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Steroid Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

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Anabolic Steroid Addiction Chattanooga, TN
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Dr. Mohsin Ali MD is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Trained in Syracuse NY, he has worked in Tennessee for the last sixteen years.

Table of Contents

Anabolic steroid addiction impacts a significant number of steroid users, with about 32% developing a dependency. This addiction can severely disrupt physical and mental health, relationships, and financial stability.

People often misuse steroids to enhance fitness, build muscle rapidly, and improve athletic performance. However, this misuse can escalate into a strong addiction, making it challenging for individuals to cease usage independently.

Are Anabolic Steroids Addictive?

Despite common misconceptions, anabolic steroids are indeed addictive. Although they do not produce a traditional “high” or euphoria like many substances, users can develop a psychological and physical dependence on them.

What is Steroid Addiction?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines steroid addiction as distinctly different from simple misuse, with several key indicators:

  • Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Users may persist in taking steroids despite experiencing adverse effects such as:
    • Breast growth in men
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • High blood pressure
    • Increased blood fats
    • Heart disease
    • Mood swings
    • Intense irritability
    • Aggressiveness
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Individuals might neglect daily responsibilities that interfere with their fitness routines, dietary regimen, or steroid usage.
  • Financial and Time Costs: A significant amount of time and money is dedicated to acquiring steroids.
  • Repeated Failed Attempts to Quit: Users often try and fail to cut down or stop their steroid use.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Ceasing steroid use, even briefly, can trigger withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, restlessness, decreased appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and strong cravings.

Recognizing these signs and symptoms is crucial for those dealing with steroid addiction and is often the first step towards seeking effective treatment and recovery.

What are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that mimic the effects of the male sex hormone, testosterone. Known formally as Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids (AAS), they are noted for their muscle-building (anabolic) and masculinizing (androgenic) properties.

It’s important to differentiate anabolic steroids from corticosteroids like Prednisone, which are utilized in treating allergic reactions and other medical issues but do not promote muscle growth or mimic testosterone.

Medical Uses of Anabolic Steroids Include:

  • Treating delayed puberty in adolescent boys
  • Addressing hormonal imbalances in men
  • Managing conditions such as hypogonadism and impotence
  • Treating breast cancer, osteoporosis, and muscle loss due to disease
  • Assisting with weight loss in HIV patients
  • Managing specific types of anemia and endometriosis

Anabolic steroids function by activating certain DNA sequences in muscle cells to enhance protein synthesis, significantly boosting muscle mass and strength. They also play a role in bone mineralization and influence the immune, reproductive, and central nervous systems.

Available in forms like pills, injectable liquids, topical gels, and creams, anabolic steroids are known on the street as Juice, Stackers, Hype, and Roids. Popular brands include Anadrol-50, Oxandrin, Winstrol, Anavar, Dianabol, and Equipoise, with the latter often misused for its affordability and ease of access.

Signs and Symptoms of Steroid Addiction

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Steroid Addiction

In the U.S., steroids are classified as Schedule III substances, indicating they have legitimate medical uses but also a risk of physical and mental dependence. Detecting the early signs of steroid addiction is key to prevention and intervention.

Signs of Steroid Addiction:

  • Misuse of Medication: This includes taking dosages higher than prescribed, combining steroids with other substances or alcohol, which can result in liver damage and other health complications. Common misuse patterns are cycling, stacking, pyramiding, and plateauing.
  • Physical Changes: These may include increased facial hair, severe acne, noticeable changes in appetite or energy levels, rapid weight gain or muscle growth, and excessive breast development in men.
  • Behavioral Changes: Behaviors such as secretive actions, financial problems, stealing, or selling possessions to buy steroids, and increased dosages without medical oversight.
  • Psychological Effects: Long-term use can disrupt hormonal balances leading to depression or suicidal thoughts after stopping steroid use. Other psychological effects include paranoia, mania, irritability, “roid rage,” delusions, and impaired judgment.

If you suspect that you or someone close to you is struggling with steroid addiction, seeking immediate help is crucial. Early intervention can halt the progression of addiction and alleviate the severe health and personal consequences associated with steroid abuse.

Identifying Anabolic Steroid Addiction in Loved Ones

Anabolic steroid misuse can profoundly disrupt a user’s life without leading to the euphoria typical of other drugs. Instead, the allure often lies in enhanced muscle growth and an improved physical appearance. Although the DSM-5 does not specifically categorize steroid addiction, experts have adapted its criteria to better address steroid abuse disorders.

Signs of Steroid Abuse:

  • Tolerance: The need for progressively larger doses to achieve the same physical effects.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Manifestations include depressive moods, fatigue, insomnia, reduced appetite, and decreased libido.
  • Continued Usage Amid Withdrawal: Using steroids to alleviate or fend off withdrawal symptoms.
  • Reduced Off Periods: Decreasing or entirely skipping periods without steroid use.
  • Persistent Use Despite Adverse Effects: Continued steroid use despite serious health issues like sexual dysfunction, testicular shrinkage, cardiovascular problems, acne, breast enlargement, high blood pressure, aggression, and mood swings.
  • Neglected Responsibilities: Prioritizing steroid use and related activities such as weightlifting and diet planning over hobbies and other interests.

Causes of Steroid Addiction

Steroid addiction often begins with misuse, especially among men in their 20s and 30s who engage in regular weightlifting but are not professional athletes.

Contributing Factors to Steroid Abuse Include:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Feelings of inadequacy or lack of confidence regarding body image.
  • Mental Health Challenges: Issues such as depression or suicidal tendencies.
  • Health Misconceptions: A poor understanding or negligent attitude towards health and wellness.
  • Sports Culture: Involvement in sports that emphasize physical appearance.
  • Family Pressure: Expectations from family members to maintain a certain physique.
  • Co-occurring Disorders: Presence of eating disorders or other substance use issues.

Many individuals suffering from steroid addiction also experience muscle dysmorphia, perceiving themselves as smaller and weaker than they are. Research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) suggests that this distorted self-view fuels the drive to increase muscle mass, often starting with legal supplements and escalating to performance-enhancing drugs like erythropoietin, human growth hormones, or anabolic steroids. As visible results reinforce these behaviors, the compulsion to undergo “just one more cycle” can entrench a cycle of addiction, making recovery increasingly challenging.

Comparing Steroid Addiction and Drug Addiction

Both steroid and drug addictions can severely disrupt lives, but they exhibit distinct differences. Steroid addiction involves a chemical dependency on synthetic hormones, while drug addiction generally refers to the abuse of illicit or prescription drugs. Drug addiction often carries more immediate severe physical health risks, including organ damage from the toxicity of the substances involved.

However, long-term steroid abuse is not without serious health implications, including cardiovascular issues, testicular atrophy, hormonal imbalances, and mental health problems such as aggression and depression, all of which require professional treatment.

Common Drugs Mixed with Steroids Include:

Using these substances alongside anabolic steroids increases the risk of adverse effects and heightens the potential for addiction. For example, research shows a significant portion of men seeking heroin treatment reported beginning heroin use due to their steroid use.

Risks of Mixing Anabolic Steroids with Other Substances

Anabolic steroids can reduce the pleasurable effects of some drugs, compelling users to take higher doses than typical, raising the risk of overdose.

Frequently Abused Drugs Alongside Steroids:

Steroid users often use stimulants like cocaine and Adderall for an energy boost and appetite suppression. However, combining stimulants with steroids can increase aggression and strain the heart. Mixing steroids with alcohol often leads to increased aggression. These combinations can have long-lasting impacts on behavior and exacerbate addiction problems, making users more likely to engage in violent acts.

Additionally, some individuals might use alcohol or other drugs to alleviate undesirable side effects from steroids, such as insomnia and aggression. Notably, research has indicated that some men with heroin addiction started using the drug as a consequence of their steroid use, highlighting the complex interactions between steroid abuse and the use of other addictive substances.

Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Use

Anabolic steroids have a profound impact on both males and females, often inducing gender-specific side effects due to hormonal imbalances.

Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids in Females:

  • Deeper voice
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Increased facial and body hair growth
  • Clitoral enlargement
  • Breast shrinkage
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle

Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids in Males:

  • Baldness
  • Development of breasts
  • Infertility
  • Testicular shrinkage

Gender-Neutral Side Effects:

  • Acne and oily skin
  • Fluid retention and swelling
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Infection at injection sites

Long-Term Physical and Psychological Effects of Anabolic Steroids:

Prolonged anabolic steroid use can cause severe and potentially life-threatening conditions, along with significant mental health issues:

  • Heart complications such as heart attacks and enlarged heart muscle
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disorders, including cancer and peliosis hepatis (blood-filled cysts)
  • Viral infections like HIV and hepatitis due to needle sharing
  • Endocarditis (an infection of the heart lining)
  • Altered cholesterol levels

Psychological Effects of Anabolic Steroids:

  • Increased aggression and irritability
  • Manic behaviors
  • Delusional thoughts
  • Propensity for violent outbursts
  • Co-occurring alcohol use disorder
  • Depression

Anabolic steroids can also lead to permanent physiological changes, like the cessation of natural testosterone production in men and potential growth stunting if used during adolescence.

Recognizing these side effects is vital for detecting steroid misuse. Early intervention can prevent more severe health consequences and address underlying issues, including substance abuse disorders.

Side Effects of Teen Steroid Abuse

Effects of Steroid Addiction on Teens

The use of anabolic steroids among teens and adolescents, often to enhance athletic performance and increase muscle growth, poses significant risks. Although legally prescribed for certain hormonal issues and health conditions, steroids should not be used to improve athletic ability. Misusing steroids can lead to severe physical and mental health issues, making it crucial to understand their effects on adolescent development and ensure appropriate interventions.

Mental Development

Steroids impact the limbic system of the brain, which regulates mood. Prolonged use in teens can lead to ‘roid rage,’ characterized by aggressive behavior, dramatic mood swings, and severe depression, increasing the risk of self-harm or harm to others. To address these issues, Iris Wellness Group offers specialized therapies tailored for adolescents:

These therapies help teens identify and manage mental health challenges, providing skills to cope with mood disturbances, paranoia, jealousy, and delusions that often accompany steroid use.

Sexual Health and Development

Steroid use disrupts normal sexual development and health due to hormonal alterations. In male teens, it can cause the development of breasts, shrinkage of testicles, reduced sperm count, and increased risk of prostate cancer. Female teens may experience male-pattern baldness, clitoral enlargement, and the growth of facial hair. Other changes include a deeper voice and irregular or ceased menstrual cycles. For both genders, steroid use may stunt puberty and halt height growth.

Physical Appearance

While steroids might initially enhance muscle appearance, they can detrimentally affect physical looks. Users may suffer from hair loss, severe acne that is difficult to treat, oily hair, and uncharacteristic weight gain. These physical changes can have profound effects on a teen’s self-esteem and body image.

Serious Health Issues

Steroids exert severe strain on the cardiovascular system, elevating the risk of developing an enlarged heart, high blood pressure, altered cholesterol levels, and increasing the likelihood of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, steroid use can lead to significant liver and kidney problems, including the risk of kidney failure and liver disease.

Given these risks, it’s vital for parents, guardians, and educators to recognize the signs of steroid use and ensure that teens receive the necessary help to avoid or recover from steroid abuse. Iris Wellness Group is dedicated to providing targeted treatment programs that address the unique challenges faced by adolescents and young adults dealing with steroid addiction.

What is Estrogen Rebound?

Steroids can elevate mood similarly to antidepressants. However, particularly in men, ceasing steroid use can trigger “estrogen rebound,” leading to rapid production and release of estrogen. This can result in severe mood swings and depression, with the severity often related to the steroid dosage and length of use.

Benefits of Seeking Treatment for Steroid Addiction

Seeking treatment for steroid addiction is a crucial step towards recovery, offering structured support and a pathway to a healthier lifestyle. Here’s how entering a steroid addiction treatment program can be beneficial:

  • Social Support: Treatment centers foster a community atmosphere where individuals can form new relationships and participate in support groups, greatly enriching the recovery process.
  • Structure: A structured treatment plan provides stability and focuses on recovery and healthy living, which can significantly decrease the likelihood of relapse.
  • Accountability: A supervised, substance-free environment helps individuals commit to their recovery goals, supported by counselors and peer groups.
  • Improved Quality of Life: Treatment programs focus on overall well-being, encouraging activities and diets that boost physical and mental health, thereby enhancing life quality and facilitating long-term recovery.

These centers do more than just help patients overcome addiction; they aid in reconstructing their lives, making recovery a transformative journey. Through therapy, structured activities, and nutritional guidance, these programs equip individuals with the necessary tools for a sustainable return to health and happiness.

Anabolic Steroid Addiction Treatment Chattanooga, TN

Treatment for Steroid Addiction

Addressing anabolic steroid addiction requires a comprehensive approach that tackles the unique aspects of steroid use, including its potential to lead to dependency and severe withdrawal symptoms without producing a euphoric high.

Key Components of Effective Steroid Addiction Treatment Include:

  • Supervised Detox and Medication: Medical detox safely manages withdrawal symptoms under professional supervision, monitoring for depression and potential suicidal tendencies.
  • Behavioral Therapy: Sessions help patients handle mood fluctuations and learn to live without steroids, under the guidance of experienced counselors and physicians who often collaborate to customize the best treatment approach.
  • Psychological and Endocrine Therapies: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other treatments target underlying psychological conditions such as muscle dysmorphia and depression. Endocrine therapies may correct hormonal imbalances resulting from prolonged steroid use, improving symptoms such as low sex drive.
  • Antidepressants: SSRIs and other antidepressants may be prescribed to alleviate depressive symptoms that are not addressed by other therapies, associated with both steroid withdrawal and addiction.
  • Hospital-Based and Residential Treatment: These programs provide structured and intensive care suitable for severe addiction cases, offering a controlled environment with comprehensive access to medical detox and therapeutic services.
  • Support Groups and Outpatient Services: Group therapy and support groups offer vital social support for recovery, enabling individuals to share experiences and receive peer support. Outpatient services provide flexibility, allowing individuals to manage daily responsibilities while receiving essential treatment.

By incorporating a mix of medical and therapeutic interventions, effective steroid addiction treatment centers ensure a holistic recovery process. This approach helps individuals regain a healthy lifestyle and effectively manage any co-occurring mental health issues.

Anabolic Steroid Addiction Treatment in Chattanooga, TN

At Iris Wellness Group we specialize in providing targeted and compassionate treatment for individuals struggling with anabolic steroid addiction in Chattanooga, TN. Recognizing the unique journey of each person affected by steroid addiction, our dedicated team offers personalized care plans designed to address the specific needs and challenges of our clients. Our goal is to support individuals on their path to recovery, helping them achieve a healthier, substance-free lifestyle through a comprehensive approach to treatment.

Treatment Options for Anabolic Steroid Addiction

  • Outpatient Detox: Offers medically supervised detoxification services to safely manage withdrawal symptoms in an outpatient setting.
  • Outpatient Treatment: Designed for those who require flexible treatment schedules without intensive daily commitments.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Ideal for individuals needing more support than standard outpatient care, providing a structured therapy schedule while allowing patients to live at home.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Serves as a bridge between inpatient care and outpatient treatment, offering comprehensive day-long therapy sessions for more intensive care without an overnight stay.

To complement our range of treatment options, Iris Wellness Group integrates a holistic approach to therapy, targeting the multifaceted aspects of anabolic steroid addiction. Understanding that recovery is not one-size-fits-all, we tailor our therapy programs to meet the individual needs of our clients, focusing on not just overcoming addiction but also on fostering long-term wellness and resilience.

Therapies Offered for Steroid Addiction:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Aims to identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors related to cannabis use.
  • Individual Therapy: Offers a private setting for patients to explore personal issues and challenges related to their addiction.
  • Group Therapy: Provides a supportive environment where individuals can share experiences and strategies for coping with addiction.
  • Family Therapy: Engages family members in the treatment process to heal relationships and build a supportive home environment for recovery.

If you or someone you care about be grappling with steroid addiction, it’s crucial to act now. Contact our drug rehab in Chattanooga, TN at 423-401-9630, to embark on the path towards a life free from drug dependence.

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