Anabolic Steroid Abuse And Addiction
Steroids. A word, a drug—a concept even that many individuals across the United States may be familiar with, due in large part to this drug’s infamy within the sport’s world. The subject of great controversy, scandal, and careers that rose, then fell even more quickly due to the presence of this powerful and illicitly used drug, steroid abuse is something many may recognize but fail to truly understand, when it comes to the implications this drug may have in a person’s everyday life.
What Are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids have gained notoriety from their role in professional sports and body building, specifically in “doping” scandals. However, the use of the potent drug extends past this realm, as far too many across the nation abuse this drug in an attempt to increase their capabilities as an athlete or as a means to change their physical appearance. This abuse, witnessed in all ages, is not without great detriment.
This collective group of drugs are man made and are closely related to male sex hormone testosterone. The Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) notes that over 100 types of anabolic steroids exist, however, only a fraction of these drugs have been made available for medical purposes.
Though used heavily as an illicit drug, this drug does have a prescribed use in several medical applications, most notably to treat hormone imbalances in men, delayed-onset puberty, muscle deterioration attributed to various diseases, osteoporosis, and malnutrition, among others, as outlined by MedlinePlus and Medical News Today. It is important to note that this drug is different from another class of steroids, typically called corticosteroids, which are used in the medical field to treat various disorders, such as asthma, various skin conditions, among others.
This drug’s mechanism of action is exceedingly complex, as is its precursor, testosterone. In brief, anabolic steroids activate certain components of DNA within muscle cells, dictating the increased production of certain proteins, which are building blocks of muscle tissues and fibers, thus resulting in increased muscle growth and mass. In addition, the chemical components of these drugs work towards increasing bone mineral and also impact the function of several critical systems within the body, including the immune, reproductive, various organ, and central nervous systems.
Why Do People Abuse Anabolic Steroids?
Though anabolic steroids are generally abused more with men, abuse with women is on the rise, particularly in young women. At the core of this illicit use, anabolic steroids, known as “Roids” or “Juice,” are used as a performance-enhancing drugs, due to their ability to build muscle, hone athletic potential, and increase the competitive edge. Beyond this, however, these drugs may be abused in other, lesser known ways, including as a compound to alter a person’s outward appearance, most typically due to what CESAR terms are “distorted perceptions” regarding a person’s self image; a behavioral disorder termed muscle dysmorphia.
This may include dissatisfaction with a person’s body size, in terms of being either obese or underweight; their measure of perceived strength, or lack thereof; or other inaccurate perceptions of themselves. Sadly, in these cases, a person may see themselves as quite the opposite of what is true, for instance, believing that they are overweight and shapeless, when in reality, they are thin with good muscle tone.
The Endowment for Human Development (EHD) tells us that in other cases, an individual with a traumatic history of physical or sexual abuse may take these drugs in an attempt to boost their size, muscle mass, and strength, as a means to protect themselves. They also note that in high-school populations, individuals may choose to do these “as part of a pattern of high-risk behaviors.” They do note, however, that overall, research indicates that anabolic steroid abusers are “psychologically normal” at the onset of drug abuse.
How Are These Drugs Used Illicitly?
While prescription anabolic steroids are diverted and used illicitly, a predominant portion of these illicit versions actually stem from those that are smuggled in from outside of the U.S. or created in clandestine laboratories. When abused, anabolic steroids are most typically injected one of two ways, either intravenously (directly into the bloodstream) or intramuscularly (into the muscle). Beyond this, a person may choose to consume them orally, in a pill or gel tab form, or topically as a cream. Regardless of the method, used outside of a medical application, a person could be self-administering ten to 100 times the dose of what would typically be used in a prescribed setting.
Lastly, while these drugs may be used in one large, singular dose, CESAR notes several dangerous and complex patterns of taking them, elaborated by information sourced from the EHD and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). These include:
- Stacking — Stacking occurs when an individual, in an attempt to compound the effect, abuses two or more forms of the drug by two different means of administration (i.e. orally and intravenously).
- Pyramiding — This method most often occurs in cycles revolving around six to 12 week periods. Initially, an abuser may begin by stacking the drugs in smaller doses, before gradually increasing the amounts of the drugs, plateauing, then slowing decreasing the dosage.
- Cycling — Intense doses are followed by a drug-free cycle, before dosing is started again.
According to the EHD and NIDA, none of these methods have been backed by scientific research, nor do they decrease the risks.
What Are The Implications Of Abuse?
Developed to mimic a very critical and impactful human hormone, anabolic steroids may vastly change a user’s physical appearance, creating what can be many adverse and unwanted effects. Despite the fact these drugs are based off male hormones, a male taking these drugs illicitly will not necessarily be exempt from the detrimental effects of the drug abuse. In addition to physical and physiological changes, a person may experience unwanted and disruptive mental or emotional shifts. While the good news is that the majority of these ill effects are reversible when drug abuse ceases, some may be permanent or even deadly.
The following are ways that steroid abuse may incite changes or dangers with prolonged abuse:
Hormonal Impact — Men and women both may experienced decreased sexual functioning. Men may witness impotence, a decreased sperm count, testicular shrinkage, enlargement of their breasts (gynecomastia) and male-pattern baldness, the later two being irreversible, according to the EHD report.
Women may have changes in their menstrual cycle, and experience masculinization (developing male-like attributes), including, develop a larger clitoris and/or smaller breasts, a deepening voice, decreased body fat stores, their skin’s texture changes and becomes coarse, developing large amounts of body hair, and loosening hair on the head. If abuse becomes prolonged, some of these effects may be permanent.
Cardiovascular Concerns — Risk of blood clots, blood pressure, and cholesterol may rise, and the risk of various cardiovascular diseases may increase, including enlarged heart, stroke, and heart attack, even in athletes who are under 30.
Additional Organ Damage — May create liver tumors, disease, or cancer and kidney complications or failure.
Musculoskeletal Changes — Damage to muscles and connective tissues such as injury to tendons and ligaments. During adolescence, these drugs may cause a person’s bones to prematurely stop growing.
Mental Changes — May result in mood instability, including euphoria or bouts of aggression and violence, termed a “roid rage;” cognitive difficulty and confusion, delusions, paranoia and impaired judgement.
Other Risks — May cause various skin conditions, including cysts and acne; fluid retention, swollen extremities, insomnia, rapid weight gain, and various transmissible diseases from injection, including HIV/AIDS.
Are Anabolic Steroids Addictive?
Thought the exact number of addicted users, is “undetermined,” according to NIDA, addiction is “evidenced by their continued abuse despite physical problems and negative effects on social relations.” In addition, an abuser’s tendency to spend an excess of money and time to procure the drug and continued use despite detriment or adverse physical effects, also speaks of addiction. Lastly, withdrawal may occur if a person suddenly stops using, also supporting the drug’s potential for dependence and addiction. This may be marked by:
- Variable moods
- Suppressed appetite
- Becoming restless
- Decreased libido
As NIDA writes, the most severe symptom is depression, due to the fact these intense feelings may persist for a prolonged period of time after cessation (a year or more), creating risks of suicide.
Fortunately, through research on the subject is ongoing, treatment is possible, and as NIDA writes, certain behavioral therapies have shown promise. In addition, certain antidepressant drugs may help within medication-assisted treatment to alleviate any accompanying depression, while other drugs may help to re-establish the hormonal equilibrium.
Don’t Let Your Pursuit For A “Better” Life Ruin Your Life
Anabolic steroid’s promises may be deceiving. Instead of creating a “new you,” you may be destructing the only body, and brain, you have. Please don’t let this happen. RehabCenter.net, wants to help you get back on track to a healthier, more confident, and balanced, sober state. Contact us now.
Center for Substance Abuse Research — Anabolic Steroids
Medical News Today — Anabolic Steroids: Facts, Effects and Health Risks
MedlinePlus — Anabolic Steroids
The Endowment for Human Development — Research Report Series: Anabolic Steroid Abuse
National Institute on Drug Abuse — What are anabolic steroids?