Anabolic steroid abuse refers to the misuse of anabolic steroids, which are substances that play a key role in the development and maintenance of masculine characteristics, such as muscle mass and strength, sexual drive, aggression, and body hair. These substances occur naturally in the body, but they can also be artificially produced in labs for medical purposes.

When doctors prescribe anabolic steroids, they are usually for people who have delayed puberty or muscle loss due to diseases like cancer and AIDS. However, some people misuse anabolic steroids to increase their muscle mass and/or improve their athletic performance. When used in this non-medical context, it is considered abuse.

Anabolic steroid abuse

Abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to several risks and harmful side effects, including changes in blood lipid profile, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, liver damage, psychological effects like aggression and extreme mood swings, formation of acne, and in men, shrinking of the testicles and breast development. In younger people, it can cause stunted growth.

It’s important to remember that non-medical use of anabolic steroids is illegal in many countries, including the US, due to their potential for abuse and harmful health effects. These substances are also banned by many sports organizations.

Causes of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic steroid abuse can be caused by various factors:

1. Performance Enhancement: This is the most common reason for anabolic steroid abuse, especially among athletes and bodybuilders. Steroids are believed to increase muscle mass, strength, and endurance, allowing for improved athletic performance.

2. Body Image Issues: Some people may abuse steroids to improve their physical appearance. They are often used for muscle growth, to reduce body fat, and to achieve a more muscular, toned look. This is common among both males and females and is often driven by societal pressure to look a certain way.

3. Aging: Some people, particularly men who feel they are losing their edge as they age, may use steroids in an attempt to feel younger and more energetic. This usage is often not medically supervised, leading to abuse.

4. Peer Pressure: In some circles, particularly those centered around certain sports or physical activities, steroid use may be normalized or even encouraged. This can create pressure to use these substances, leading to abuse.

5. Mental Health Problems: Certain mental health conditions, particularly ones characterized by obsessive behaviors or poor self-esteem, may predispose individuals to steroid abuse. For example, people with body dysmorphic disorder, an obsession with perceived defects in appearance, may turn to steroids in an attempt to “fix” their bodies.

In each of these cases, it’s essential to remember that steroid abuse can lead to severe health consequences and it is crucial to seek professional advice before starting any kind of steroid use.

Risk Factors of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic steroid abuse comes with a number of potential risk factors and health issues, both physical and mental, including:

1. Cardiovascular Problems: Steroid abuse can lead to heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. They increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels while reducing HDL (good cholesterol) levels, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis.

2. Liver Damage: Oral anabolic steroids can be harmful to the liver, potentially causing illnesses such as hepatitis or even liver cancer.

3. Hormonal Imbalance: Steroids mimic the male hormone, testosterone. Overuse can lead to hormonal imbalance with issues such as infertility, impotence, breast development in men, and significant reduction in sperm production.

4. Psychological Problems: Abuse can lead to mood swings, aggression, hallucinations, feelings of invincibility, and other psychological effects.

5. Physical Changes: It can also lead to severe acne, thinning of hair or baldness, fluid retention, and abnormal breast growth in men. In women, it could cause a deeper voice, an enlarged clitoris and growth of facial hair.

6. Violent Behavior: Anabolic steroids can cause increased aggression and violent behavior, often referred to as “‘Roid Rage”.

7. Addiction: Abuse can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon stopping, including fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings.

8. Growth Issues: For adolescents, steroid use can halt bone growth prematurely, leading to stunted height.

9. Kidney Issues: Anabolic steroid abuse can affect kidney function, with potential long-term kidney damage and disease.

10. Increased Risk of Blood-borne Diseases: For those who inject anabolic steroids, there is increased risk of HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis if sharing needles.

These risks highlight the importance of never using anabolic steroids without a prescription from a healthcare provider. Misuse of these drugs can lead to serious and even life-threatening health problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic steroid abuse can have discernible effects on the body and behavior. Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person is abusing anabolic steroids:

Physical signs:

1. Rapid muscle gain: The most notable effect of anabolic steroid use is a sudden increase in muscle mass.

2. Physical changes: These can include hair loss, breast development in males (gynecomastia), increased facial and body hair in females, for instance.

3. Skin changes: There can be acne on the face, back, and chest. The skin may also appear more oily than usual.

4. Fluid retention: Swelling in different parts of the body due to fluid retention is another sign.

5. Increased appetite and weight gain.

6. Changes in body build, with emphasis on upper body, and increases in muscle size and strength.

Behavioral signs:

1. Mood swings: Drastic changes in moods, particularly an increase in aggression and anger, termed “roid rage.”

2. Paranoia: Unfounded suspicions or mistrust of others.

3. Manic behavior: Periods of extremely energetic (hyper) activity or feelings of exhilaration.

4. Rapid and unexplained emotional changes.

Health effects:

1. Heart problems: This can include an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

2. Liver diseases: There’s a higher risk of developing liver damage or cancer.

3. Kidney problems or failure.

4. High blood pressure.

5. Changes in cholesterol levels: Particularly an increase in LDL (bad cholesterol) and a decrease in HDL (good cholesterol).

6. Problems in sexual health: For men – testicle shrinkage, infertility, erectile dysfunction, prostate enlargement. For women – menstrual irregularities, development of masculine features, reduced breast size, deepened voice.

These symptoms can vary depending on the duration of use, the type, and the dose of steroids being abused. If one or more of these symptoms are noticed, immediate medical help must be sought. It should be noted that anabolic steroids should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Misuse can lead to serious health consequences.

Diagnosis Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic steroid abuse refers to the misuse or overuse of anabolic steroids, which are a type of synthetic substance related to male sex hormones. These substances are used medically to treat a number of conditions including delayed puberty, certain types of impotence, as well as muscle loss caused by some diseases.

However some people, often athletes and bodybuilders, abuse these substances in an attempt to enhance their physical abilities or appearance. This abuse can lead to serious health issues including heart disease, liver damage, mood swings, impaired judgment, and even potentially cancer.

Diagnosing anabolic steroid abuse involves a combination of behavioral signs, physical symptoms, and sometimes laboratory tests. Some of the signs may include rapid muscle gain, mood swings, increasingly aggressive or combative behavior, acne, an enlarged clitoris in women or shrinking testicles in men, and the presence of numerous needle marks on the skin. Lab tests may be used to confirm the presence of high levels of testosterone or other steroids in the blood, which is not typical except in those abusing these substances.

Misuse of these substances can become an addiction requiring professional help to overcome. Treatment often involves a combination of counseling, medication to manage withdrawal symptoms, and ongoing support to help the person overcome the abuse and avoid future misuse.

Treatment of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Treatment for anabolic steroid abuse typically involves a combination of methods, including medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and ongoing support.

1. Professional Help and Counseling: Counseling, both individually and in groups, provides emotional support and creates a platform where users can discuss their struggles with professionals who understand their issues. Here, therapy might include techniques for managing triggers and coping with cravings.

2. Detoxification and Withdrawal: This is the initial stage of treatment where the body is allowed to rid itself of the substance. Medical professionals often supervise this process because withdrawal from steroids can be uncomfortable or potentially harmful. A medically supervised detox can ensure patient safety and comfort.

3. Medication: Medically assisted treatment can be used to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Specific medications like antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, or medications to help restore the body’s hormonal balance could be used.

4. Behavioral Therapies: Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be useful in helping users to recognize and change negative behaviors and thought patterns which might lead to drug use. Motivational interviewing and contingency management are also other treatment approaches to change behavior.

5. Support Groups: It can be helpful for people struggling with abuse to find community with others who have been through similar experiences. Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous can offer this sense of community and support.

6. Healthy Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and good sleep habits can be crucial parts of recovery.

7. Rehabilitation programs: Inpatient or outpatient rehab programs that offer a mix of therapies and services are very effective for treatment.

Each person is unique and the treatment plan can be tailored to fit their individual needs. The overall goal is to stop steroid use and to help manage withdrawal symptoms while also treating any other mental health conditions that may be present. It’s important to reach out to medical providers and follow their guidance for treatment and recovery.

Medications commonly used for Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic steroid abuse can lead to a range of negative health impacts, including liver damage, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and psychiatric disorders. When trying to treat anabolic steroid abuse, the focus often lies on managing withdrawal symptoms and preventing relapse.

Since anabolic steroid withdrawal can lead to mood disorders and depression, sometimes antidepressants are used. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), such as fluoxetine, and other types of antidepressants like amitriptyline may be prescribed to help manage depressive symptoms.

Counseling and behavior therapies can address the underlying desires to use these substances and reduce the likelihood of relapse. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used to help the individual recognize and change negative behavior patterns.

For physical issues related to withdrawal, like fatigue or discomfort, physicians may use medications designed to help ease these symptoms. Medications like clonidine or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to treat high blood pressure or pain, respectively.

Since anabolic steroid use can mess with the body’s hormonal balance, hormone therapy may be required. This therapy tries to restore the hormone balance in the body that was disrupted by the use of steroids.

Please note that medication and therapy strategies should be individualized, under the supervision of a healthcare provider, taking into account the person’s health history, the specific substances abused, the presence of co-occurring mental or physical disorders, and other factors.

In any case of suspected anabolic steroid abuse, it is strongly recommended to seek help from a healthcare professional. Relapses are common, so long-term follow-up care is beneficial.

Prevention of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Preventing anabolic steroid abuse involves several measures that are both educational and practical. Here are several methods to curtail their misuse:

1. Education: The first step is to educate people, particularly adolescents and young adults, about the harmful effects of these drugs on their body and mind. This could be done through school-based programs, sports-based initiatives, and public awareness campaigns.

2. Parental and Coach Involvement: Parents and coaches play a crucial role in preventing steroid abuse. They should be educated about the signs of steroid use and abuse so they can intervene and guide their children or athletes properly.

Anabolic steroid abuse

3. Drug Testing: Regular and random drug testing in sports can deter athletes from taking steroids. The fear of being caught can be a powerful deterrent.

4. Counseling: If an individual is already involved in steroid abuse, counseling can help them understand the effects and the possible means to stop it. Therapists, social workers, and addiction specialists can provide help.

5. Legislation and Enforcement: Strict laws and enforcement can also prevent steroid abuse. This includes penalties for possession, sale, and use of steroids without a valid prescription.

6. Perfecting Athletic Skills: Emphasizing the importance of discipline, hard work, healthy diet, and regular exercise to enhance performance can minimize the temptation of using performance-enhancing drugs.

7. Access to Recovery Resources: Provide information and access to resources for steroid abuse recovery. This can include hotlines, treatment centers, and support groups.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure, and it’s essential to keep communication open about the risks associated with steroid abuse.

FAQ’s about Anabolic Steroid Abuse

1: What are anabolic steroids?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances similar to the male hormone testosterone. They are used legally to treat certain hormone imbalances, delayed puberty, or muscle loss. However, they are often abused to increase muscle mass and enhance performance.

2: What are the health risks associated with anabolic steroid abuse?
Using anabolic steroids in a non-medical context can lead to a variety of health issues including but not limited to heart diseases, liver damage, kidney problems, increased aggression or hostility, mood swings, mania, delusions, and high blood pressure.

3: Who abuses anabolic steroids?
While anyone can misuse these drugs, they’re most commonly abused by athletes or individuals who wish to improve their physical appearance. This includes people of all ages but is most prevalent in the young adult population.

4: How do people abuse anabolic steroids?
Some people abuse anabolic steroids by taking them orally or injecting them into the muscles. Frequency of use varies, with some users ‘stacking’ multiple types of steroids, others ‘pyramiding’ their doses by slowly increasing, then decreasing intake, and others ‘cycling’ through periods of use and abstinence.

5: How can anabolic steroid abuse be recognized?
Signs of abuse can include rapid muscle gain, excessive focus on physical performance, increased aggression, and changes in body composition. Medical tests can also detect steroid use, and users may have paraphernalia like needles or pill bottles.

6: Is anabolic steroid abuse addictive?
Yes, anabolic steroid abuse can create a pattern of addiction similar to other drugs. Withdrawal symptoms may include mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and cravings for the drugs.

7: What treatments are available for anabolic steroid abuse?
Treatment often involves behavioral therapy to address why somebody embarked on steroid use, and to help them learn healthier ways of dealing with these issues. For those experiencing an addiction, formal substance abuse treatment may be required.

8: Are anabolic steroids illegal?
In many countries, including the US, anabolic steroids are a controlled substance. Possession, sale, or usage without a medical prescription is illegal and can lead to criminal charges.

Useful links

Anabolic steroid abuse is the use of synthetic variants of the male sex hormone testosterone, often in far greater amounts than the human body can naturally produce. This abuse can lead to a variety of negative health effects, both physical and psychological.

The following journal links provide valuable information on anabolic steroid abuse:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32113828/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2264527/

Remember that while these links can provide important information, they should not replace a professional opinion or advice, especially from a healthcare provider. If you suspect someone is abusing anabolic steroids, getting professional help is crucial.

Complications of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Anabolic steroid abuse can lead to a myriad of complications affecting several systems within the body. It’s crucial to understand that each individual might experience different effects, and these are usually influenced by factors such as the dosage used, duration of use, and individual’s genetic makeup. Here are the primary complications:

1. Cardiovascular issues: Steroids can increase cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and induce structural changes in the heart, all factors that can potentially lead to heart disease and stroke.

2. Hormonal imbalances: Men who abuse steroids may develop gynecomastia (breast enlargement), testicular shrinkage, decreased sperm count, erectile dysfunction and even infertility. Women may experience a deepening of the voice, reductions in breast size, menstrual irregularities, and growth of body and facial hair, termed virilization.

3. Mental health issues: Anabolic steroids can affect the brain and lead to mood swings, sleep problems, aggressive behavior, feelings of paranoia, and depression.

4. Liver damage: Increased risk of developing liver cysts, tumors, and peliosis hepatis, where blood-filled cysts form in the liver, which can rupture, causing internal bleeding.

5. Kidney damage: High doses may cause extreme strain on the kidneys, potentially leading to kidney failure.

6. Skin conditions: High levels of steroids in the body can lead to acne and cysts.

7. Growth issues: In adolescents, steroid use can prematurely halt height and growth due to the premature closure of growth plates on long bones.

8. Infections: If steroids are injected, there’s a risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis if needles are shared.

9. Other side effects: Other potential side effects could include an increased risk of certain types of cancer and an overall change in body appearance, with higher muscle but also increased fat storage.

Long-term anabolic steroid use can lead to physical and psychological addiction. When stopping steroid use, withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, sleep problems, decreased sex drive, and cravings for the drug can occur, solidifying the addiction.

Please note that most professional sports bodies and a growing number of schools have banned anabolic androgenic steroids and consider their use cheating.

Home remedies of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

Abuse of anabolic steroids can have harmful effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. While it’s important to reach out to a health professional in case of steroid abuse, here are some general suggestions that might assist you while you seek professional help:

1. Gradual Reduction: One of the methods for coming off anabolic steroids is not to stop them abruptly. Instead, the person should gradually reduce the amount they’re using. This helps prevent withdrawal symptoms.

2. Physical Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce the side effects of steroids. Exercise can boost your mood and improve your sleep, both of which can be negatively affected by steroids.

3. Proper Nutrition: Eating a balanced, nutritious diet may help alleviate some symptoms associated with steroid withdrawal. This can support overall health and aid recovery from substance abuse.

4. Hydration: Drinking plenty of water also helps in flushing out the toxins from the body, thereby promoting overall health.

5. Limit Alcohol and Avoid Drugs: Both alcohol and other drugs can contribute to adverse effects when combined with steroids; hence they should be avoided.

6. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: It can be very helpful alongside medical treatment to cope with psychological symptoms due to steroid abuse like aggression and depression.

7. Social Support: Encouragement and support from friends and family can be incredibly helpful for someone trying to stop taking steroids.

Remember: it’s important to seek medical advice when trying to stop usage of anabolic steroids as it can result in serious health complications. This information provided is a general guideline to support, but does not replace the need for professional healthcare advice.

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Mental Health,

Last Update: January 11, 2024