In general, there are two kinds of steroid drugs:
- Corticosteroids, which are used for medical issues.
- Anabolic steroids, which may also have indications for medical use, but are often misused to improve strength, appearance, and athletic performance.
Both types of steroids can be misused, and excess dosing can lead to overdose and/or progressive mental and physical health effects.
Signs and Symptoms of Steroid Overdose
Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids are very different. Corticosteroids function similarly to cortisol—a naturally occurring hormone produced in our adrenal glands —and they ar e used to alter immune and inflammatory responses 1.
When a person has acutely overdosed on corticosteroids—by either intentionally or accidentally using an excessive dose—they may present with any number of symptoms 1:
- Burning/itchy skin.
- Agitation or psychosis.
- High blood pressure.
- Muscle and bone weakness.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Extreme sleepiness.
- Worsening health conditions.
- Swelling in the legs.
Anabolic Steroid Overdose
Anabolic steroids (also known as androgenic steroids) are essentially lab-created analogues of testosterone, and will function similarly to that hormone in our bodies. While it is possible to experience instantaneous overdose on corticosteroids, overdose on anabolic steroids often manifests differently. Anabolic steroids are seldom associated with acute overdose (or one that occurs in one sitting). Instead, anabolic steroid overdose is an accumulation of negative effects over long-term use (chronic overdose) 2. Extended anabolic steroid abuse can result in a serious set of negative effects, such as 2, 3:
- Kidney/liver damage.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Enlarged heart.
- Dangerous cholesterol changes, even in younger users.
- Major mood swings.
- Aggression and irritability.
- Stunted growth in young users.
On top of these effects, anabolic steroids may affect men and women in sex-specific ways:
- Men may develop breasts, baldness, infertility, shrunken testicles, and an increased risk for prostate cancer.
- Women may experience male-pattern baldness, deepened voice, facial hair, enlargement of the clitoris, and irregular menstrual cycles 3.
What to do in Case of Steroid Overdose
The first thing to do if you think a person may be experiencing a steroid overdose is get them medical help. In the case of a corticosteroid overdose, call 911 right away. The faster a person receives medical help, the better their chances of survival.
If the person is slowly overdosing on anabolic steroids, professional substance abuse treatment is the best option for their health and survival. Chronic anabolic steroid overdose may not seem like a medical emergency, but it can eventually result in serious consequences to a person’s mental and physical health.
If you have been prescribed corticosteroids, the best way to avoid overdose is to only take the medication according to your physician’s guidelines and report any alarming side effects or concerns that you have. Use of steroids outside of professional medical guidelines can result in serious medical repercussions.
If you’re taking anabolic steroids, you could be severely damaging your health over time. To avoid the development of dangerous symptoms, avoid ANY use of anabolic steroids. If you’re finding yourself unable to stop taking anabolic steroids, consider substance abuse treatment.
Treatment can help you learn how to cope with your compulsions to use this damaging substance and may address any mental health issues that may be contributing to use of these drugs, such as body dysmorphic disorder. A structured treatment program can also help you deal with withdrawal symptoms that may be difficult to cope with alone
A structured treatment program can also help you deal with withdrawal symptoms that may be difficult to cope with alone 3:
- Lowered appetite.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Suicidal ideation.
These can be especially problematic as the user is coping with the extreme mood swings brought on by the abuse itself. Suicide is a major risk factor for recovering steroid abusers 3.
Certain treatment facilities may also be able to help restore a steroid user to hormonal balance with hormone therapy, which can help reduce or reverse adverse side effects of long-term abuse 3.
Steroid abuse treatment can also help a person understand why they began abusing the drug in the first place and find effective coping strategies for when they face future temptations to use steroids. Identifying underlying reasons for the abuse is a major part of recovery, and professional treatment can help a person find better ways to address these underlying issues without turning back to drugs. For help finding a treatment program, call us today at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers?.
- S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). Corticosteroids overdose. MedlinePlus.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug fact sheet: Steroids.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Commonly abused drug charts.