroid use address the underlying causes of steroid use through forms of therapy. This may include:

Treatment Programs for Steroid Addiction

When an individual has a substance addiction and a co-occurring mental issue, it is called a dual diagnosis. As mentioned, many steroid users suffer from muscle dysmorphia or depression, or both. Treatment that specializes in treating both disorders simultaneously is necessary to help prevent relapse

In a residential program, the individual lives at the treatment facility. This provides a safe place to go through the withdrawal process away from people and environments that may trigger a relapse.

In an outpatient program, the person can live at home and attend treatment sessions at the facility. There are different levels of outpatient treatment designed to be appropriate for different levels of addiction and individual needs.

Get Off the Steroid Cycle at Northern Illinois Recovery Center

anabolic steroid addiction

You try to quit but your mind just won’t let you. Your body is showing some negative side effects, but the thought of losing the muscle you worked for is too much to take. You need more and more steroids to feel the same power. You don’t have to live like this. Northern Illinois Recovery Center in Crystal Lake, IL has the experienced staff and the programs to help you regain your health and your authentic sense of self.

To begin with, our medical detox can help you clear the steroids from your system safely and comfortably as possible. Most people relapse before completing detox on their own. With us, you can get clean without the triggers and temptations.

After further assessment, you may need our dual diagnosis program. This type of program is not offered at all treatment centers and it is a necessity for people with substance abuse and mental disorders (such as steroid addiction and muscle dysmorphia). We also have three levels of outpatient programs. Our top level is the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). This level is the same as a residential program except you go home at the end of the day.

In addition, we have specific programs such as:

No matter what your needs or concerns are, we have a safe place for you to recover. For yourself or someone you love, contact us today.

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