The use of any type of steroid drug increases testosterone, a natural hormone that is essential for male reproductive function, physical growth, and overall health.
Higher than normal testosterone levels can cause physical changes and behavioral signs that someone is using steroid drugs excessively for unhealthy or illegal reasons.
Keep reading to learn about the signs and effects of anabolic steroid addiction.
What Are Synthetic Steroids?
Synthetic or anabolic-androgenic steroids are chemically enhanced to imitate testosterone, increasing muscle mass (anabolic) and male characteristics (androgenic).
While there are medical purposes for anabolic steroids, such as treating certain types of anemia and hormonal deficiencies, they are also abused for their anabolic effects.
The most commonly abused anabolic steroid drugs include:
Signs And Side Effects Of Steroid Abuse
As steroid abuse progresses and increases in dosage and frequency, people can start to exhibit behavioral and physical changes. These changes will indicate signs of high testosterone and potential steroid use.
Below are several common drug effects that result when a person abuses steroids.
Physical Side Effects Of Steroid Drug Abuse
Physical side effects of steroid abuse vary depending on age and gender.
Steroid drug addiction is most prevalent among men in their 20s and 30s, and rarely affects teenagers.
Women can also experience negative effects of excessive steroid use, and have health conditions as a result of steroid addiction.
Physical signs of steroid abuse for men include:
- balding and baldness
- bulging veins
- stretch marks
- red or flushed skin
- upper body acne
- enlarged breast tissue (gynecomastia)
For women, physicals signs of steroid use can be the following:
- facial hair growth
- excess body hair
- balding of head hair
- decreased breast size
- interrupted menstrual cycles
- abnormally low body fat
- deepening of vocal cords
Mental Side Effects Of Steroid Drug Abuse
The spikes in testosterone levels caused by high doses of steroids can increase volatile mood swings and cause erratic behaviors that are atypical of someone’s personality.
Mental side effects of steroid use can include the following:
- aggression (“roid rage”)
- poor impulse control
- impaired judgment
- manic episodes
- depressive episodes
- delusional thoughts
- extreme jealousy
How Synthetic Steroid Drugs Affect Testosterone
The body naturally produces its own steroid hormones that men and women need for sexual development and function, as well as physical growth and hormonal regulation.
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone that male bodies produce and require more of than females, for normal reproductive and sexual health during and after puberty.
Balanced levels of testosterone are essential for the following:
- bone health and growth
- muscle development
- sperm production
- sex drive
- mood balance
- facial and body hair growth
When the body does not produce enough of its own testosterone (testosterone deficiency) this can interfere with sexual development and reproductive health.
Overproduction of testosterone results in hormonal imbalances that have adverse effects on physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive function.
The body also converts steroids and excess testosterone into estrogen, the female sex hormone, which is what causes certain side effects such as enlarged breast tissue.
Why Are Anabolic Steroids Abused?
Anabolic steroid drugs are often abused by bodybuilders and weightlifters to build muscle mass rapidly, or by professional athletes to enhance performance in sports.
People who use steroid drugs for these purposes are at increased risk of becoming addicted to steroids physically, mentally, and psychologically, as tolerance increases.
As steroid use progresses, so does chemical dependence. It also decreases impulse control and increases mood swings, as hormone levels become more imbalanced.
How Are Steroid Drugs Used?
Steroids are often taken orally in pill form, injected directly into muscles with hypodermic needles, or applied topically as gels or creams to the skin at dangerously high doses.
When steroids are injected, this form of drug use can cause sores to form on the body at the sites of injection.
People who use steroids excessively and become addicted may attempt to control their tolerance levels and sustain the desired effects with strategic patterns of steroid abuse.
Patterns of steroid drug use include:
- stacking: using more than one kind of steroid simultaneously
- cycling: taking high doses at one time, stopping, then restarting
- pyramiding: gradually increasing dosage and frequency, then tapering
- plateauing: alternating steroids to avoid building tolerance to one type
Risks And Consequences Of Steroid Drug Abuse
Depending on the severity of steroid dependence, chronic steroid use can cause long term health problems and even life-threatening consequences.
Some common health risks and conditions of steroid abuse are:
- liver damage or failure
- kidney damage or failure
- blood clots
- increased risk of prostate cancer
- increased risk of breast cancer
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- increased risk of stroke or heart attack
- decreased sperm count
People who inject steroids into their muscles are at higher risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV, and other bloodborne viruses through contaminated hypodermic needles.
Abrupt cessation of heavy steroid use can result in steroid drug withdrawal.
This is due to the sudden drop in testosterone levels following severe steroid dependence and tolerance to high doses.
Testosterone withdrawal symptoms include:
- lack of appetite
- hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- muscle and joint pain
- decreased sex drive
- mood swings
- intense cravings
Finding Drug Abuse Treatment In Massachusetts
Anabolic steroid abuse can be as dangerously addictive as mind-altering substances, and steroid addiction should be treated appropriately.
If someone you know is actively dealing with a steroid use disorder, they can get help with evidence-based therapy to get diagnosed and treated with the care and compassion they deserve.
Call our helpline to speak with a specialist about treatment options for steroid dependence at our Quincy, Massachusetts rehab center.
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Medical News Today – Natural Steroids
MedicineNet – Steroid Abuse Types, Symptoms, Side Effects & Treatment
National Institute on Drug Abuse – Anabolic Steroids DrugFacts
Office of Justice Programs – Does Steroid Abuse Cause — Or Excuse — Violence?
Physiopedia – Anabolic Steroid Use
ScienceDirect – Steroid Abuse – an overview
United States Drug Enforcement Administration – Steroids