Addiction To Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic Steroids are either prescribed by a doctor or obtained illegally. There are over 100 types of Anabolic Steroids, only a fraction of which have been approved for medical use.

Even though Steroids don’t chemically produce euphoria or a “high” like a typical addictive substance, those who regularly abuse these drugs are at risk of developing a severe addiction. The desire to continue feeling good about oneself and achieve a desired appearance can quickly take over, fueling greater and greater use. Any time a medication is used without a prescription or beyond its medical scope or intended purpose, it is considered abuse.

Anabolic Steroids are addictive due to two primary factors. The first is a behavior of many individuals with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), the compulsive need to seek out and use Anabolic Steroids. The second is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when the user cuts back on or stops Steroid use completely. The obsessive-compulsive behavior to keep using Anabolic Steroids often begins when the Steroids improve physical appearance and strength in a short amount of time, which may eventually result in an addiction developing.

Individuals with a history of SUDs are at a higher risk of abusing Anabolic Steroids. This is also true of individuals who have co-occurring disorders, especially body dysmorphia, as they may find themselves continuously using Steroids to chase an idealized body image even after they have long since surpassed their original goal.

People taking Steroids may also develop a tolerance to the drugs and experience withdrawal symptoms such as low sex drive, loss of appetite, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, and depression when they stop taking them.

In addition to developing a tolerance and going through with withdrawal, some other signs of an addiction include:

  • Spending large amounts of time and money getting or using Steroids
  • Failing to cut back on use despite repeated attempts
  • Ignoring responsibilities at work or at home
  • Continuing to use Steroids despite physical side effects like hair loss
  • Having persistent issues with friends and family
  • Experiencing severe depression as a result of withdrawal

People who take Steroids for a prolonged period of time disrupt natural hormonal balances in their bodies. When someone addicted to Steroids suddenly stops taking the drugs, they can become depressed and even suicidal due to these hormonal imbalances. Someone trying to quit taking Steroids should look for help. In treatment for Steroid addiction, doctors can prescribe medications to restore healthy hormonal balances and reduce depressive symptoms.

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic Steroids are man-made drugs that mimic testosterone, the male sex hormone. The full name of these drugs is “Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids.” The word “Anabolic” refers to Steroids’ muscle-building effects, and “Androgenic” refers to their masculinizing effects.

There is another type of Steroid, Corticosteroids, which shouldn’t be confused with Anabolic Steroids. Corticosteroids, such as Prednisone, are often used to treat allergic reactions. These Steroids don’t have the same effects as Anabolic Steroids, as they don’t facilitate muscle growth and don’t mimic the male sex hormone.

Anabolic Steroids are available with a prescription and have important medical applications. Doctors prescribe Anabolic Steroids to treat several medical conditions, including:

  • Delayed puberty, especially in adolescent boys
  • Hormonal imbalances in men
  • Hypogonadism
  • Impotence
  • Breast cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle loss due to disease
  • Certain types of anemia
  • Weight loss in individuals with HIV
  • Endometriosis

Anabolic Steroids activate components of DNA in muscle cells that increase production of the proteins that build muscle tissues and fibers. This results in increased muscle growth and body mass in short periods of time. These components also increase bone minerals and impact the function of the immune, reproductive, and central nervous systems.

Anabolic Steroids come in the form of pills, injectable liquids, topical gels, and creams. Street names for Anabolic Steroids include Juice, Stackers, Hype, and Roids. Some of the most common Steroid brands include:

  • Anadrol-50
  • Oxandrin
  • Winstrol
  • Anavar
  • Dianabol
  • Equipoise

Equipoise is actually a veterinary Steroid, but it is still abused by some because it’s cheaper and more accessible than its counterparts.

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Steroid Effects And Abuse

Any use of Anabolic Steroids without a doctor’s prescription is abuse; it’s also illegal. Those abusing Anabolic Steroids often take much larger doses than would ever be prescribed, in some cases 10 to 100 times larger. Anabolic Steroids change how the body builds muscle. During exercise, people create small tears in their muscles. When those tears heal, the muscle tissue becomes stronger than before. Anabolic Steroids quicken the healing process. This helps people exercise more intensely, more often, and with greater results.

Some individuals who abuse Anabolic Steroids for extended periods of time eventually reach a high tolerance for the substances, resulting in the use of two or more different Steroids at the same time. This is called “stacking.” Individuals who stack are at much greater risk of negative side effects.

People abuse Anabolic Steroids to change their physical appearance and abilities. Some athletes and bodybuilders use Steroids for a competitive edge. Bodybuilders may use the drugs to get bigger, appear stronger, and feel bolder. Some football players use Steroids before a game to feel more aggressive. Several Major League Baseball players have taken Steroids for more power at bat.

For many, the pressure to stay competitive is a major factor in the decision to use Steroids. However, many people taking Steroids just want to look better.

Contrary to common belief, most [Anabolic Steroid] users do not engage in competitive athletics, but simply want to become leaner and more muscular.

- H.G. Pope Jr., Treatment of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Related Disorders, 2015

There are three common ways people abuse Anabolic Steroids. They are:

  • “Stacking”

    Stacking is taking multiple types of Steroids at once or mixing oral and injectable formulations. Many Steroid abusers believe stacking increases results, but this method has not been scientifically proven.

  • “Cycling”

    Cycling is a process of taking Steroids for a predetermined period of time, usually 6-12 weeks, and then abstaining for a period of time. Steroid abusers use “off” cycles to allow the body to produce its own testosterone and to reduce damage to internal organs.

  • “Pyramiding”

    Pyramiding is a method of taking Steroids during an “on” cycle. In the beginning of the cycle, users start with a low dose and gradually increase to a maximum dose mid-cycle. In the second half of the cycle, users slowly taper down their Steroid dose.

According to the leading scientific research, none of these methods have been verified; they have not been shown to reduce the risks or side effects of Anabolic Steroid use.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 375,000 young men and 175,000 young women in high school abuse Anabolic Steroids every year.

Even though males make up the majority of those abusing Steroids, women and girls also turn to the drugs for a better physique. In an article for the New York Times, one woman described her decision to take Steroids as a teenager. Dionne Roberts was a popular cheerleader who wanted six-pack abs.

It’s not uncommon to strive for that four-pack or six-pack, even in girls. Being in shape is not just a masculine thing. So I mentioned to a friend on the football team that I was interested in [Steroids].

- Dionne Roberts, New York Times, 2008

Roberts easily acquired her first cycle’s worth of Steroids but ultimately regretted the decision to use them. The drugs induced aggression and a serious depression that sent her to the hospital, where she was placed on suicide watch. Roberts eventually moved past her difficulties with Steroids and graduated college.

Although rare, people taking large amounts of Anabolic Steroids may overdose. Steroid overdose may lead to coma, heart attack, and stroke.

What Is Estrogen Rebound?

Steroids act as mood elevators, which results in effects similar to Antidepressants. Once a person, especially a man, stops a Steroid cycle, a condition called “estrogen rebound” may develop. It results in the production and release of the female hormone estrogen at rapid, elevated levels. Side effects of “estrogen rebound” include symptoms of depression. The larger the dosage of Anabolic Steroids and the longer the duration of their abuse, the more severe the symptoms of estrogen rebound will be.

Dangerous Drug Combinations

Anabolic Steroids can reduce the pleasurable effects of certain drugs. The diminished high caused by Steroids leads many users to take higher doses of other drugs than they normally would. This increases the risk of overdose.

Some drugs commonly abused by Steroid users include:

Steroid users abusing other drugs often turn to Stimulants, like Cocaine and Adderall, for an energy boost and an appetite reduction. What many people don’t realize is that mixing Stimulants and Steroids heightens aggression and puts stress on the heart. Abusing alcohol while taking Steroids often leads to excessive aggression. Taking these substances together may have a long-term impact on behavior and can worsen an addiction. People abusing alcohol and Steroids together may be more likely to commit violent crimes.

Some people become addicted to alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate unwanted side effects of Anabolic Steroids, like insomnia and aggression. A study of men with Heroin addiction found that 9% of them started taking the drug because of their Steroid use.

Steroid Abuse Statistics

1 in 50

12th graders

Approximately 1 in 50 students in the 12th grade used Steroids in 2014. This seemingly low proportion accounts for tens of thousands of high school seniors.



A 2007 study found that 77% of college students who admitted to using Steroids also abused at least one other drug.


of NFL players

In a survey of retired National Football League (NFL) players, 9.1% of players admitted to using Anabolic Steroids during their career.

Quit With Help

Many people don’t realize Steroids can fuel addiction. If you’ve been struggling with Steroids or any other substance, help is available. Contact a treatment provider now to learn more about your treatment options.