Anabolic Steroid Abuse Info and Facts
Steroid abuse, this subject has hit the air-waves more than once in the past few years. Anabolic steroids are synthetic or artificial by-products that mimic the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone. These drugs can be legally prescribed for those suffering from hormone deficiency for example, delayed puberty and diseases that have resulted in loss of lean muscle mass like cancer and AIDS.
There is a difference in abusing steroids compared to other illegal drugs concerning brain function. Steroids don’t trigger high doses of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for the ‘euphoric high’ that’s associated with other drug abuse. Long term use of steroids can eventually impact brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which does affect moods and behavior in very significant ways.
Are steroids addictive?
Abusers may become addicted to steroids; evidence to back up this theory is their continued abuse in spite of the physical problems and negative effects socially. Abusers for the most part, spend very large amounts of money and time getting these drugs. This is also a sign that they may be addicted.
Some abusers have been known to turn to other drugs to help relieve some of the negative effects that are associated with abusing steroids. In 1999, a study was done on steroid abuse and 227 men were admitted to a treatment center for their dependence of heroin and other opoids. 9.3 percent had abused anabolic steroids before trying any other illicit drug. 86 percent of those, used opoids in hopes to counteract the insomnia and irritability symptoms they had while abusing steroids.
There are also withdrawal symptoms associated with steroid abuse when the individual stops taking them. Symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased sex drive
- Steroid cravings
There is one more withdrawal symptom that is very dangerous, depression. Depression sometimes can lead to suicide attempts. Symptoms of depression associated with steroid withdrawal have been known to last for a year or more after the abuser stops taking steroids if left untreated. That’s why counseling and treatment are extremely necessary in some cases.
Studies that have been done show that steroids may contribute to psychiatric dysfunction, may lead to aggression and other adverse effects. Many steroid users said they feel good about themselves while on anabolic steroids but extreme mood swings can also occur including manic-like symptoms that can lead to violence, also referred to as ‘Roid Rage’. Many individuals have suffered from jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions and poor judgment due to feeling invincible while abusing steroids. They feel they are larger than life at times.
Health Problems Associated With Steroid Abuse
Abusing steroids can lead to very serious health problems, some are even irreversible. Some of the health problems are even very dangerous; hor example:
- Liver damage
- Fluid retention
- High blood pressure
- Increased bad cholesterol
- Decreased good cholesterol
Other effects are renal failure, severe acne and trembling. Individuals that inject steroids run the added risk of contracting or transmitting HIV or hepatitis that causes very serious liver damage. Some of the other effects from abusing steroids are gender and age related. Below is a breakdown of these effects.
- Men: Shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts and increased risk for prostate cancer.
- Women: Growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, menstrual cycle changes, enlarged clitoris and deepened voice.
- Adolescents: Stunted growth due to premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes, risk of not reaching expected height if anabolic steroids are taken before the typical adolescent growth spurt.
As you can see, steroid abuse is extremely dangerous.
Isn’t It Just Athletes That Abuse Steroids?
Before researching this article, I would have thought so. Along with the football player, baseball player, and weightlifter who may take steroids, there are others too. White and blue collar workers, females and surprisingly adolescents are taking steroids. The reasons are to hopefully look, perform and feel better. The dangers in using steroids don’t seem to matter.
You see, anabolic steroids are designed to mimic the body-building traits of testosterone. Most males that are healthy produce less than 10 milligrams of testosterone a day. Females produce testosterone also but in very small amounts. Some athletes may use up to hundreds of milligrams a day which far exceeds the normally prescribed daily dose for legitimate medical purposes. Steroids don’t improve agility, skill or cardiovascular capacity.
Many bodybuilders, athletes and fitness buffs that abuse steroids claim that they use them because it gives them a competitive advantage and helps to improve their physical performance. There are also individuals in occupations that require physical strength such as body guards, construction workers and law enforcement officers that have been known to take these drugs.
How Does An Individual Get Steroids?
Doctors sometimes prescribe steroids to their patients for very legitimate medical reasons as stated above. Veterinarians administer steroids to animals (cats, cattle, dogs and horses), for legitimate reason such as promoting feed efficiency and to improve weight gain, vigor and hair coat. Veterinarians also use steroids to treat anemia and counteract tissue breakdown during illness and trauma.
There are several ways an individual can get steroids for illegal purposes. The most common illegal source is from smuggling steroids into the United States from other countries such as Mexico and European countries. It is much easier from these areas because they don’t require a prescription for the purchase of steroids. Steroids that are found in the illicit market are also diverted from legitimate sources from thefts and inappropriate prescribing or produced in clandestine laboratories.
Are There Treatment Options Available For Steroid Abuse?
There has been very little research on treatment for steroid abuse. Counseling, supportive therapy combined with education is sometimes necessary in treating steroid abuse. Sometimes medications can be used to restore the balance of the hormonal system after it’s been disrupted by steroid abuse. If the symptoms are severe or prolonged, symptomatic medications or even hospitalization may be needed.
Remember that depression is a major effect of steroid abuse. If an individual has abused steroids for a prolonged period of time, it is safer to have medical attention and counseling while stopping the use. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe where depression is concerned and can lead to suicide. If you have questions or concerns about steroid abuse, call our toll free Addiction Helpline for assistance, 1-800-559-9503.