Overview of Steroid Abuse
Steroids are lifesavers in many situations. For example, corticosteroids open up the lungs to allow for increased breathing during asthma attacks. However, there are steroids that can be incredibly damaging to one’s health, and these are anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids mimic testosterone in the body, which means they encourage the body to lay down protein, increasing muscle mass. Unfortunately, anabolic steroid abuse is all too common, particularly with 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 for people suffering from serious wasting diseases. However, even this comes at a price. For those who are otherwise healthy, they can quickly damage overall health and induce a number of unwanted effects.
Needle Sharing Among Steroid Users
Around 13 % of those using, admitted to sharing needles or vials, according to a 2006 study, practices that could lead to HIV and hepatitis infections.
Signs and Symptoms
Anabolic steroids tend to be used by men in their 20s for bodybuilding purposes/muscle gain.
Signs of abuse 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 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 use. Skin that once looked clear that 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.
Effects of Steroid Abuse
Anabolic steroids have an androgynous factor; they can affect sex-specific characteristics as well. The most infamous side effects 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 for both sexes include increases in cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. It also increases the likelihood of 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 Steroid Use
While many users often treat these side effects as minor, they can lead to major life-altering events, such as heart attack and stroke. Like cigarettes, the results of steroid abuse tend to be subtle but cumulative.
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Steroid Abuse Treatment
Steroid abuse treatment often involves removing all the steroid products in the person’s possession and taking them gently through the withdrawal process.
Withdrawal usually brings on:
- Depressive-like symptoms.
- Concentration problems.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Lowered libido.
Normally, the withdrawal process will involve gradually reducing the amount of steroids so that the body can adjust slowly over time.
Often, there are serious underlying problems as to why the person felt they needed steroids. Issues usually involve problems with body image, including body dysmorphia. The user may genuinely believe that 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 they are easy to obtain. Generally, the support of loved ones is vital at this stage. A peer support group 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.
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Teen Steroid Abuse
Adolescents are particularly susceptible to steroid use. If steroids are not used properly, your teen may become stunted, particularly if they haven’t had the growth spurt that’s usually associated with puberty. It can also weaken the bones, leading to serious problems in later life.
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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