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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, a gel or a 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 normally.

Steroids abuse

Anabolic steroids abuse is most common among bodybuilders and professional athletes, however, teens and young adults may also abuse steroids to improve their appearance, lose weight or boost their physical performance in sports. Following are some common reasons that people report for taking steroids:

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

Anabolic steroids: Patterns of abuse

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. Following are the common patterns in which users abuse anabolic steroids.

  • Cycling: It involves taking multiple steroid doses over a specific period of time (patterns of stopping and starting steroid use)
  • Stacking: It involves taking a combination of two or more different oral and injectable steroids
  • Pyramiding: It involves users slowly increasing the dose and frequency of one or more steroids, reaching peak amount at mid-cycle and gradually reducing it towards the end of cycle

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.

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

Steroids abuse: 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. Following are some of the side effects of steroid abuse in men.

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

Steroids abuse: Effects in women

Increased male hormones in the body can contribute to masculinizing effects in women, causing irregularities or absence of menstrual cycle and infertility. Following are some of the side effects of steroid abuse in women.

  • 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 lasting effects. Steroid abuse in children and teens may also stunt their growth or height.

Steroids abuse: Physical symptoms

Steroids take a tremendous toll on the body. Following are some of the physical symptoms of steroids abuse.

  • 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 and 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)

Steroids abuse: Psychological effects

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

  • 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 the same high as other drugs, but can lead to addiction. When stopped abruptly, steroid abuse may cause one to experience withdrawal symptoms that may be life-threatening. Following are some of the common withdrawal symptoms of steroid abuse.

  • 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

Withdrawal effects happen due to the hormonal imbalance caused by steroid abuse. A result of low levels of natural testosterone in the body, steroid withdrawal symptoms persist until the body can restore its normal production of testosterone.

Steroids addiction treatment

With its high risk of dependency and severe withdrawal symptoms, steroid abuse and addiction should be treated like any other drug problem. Treatment for steroid addiction is typically done under the care of a doctor. In addition to medically-assisted detox, 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.

The first step in addiction treatment, a medically-assisted steroid detox treatment can help ease the withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications during the detoxification treatment process. Readjusting the body to a steroid-free life, the detox process may also involve gradually reducing the drug amount before users quit them completely. Post a successful detox program, patients should be enrolled in an addiction treatment program consisting of behavioral therapies that continues to build on relapse prevention tools, coping mechanisms, healthy habits and much more.

Why choose Sovereign Health?

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.

A life-long process, recovery from addiction takes more than just checking into a rehab. Post a successful steroid addiction treatment, patients at Sovereign Health undergo our recovery management program that helps them transition back to normal life, avoid relapse, and maintain progress during their recovery. To learn more about treatment options available to women with steroid addiction at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility or to locate the finest steroid detox centers, near you, please call our 24/7 helpline number and speak to our admissions team. You can even chat online with our representatives for further assistance.

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