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Can You Actually Be Hooked on Steroids?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are generally considered to be habit-forming drugs, though not in same the way as other widely misused substances.1 Unlike most other drugs associated with substance use disorder, the habitual misuse of steroids is usually tied to some other behavior or mental health condition.2,3

Below we’ll take a look at steroids, specifically anabolic-androgenic steroids, the type of steroidal drug that’s most associated with misuse. Call our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to learn about treatment and rehab options for steroid misuse.

What are Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids or AAS (sometimes referred to as “anabolic steroids” or inaccurately as “steroids”, among other terms) are a class of synthetic drugs that mimic the male hormone testosterone.4 Testosterone is the hormone most associated with the development of biological male characteristics in humans.

Contrary to popular belief, AAS are not the only type of steroid drug. Corticosteroids, which are used to treat allergy symptoms, do not have effects similar to testosterone and should not be confused with AAS.4

How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids work on muscles in a similar way to natural testosterone. When introduced into the body, they signal muscle cells to ramp up protein production. This causes muscles to grow faster than they would, normally. Additionally, AAS also changes how the skeletal, immune, reproductive, and central nervous systems function.4,5

Examples of AAS

Anabolic steroids come in an extremely wide variety of forms and are produced under different trade names. They come in injectables, powders, pills, as well as topical gels and creams. Street names include Roids, Juice, Arnolds, Pumpers, Gym candy, and Stackers, to name a few.6

Some AAS brands include the following:

  • Anavar
  • Anadrol-50
  • Android
  • Dianabol
  • Equipoise
  • Finaplix
  • Oreton
  • Oxandrin
  • Tren
  • Virilon
  • Winstrol

 

Legitimate Uses for AAS

Anabolic steroid drugs are important for a wide variety of medical applications. Physicians regularly use anabolic steroids to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including but not limited to the following:4,5

  • Male hormone imbalance
  • Achondroplasia (dwarfism)
  • Hypogonadism (low sex drive)
  • Impotence
  • Osteoporosis
  • Breast cancer
  • Endometriosis
  • Low muscle mass
  • HIV-related weight loss

 

Additionally, AAS are widely used in veterinary medicine. Brands widely used for animals include Equipoise, Winstrol, Tren, and Finaplix. They are occasionally used by people as they are typically much cheaper than equivalent AAS intended for humans.6

Why are Anabolic Steroids Habit-forming?

Anabolic steroids are typically not habit-forming by themselves.2,3 Unlike most other widely misused substances, steroids do not cause euphoria. Rather, most people who misuse steroids have other underlying conditions that may cause them to seek AAS out.1,2,3

One condition that’s common among people who habitually misuse steroids is body dysmorphia.2,3 This is a mental health condition where people pursue ever-changing body image goals, often to the point that they are no longer recognizable. Both body dysmorphia and related steroid misuse can potentially be worsened by the improper use of social media.,7

Another condition common among AAS users is obsessive-compulsive disorder.2,3 People with this condition might be continually attempting to improve their strength or pursue a “perfect” physical appearance. They may see AAS as a way to better reach their idea of perfection.

Additionally, AAS drugs may cause withdrawal symptoms when their use is stopped abruptly, causing continued dosing. This may serve to reinforce drug-taking behavior.

AAS withdrawal symptoms usually include:4,5

  • Depression
  • Weakened sex drive
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep.

How are AAS Misused?

AAS are often misused in the following ways:4,5

  • Using higher than the recommended dosage
  • Using AAS drugs that are not approved for human use
  • Using unprescribed AAS drugs
  • Combining AAS with other substances, usually stimulants

A steroid habit may indicate other underlying problems. If any of these use patterns apply to you, seek professional help immediately.

Effects of AAS Misuse

Typical misuse of anabolic steroids is associated with a variety of short-term and long-term effects.

Short-term effects include:4,5

  • Mania
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired judgment
  • Delusional thinking
  • Aggression (“roid rage”)
Long-term effects include:4,5

  • Kidney failure
  • Liver damage
  • Reduced bone density
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of heart attacks

Additionally, men and women may experience other effects, often related to secondary sex characteristics.

Long-term effects on men:4,5

  • Baldness
  • Shrinking testicles
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Infertility
  • Enlarged breasts
  • Increased risk of prostate cancer

Long-term effects on women:4,5

  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Altered menstrual cycle
  • Growth of facial hair
  • Excessive body hair growth
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • Deepened voice

Find Help for Anabolic Steroids Today

Recovering from steroid misuse is possible. Boston Drug Treatment Centers puts you in touch with specialized drug treatment programs all over the Greater Boston area that can help you or a loved one move on from AAS misuse. Call (617) 517-6448 to discuss your recovery options.

Resources:

 

  1. Kashkin, K. B., & Kleber, H. D. (1989). Hooked on hormones?: An anabolic steroid addiction hypothesisJama262(22), 3166-3170.

 

  1. Brower, K. J. (2002). Anabolic steroid abuse and dependenceCurrent psychiatry reports4(5), 377-387.

 

  1. Kanayama, G., Pope, H. G., & Hudson, J. I. (2018). Associations of anabolic-androgenic steroid use with other behavioral disorders: an analysis using directed acyclic graphsPsychological medicine48(15), 2601-2608.

 

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, August 12). Anabolic Steroids DrugFacts.

 

  1. National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2021, June). Anabolic Steroids Also called: Anabolic-androgenic steroids, Performance-enhancing drugs.

 

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control. (2004, March). A Dangerous and Illegal Way to Seek Athletic Dominance and Better Appearance – A Guide for Understanding the Dangers of Anabolic Steroids.

 

  1. Rush University Medical Center. (2021). Combating ‘Social Media Dysmorphia’.