What are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids, officially known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, are a group of synthetic substances that mimic the naturally occurring hormone testosterone.
Originally developed to treat medical conditions in which individuals did not naturally produce sufficient testosterone for growth and development, these performance enhancing drugs have become virtually synonymous with their contemporary use and abuse by athletes and body builders. They abuse steroids as a way to artificially enhance muscle growth and development, energy, and stamina.
What are Anabolic Steroids Used For?
In medicine, anabolic steroids are used to treat diseases in which an individual’s growth and development has been restricted or suppressed to a degree that it impacts the individual’s healthy development.
Anabolic steroids are used illicitly by individuals seeking to enhance their athletic performance and body development. Body building and American baseball are two recreational areas in which steroid abuse and misuse have been prolific and led to contested results and severe punishments by the governing organisations against participants who are found to have used these substances.
Who Uses Anabolic Steroids?
Steroid use and the use of other performance enhancing drugs is on the rise, particularly among young men who want to achieve a ‘perfect’ gym physique. Local needle exchange programmes in the UK are reporting a significant rise in intramuscular steroid injectors.
Signs and Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Abuse
Signs of steroid abuse include changes in mood and physical appearance. Mood changes may include:
- Libido suppression
- Restlessness, and other signs of agitation
Physical symptoms of anabolic steroid abuse may include the development of feminine characteristics in men and male characteristics in women. In both men and women:
- Male pattern baldness
- Hair thinning
- Facial hair growth in women
- Deep voice in women
- Irregular periods in women
- Decreased breast size in women
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Breast growth in men
- Shrunken testicles in men
- Greasy hair and/or skin
- Yellow eyes and skin
Withdrawal symptoms from steroid use or abuse may include depression and low motivation.
Anabolic Steroid Abuse Health Risks
There are short-term and long-term health risks inherent in the use and abuse of anabolic steroids. Less life-threatening consequences include the development of acne and breasts in men, and voice deepening in women.
Other secondary risks include impulsive, aggressive, or even violent behaviors with severe consequences for the user and others impacted. Individuals injecting steroids are also at higher risk for the health complications and diseases associated with needle-transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis B and C.
Life-threatening side effects include:
- Cardiovascular damage including heart disease and heart attack
- Liver disease
- Liver cancer
- Internal bleeding
- Premature aging of bones
- Complications associated with disrupting normal growth and development processes which include irreversible suppression of normal growth and development when taken at a young age
Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal from anabolic steroids can cause severe withdrawal symptoms due to the immense hormonal imbalances within the body. These may include:
- Depression which can lead to suicide
- Low motivation
- Muscle cramps
Individuals will also occasionally seek other substances to ameliorate the unpleasant effects of steroid withdrawal.
Treatment for Anabolic Steroid Addiction and Performance Enhancing Drug Addiction
The vast majority of people who abuse anabolic steroids, do so for body image reasons, other drugs may be abused at the same time. Castle Craig offers a comprehensive drug addiction treatment programme that treats all areas of drug abuse, including detoxing from any substances the patient is taking, targeting negative body image through therapy, treating the root causes of the addiction and any post-traumatic stress disorder that may be contributing to the use of anabolic steroids and the desire for a ‘perfect’ body.
Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | January 17, 2020