Steroids are popular among those who want to improve their physique. The effects can include weight loss and big muscles gains that can completely change a person’s body shape. These changes can lead to positive attention, which makes the person’s confidence soar.
Steroid Use, Abuse and Addiction
What many people who use steroids do not realize is that they could be starting on the path of addiction. While at first, they may research and understand the risks of using steroids, it doesn’t take too long for them to lose control of their use.
The effects of steroids motivate users to continue taking it. They don’t want to lose the body they’ve been able to develop. The fear is what keeps them tied to the drug.
The first sign of addiction comes when users start to realize the dose they’ve been taking doesn’t have the same effects anymore. They have to take more because their body has developed a tolerance. The longer they use steroids, the more they have to take to gain the same effects.
As the dose rises, the more preoccupied users become in taking it. They worry about how they will pay for more of it, and that can lead to risky behaviors. This is another sign of addiction.
Many times, as people grow tired of the chase of working out and using steroids, they want to stop taking them. The problem that presents at this point is the withdrawal symptoms. While steroids are not technically addictive, it is still considered a drug, and it does produce withdrawal symptoms.
The following are the most common steroid withdrawal symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Low blood sugar
- Appetite loss
More serious withdrawal symptoms include join pain, muscle aches, and mental changes.
Many people will try to avoid the withdrawal symptoms by continuing their use of steroids. They may try to titrate themselves off it, but are quickly confronted by withdrawal symptoms, and feel compelled to go back up in dose.
If this sounds a lot like addiction, that’s because it is just like addiction.
From One Addiction to Another Addiction
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, they can lead to a substance use disorder. A substance use disorder occurs when a person continues to misuse steroids, even though there are serious consequences for doing so. The most severe form of a substance use disorder is addiction. People might continue to misuse steroids despite physical problems, high costs to buy the drugs, and negative effects on their relationships. These behaviors reflect steroids’ addictive potential.”
NIDA also reports that research finds that some steroid users turn to other drugs, such as opioids to help reduce the sleep problems and irritability that steroids can cause.
Does this mean that steroid abusers are more likely to abuse other drugs and possibly alcohol? It is possible.
In a 2011 review of 18 studies published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, there was a high correlation between steroid use and alcohol or illicit drug use. However, there were some studies that reported mixed results.
The authors of the review provided the following explanations for the association between steroid abuse and alcohol and/or illicit drug abuse:
- People who are more likely to experiment with steroids are more likely to experiment with other drugs.
- Those who use steroids to improve their appearance may take other drugs to improve other parts of themselves, such as their emotional or mental health.
- Since people who take steroids often engage in vigorous workouts, they may take illicit drugs, such as opioids, to treat pain.
The situation becomes worse when steroid abusers become opioid abusers. NIDA reports that 130 people die every day from opioid overdose. As some steroid abusers take more opioids to cope with the soreness and pain of their workouts, they end up battling the effects of not only steroids but opioids too. They must continue increasing their dose of opioids to treat the pain, and they can’t stop because they will have to deal with the withdrawals.
Addiction can also take on a different form when opioids are not as easy to get from doctors. With the opioid crisis gaining worldwide attention, many medical professionals have stopped prescribing them. Research has shown that many people have turned to heroin as a replacement drug.
Now, what about alcohol?
Alcohol can be used in the same way as opioids, as it can numb the pain of hard workouts. While some steroid users drink alcohol regularly socially and alone to deal with emotional and mental anguish, it’s not abused as much as illicit drugs since it can impair performance more than pain relievers. The first goal of steroid users is to perform at their optimal level, and alcohol may get in the way of that too soon to be a threat.
Treatment for Steroid Addiction
If steroid addiction is treated as soon as it is realized, it can save the person from getting caught in another type of addiction. Steroid addiction is treated like other drug addictions because dependency and withdrawals must be dealt with to fully recover from it.
Steroid addiction must be treated with detox and behavioral therapy. The body must withdraw from the steroids before anything else can be done to recover from the addiction. During withdrawals, medication may be used to reduce the discomfort felt during the process. Once someone has recovered from the withdrawals, the person must work on their emotional and mental dependency on the drug.
Behavioral therapy can help the person do this by exploring the reasons they decided to use steroids and how the beliefs they held were not healthy. These thoughts are then replaced with healthier ones, so the person can continue on with life knowing they do not need steroids in it.