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.
- 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
- 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”)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Mood swings
- Impaired judgment
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
- Muscle and joint pain
- Cravings or desire to take more steroids
- 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.