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Steroid Abuse Side Effects, Signs, and Addiction Treatment

What Is a Steroid?

Steroids are lifesavers in many situations. For example, corticosteroids open up the lungs to allow for increased breathing during asthma attacks. However, there are different types of steroids. Some steroids can be incredibly damaging to one’s health, and these are anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids mimic testosterone in the body, which means that they encourage the body to lay down protein, increasing muscle mass. Unfortunately, anabolic steroid abuse is all-too-common, particularly among bodybuilders and men involved in certain sports.

Of course, anabolic steroids do have legitimate uses, such as to induce puberty and encourage the creation of muscle mass in people suffering from serious wasting diseases. However, even this comes at a price. For those who are otherwise healthy, steroids can quickly damage overall health and induce a number of unwanted effects.

Symptoms and Signs of Steroid Use

Anabolic steroids tend to be used by men in their 20s for bodybuilding purposes/muscle gain.

Signs of steroid use usually involve rapid lean muscle gain within a 10-week period. You might notice that your loved one is working out a lot more and receiving random packages in the mail. If the pills are in a bottle, you might hear them rattling around. If your loved one is getting vials, there may be warnings around the package that the contents are fragile. Signs of steroid abuse also include ordering syringes and needles.

Injectable steroids leave holes in the skin, and these track marks can look red and inflamed. If the user is taking pills, look for pill packets in the trash or in their bag.

Acne is one of the major signs of steroid use. Skin that once looked clear which suddenly begins breaking out is an indicator that something may be wrong, although acne is also a normal occurrence among teenagers.

Finally, you might notice a strange odor if your loved one is using steroid creams.

Steroid Side Effects

Anabolic steroids have an androgynous factor; they can affect sex-specific characteristics as well. The most infamous side effects of steroid use are the shrinking of the testicles and the growth of breast tissue in men thanks to the conversion of the steroid into estradiol. This can also lead to infertility.

In women, the drug is converted into testosterone, which can lead to increased body hair and menstrual irregularities. It can also permanently deepen the voice.

Long-term effects of steroid use for both sexes include increases in cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Steroid use also increases the likelihood of developing diabetes.

Testosterone tends to result in extra acne due to the stimulation of the oil-producing sebaceous glands, and it can also accelerate balding.

Users are also prone to rapid mood swings, possibly leading to so-called “roid rage” or mania.

The Cumulative Effects of Steroids

While many users often treat these side effects of steroids as minor, they can lead to major life-altering events, such as heart attacks and strokes. Like cigarettes, the results of steroid abuse tend to be subtle but cumulative.

Steroid Abuse Treatment

Steroid abuse treatment often involves removing all of the steroid products in the person’s possession and taking them gently through the drug withdrawal process.

Steroid withdrawal usually brings on:

Normally, the withdrawal process will involve gradually reducing the amount of steroids a person takes so that the body can adjust slowly over time.

Often, there are serious underlying problems that lead to a person feeling that they need steroids. Issues usually involve problems with body image, including body dysmorphia. The user may genuinely believe that steroid use is an absolute requirement for fitness and virility. Psychotherapy may be needed to combat these false beliefs.

In general, extra support is needed for those who go through steroid abuse, as steroids are easy to obtain. Generally, the support of loved ones is vital at this stage. A peer support group—such as a 12-step program—is a good way to help your loved one get support from a group of people who have been there. In addition, being taught healthy ways to exercise can be extremely valuable.

Teen Steroid Abuse

Adolescents are particularly susceptible to steroid use. If steroids are not used properly, your teen’s growth may become stunted, particularly if they haven’t had the growth spurt that’s usually associated with puberty. Steroid use can also weaken the bones, leading to serious problems in later life.

Learn more about teen drug misuse.

How to Find Treatment for Steroid Use or Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with steroid use, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional treatment can start anyone battling addiction on the path to a happier and healthier life. Rehab facilities are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Services Locator to search for treatment centers. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted facilities across the country. To learn more about rehab programs and treatment options with AAC, please contact one of our caring admissions navigators free at .

Resources, Articles, and More Information

The Association Against Steroid Abuse produces a wide range of data about steroid abuse. NIDA also has a useful sheet on abuse. You can also learn more by reading the following articles:

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