The Effects of Steroid Use
Are Steroids Harmful?
Some steroids can be incredibly harmful to those who take them. Conversely, some types are used to help people with inflammatory conditions like chronic bronchitis, but those are categorized as corticosteroids. They are not the same as the more harmful version: anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids—sometimes referred to as "juice" or "roids"—are actually synthetic forms of the male hormone, testosterone. It may be used legitimately to induce puberty or to help those suffering from wasting diseases like AIDS or cancers. Technically, this group of substances is called anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS).
Aside from the people that are prescribed these substances for medical reasons, anabolics are abused by people looking to change their physical health, performance, and/or appearance. Common users of anabolic steroids include:
- Body builders looking to gain muscle.
- Athletes hoping to improve their skills.
- People trying to expedite recovery from an injury.
Are Steroids Addictive?
Though it may not be obvious, steroids are addictive, which means those who take them may continue to take them even when side effects become severe or use impacts their life in unwanted ways. Some believe that they are not addictive because they do not create a euphoric feeling commonly found in other drugs of abuse.
Addiction to AAS is shown in spending excessive amounts of money and efforts to acquire, hide, and use the substances.
People who use and abuse anabolic steroids do so for the effects related to improved physical performance and muscle growth.
However, with these intended improvements in strength and performance can come many unwanted short-term effects, which include:
- Mood swings.
- Restlessness/ agitation.
- Decreased appetite.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Decreased sperm count.
Since anabolics steroids are typically liquids that are injected into areas of muscle, some might notice injection sites with infections or swelling. If a steroid cream is being used, there may be a noticeable odor.
Since anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of testosterone, they will influence many of the characteristics of gender in the person abusing the substance. In those taking doses up to 100 times the medically-appropriate levels, many side effects caused by steroids will occur. Side effects include:
- Shrinking of the testicles.
- Excessive hair growth in women.
- Deepening of the voice in women.
- Growth of breast tissue in men.
- Fertility issues.
- Heart problems.
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Rapid mood swings.
- Menstrual irregularities for women.
Can You Overdose on Steroids?
Anabolic steroid overdose is generally considered the cumulative effect of long-term use. This "chronic overdose" can have extreme detrimental effects to your health, both physical and mental.
Video: How Steroids Affect Sperm Count
Steroids Effects question 4
Many of the side effects of steroids can be seen from someone's outward appearance changes or through their behaviors. Some long-term effects of abuse cannot be observed. Although steroid use does not trigger the same intense, immediate response in the brain as another substance like cocaine, it can create changes to the brain over time. These changes can impact the production and supply of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.
These changes in the brain can lead to changes in mood and behavior in the person. In the long-term, anabolic steroid abuse can cause:
- Anger and aggression ("roid rage").
- Heart attack.
- Kidney failure.
- Tumors in the liver.
- Blood-borne diseases from injection use.
Steroid use may lead to dependency. Dependency on the drug is illustrated in the feeling that the person cannot function normally without the steroids in their system. Overuse leads to an increase of the hormones in the body, and it can cause more severe side effects than lower doses.
When the drug is stopped, you may be left with a strong feeling that you need to take them again. This occurs even though there are unpleasant and sometimes severe side effects taking place. In these cases, withdrawal treatment may be necessary. Withdrawal should be monitored by medical professionals to help eliminate side effects or reduce their impact.
Steroid withdrawal treatment is usually done through a tapering program to minimize the withdrawal symptoms that can include:
- Apathy and depression.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- A decreased sex drive.
- Joint and muscle pain.
Depression could be the most dangerous effect of withdrawal because it can be intense and long-lasting. In some case, suicidal thoughts or attempts may occur during withdrawal.
Seeking treatment from medical and mental health professionals can help to ensure safety during withdrawal and avoid the negative consequences. Most treatment can be accomplished on an outpatient basis. If other substances are being abused in combination, inpatient or residential rehab programs may be more appropriate.
Fortunately, treating abuse, addiction, and dependence on anabolic steroids is manageable and safe in the short-term. Ongoing treatment will help to reduce the risks of relapse and help understand the motivating factors that lead to abuse.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Anabolic Steroids.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse.(2006). Letter From the Director.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. (n.d.). Anabolic Steroids.