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Effects of Steroid Use: Short-Term, Long-Term, Side Effects, and Treatment

Prolonged anabolic steroid abuse has numerous deleterious effects ranging from cystic acne to reproductive system irregularities and halted development resulting from premature epiphyseal, or growth plate fusion.

Are Steroids Harmful?

Some steroids can be incredibly harmful to those who take them. Conversely, some types of steroids are used to help people with inflammatory conditions like chronic bronchitis, but these 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 people who 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:

  • Bodybuilders looking to gain muscle.
  • Athletes hoping to improve their skills.
  • People trying to expedite recovery from injuries.

Short-Term Effects of Steroids

People who use and abuse anabolic steroids do so for their 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 of steroid use, which include:

  • Acne.
  • Mood swings.
  • Fatigue.
  • Restlessness/ agitation.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Decreased sperm count.
  • Impotence.

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.

Steroids Side Effects

Since anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of testosterone, they will influence many of the characteristics of gender in the person abusing the substances. In those taking doses up to 100 times the medically appropriate levels, many side effects caused by steroids will occur. Side effects of steroids 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.
  • Mania.
  • Stroke.
  • Menstrual irregularities for women.

Video: How Steroids Affect Sperm Count

Credit: Howcast

Long-Term Effects of Steroid Use

Many of the side effects of steroids can be observed through changes in someone’s outward appearance or their behaviors. Some long-term effects of steroid abuse cannot be observed. Although steroid use does not trigger the same intense, immediate response in the brain as other substances 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 the mood and behavior of a person. In the long-term, anabolic steroid abuse can cause:

  • Anger and aggression (“roid rage”).
  • Paranoia.
  • Delusions.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Tumors in the liver.
  • Blood-borne diseases from injection use.

Steroid Dependence

Steroid use may lead to dependency. Dependency on the drugs is illustrated in the user by a feeling that they cannot function normally without steroids in their system. Overuse leads to an increase of hormones in the body and can cause more severe side effects than those elicited at lower doses.

When use of the drugs is stopped, you may be left with a strong feeling that you need to take steroids again. This occurs even though there are unpleasant and sometimes severe side effects taking place. In these cases, withdrawal treatment may be necessary. Withdrawal from steroids should be monitored by medical professionals to help eliminate side effects or reduce their impact.

Steroid Withdrawal Treatment

Steroid withdrawal treatment is usually done through a tapering program to minimize withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • Apathy and depression.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Headaches.
  • Joint and muscle pain.
  • Anxiety.
  • Anorexia.
  • Fatigue.

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 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 steroid abuse, steroid addiction, and dependence on anabolic steroids is manageable and safe in the short term. Ongoing addiction treatment will help to reduce a person’s risk of relapse and help them understand motivating factors that lead to steroid abuse.

Find Steroid Addiction Treatment Programs

If you or a loved one is struggling with steroid misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional treatment can start anyone battling addiction on the path to a happier and healthier life. Rehab centers 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 facilities. 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 .

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