Steroids are synthetic substances similar to testosterone, a male sex hormone (androgen) that triggers important physiological changes during puberty. Anabolic-androgenic steroids, or anabolic steroids, are sex hormones that contribute to male sex characteristics (“androgenic” effects) and promote skeletal muscle growth (“anabolic” effects) in both men and women.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids may be prescribed in a pill form that is taken orally, an injectable shot that is given in the muscle, a patch, or a gel or cream that can be rubbed on the skin. They are typically prescribed to help promote muscle growth and strengthen bones for those who have a delayed pubertal onset and to help boys with genetic disorders grow more typically.

Steroids Abuse

Anabolic steroids abuse is most common among body builders and professional athletes; however, teens and young adults may also abuse steroids to improve their appearance, lose weight and boost their physical performance in sports. Common reasons that people report taking steroids include:

  • Increasing muscle bulk and strength
  • Promoting quicker muscle recovery
  • Reducing the breakdown of muscle after intense physical activity

Patterns of Abuse of Anabolic Steroids

People commonly abuse the oral and injectable anabolic steroids or they may take several different forms of steroids at once. People who abuse steroids may take them in different ways to optimize their results and avoid negative or unwanted side effects:

  • Cycling: taking multiple steroid doses over a specific period of time (patterns of stopping and starting steroid use)
  • Stacking: taking a combination of two or more different oral and injectable steroids
  • Pyramiding: slowly increasing the dose and frequency of one or more steroids

Steroidal supplements are also referred to as “performance-enhancing drugs.” Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) are examples of synthetic nutritional supplements that are converted by the liver into testosterone and other hormones such as cortisol and estrogen once they enter the body, reported the Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Illegal anabolic steroids are often sold in doses that are 10 to 100 times more potent than the prescription steroids prescribed by doctors.

Effects In Men

Anabolic steroid abuse is associated with adverse side effects, some of which are irreversible; many of these effects vary depending on a person’s gender and age. Side effects in men include:

  • Acne
  • Testicular atrophy (shrinking testicles)
  • Reduced sperm production
  • Baldness (irreversible)
  • Increased risk of prostate cancer
  • Enlarged breasts (gynecomastia) (irreversible)

Effects In Women

Increased male hormones in the body can contribute to masculinizing effects in women, causing irregularities, absence of menstrual cycle and infertility. Women who abuse steroids may also experience:

  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Facial hair growth
  • Excess body hair
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Deepened voice
  • Course skin
  • Decreased breast size and body fat

Women who continue to take anabolic steroids may experience permanent voice deepening and other permanent effects. Children and teens may also stunt their growth or height.

Physical Symptoms Of Steroids

Steroids take a tremendous toll on the body. Physical symptoms of steroids include:

  • Cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes
  • Increased risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
  • Blood clots
  • Liver tumors
  • Internal bleeding due to ruptured tumors or cysts
  • Hepatic peliosis (blood filled cysts that form in the liver (can rupture and cause internal bleeding)
  • Liver cancer
  • Acne
  • Cysts
  • Oily hair and skin
  • Endocarditis (bacterial infection leading to potentially fatal inflammation of the inner lining of the heart)
  • Pain and abscess formation at injection sites (injection users)
  • Contracting or transmitting infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and C (injection users)

Psychological Effects

Steroids abuse also causes psychological effects. Some of these psychological effects such as suicidal thoughts and depressive disorders develop in response to the physical changes that result from steroid abuse. Psychological effects of steroids include:

  • Rage, hostility and aggression (“roid rage”)
  • Mania
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Impaired judgment

Steroid Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), anabolic steroids do not cause a high, but can lead to addiction. When people who abuse steroids stop using them, they can experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Depressive disorders
  • Suicide
  • Anorexia
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Cravings or desire to take more steroids
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Appetite loss
  • Problems with sleep
  • Decreased sex drive
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Why Choose Sovereign Health of Arizona?

Treatment for steroid addiction is typically done under the care of a doctor. Some of the effective treatment options for people with steroid addiction include prescribed medicines (e.g., antidepressants, pain medications, etc.) to assist with withdrawal symptoms and related health problems, behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling and social support.

Treatment at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility offers a combination of individual, group and family therapy along with our evidence-based and complementary treatments – such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), equine therapy, neurofeedback and others – to female patients who have steroid addiction and other substance use disorders.

To learn more about treatment options available to women with steroid addiction at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility, call our 24/7 helpline.

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