Updated on April 4, 2024
6 min read

What are the Risks of Anabolic Steroids Addiction?

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are synthetic versions of testosterone, a male sex hormone. When prescribed by a doctor, they can help with specific medical conditions like low testosterone or anemia. They can also promote muscle growth when used as intended.

Unfortunately, some people misuse these powerful drugs to build muscle mass quickly or enhance athletic performance, which is dangerous and illegal. This path often leads to addiction.

Steroids can have lasting negative effects, especially in developing teens. It's vital to understand the risks before considering steroid use.

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Are Anabolic Steroids Addictive?

Yes, they can be addictive. Misusing steroids often leads to steroid use disorder, where you keep using despite harmful consequences. This addiction can be both physical and psychological.

  • Physical dependence: Your body stops making its own testosterone, leading to health problems like heart issues, liver damage, infertility, and more.
  • Psychological dependence: You feel intense cravings, have body image issues, or become obsessed with the idea that you can't perform without steroids.

Addiction doesn't have to be the end of the story. Recovery is possible, and many people have successfully overcome steroid addiction.

Signs of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Addiction

Steroids might boost muscle growth, but they wreak havoc on your body long-term. By messing with muscles, organs, and cell protein production, they set the stage for dangerous problems.

Those who abuse steroids may experience both physical and psychological signs of addiction. Physical signs include:

  • Acne and hair loss
  • Breast growth in males and beard growth in females
  • Health problems (liver tumors and heart problems)

Long-term misuse of steroids can also cause blood-filled cysts in your liver that can rupture, putting you at risk of internal bleeding. For adolescents whose hormones are crucial for their development, misuse can lead to other problems:

  • In teen boys: Risk of lower sperm count, shrunken testicles
  • In teen girls: Interference with feminine traits, irregular periods, and deepened voice

Psychological signs of anabolic steroid addiction include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Tolerance (needing more and more to get the same effect)
  • Uncontrolled “roid rage” and violent mood swings or extreme sadness
  • Neglecting family, work, or finances to continue using steroids
  • Doctor shopping, lying, or spending excessive amounts on steroids
  • Pulling away from friends and activities you once loved

If you or someone you care about shows these red flags, get help from a medical professional right away. Quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. Professionals can guide you through safe withdrawal and recovery.

What are Common Patterns of Steroid Misuse?

People who misuse steroids often engage in risky practices to try and maximize results, such as:

  • Stacking: Taking multiple types of steroids at once or in doses way higher than prescribed. This is done for faster muscle gains, but the risks are severe.
  • Cycling: Using steroids for a period, stopping, then starting again. This can mess with your body's hormone production and make addiction harder to break.
  • Plateauing: Increasing the dose when the effects wear off. This can involve overlapping or switching steroid types, escalating the danger.

Anabolic steroid misuse can go hand-in-hand with muscle dysmorphia. This is a distorted body image where, even if you're muscular, you see yourself as small and weak.

It's a dangerous mindset that fuels the need to keep upping the dose, and requires professional help to address.

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Steroid Dependency?

Stopping steroids after misuse or dependence can be a rough ride. Up to 32% of people who misuse steroids experience withdrawal symptoms.1

Here's what you might face:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Decrease in blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Restlessness
  • Steroid cravings

This can last from days to weeks, and how tough it is depends on how much of the drug you were taking and how often you were taking it. 

If the symptoms are overwhelming, talk to your doctor. They can adjust your treatment plan to make the process more manageable and reduce the risks associated with withdrawal.

Other Risks & Dangers of Steroids

Steroid misuse isn't just about physical side effects. It can lead to a dark spiral of:

  • Low self-esteem and a desperate need to feel good about your body
  • Depression and thoughts of suicide
  • Fixation on weight or appearance, to the point of developing eating disorders
  • Turning to other substances for escape
  • Serious infections, especially if you inject steroids (HIV or hepatitis)

The root of the problem matters. If you're struggling with deeper issues, getting off steroids is only the first step. Addressing those underlying issues is key to breaking free from addiction for good.

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Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Addiction Treatment

Recovery from steroid addiction isn't just about quitting the drug. It's a multi-pronged battle plan to address the physical and psychological causes of steroid misuse.

Successful treatment includes:

  • Support for muscle dysmorphia and other psychological issues
  • Endocrine therapy to restore the body’s natural function
  • Medication to alleviate depression
  • Medication and support for co-occurring conditions
  • Behavioral therapy and medications to manage withdrawal symptoms

Remember, quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. A good treatment program starts with helping you withdraw safely, reducing the risk of relapse.

Safer Alternatives for Muscle Building

The main reason people abuse anabolic steroids is to increase lean muscle mass and improve their physical appearance or performance. To avoid this, it’s important to look for safer muscle-building alternatives.

These include:

  • Protein powders: Whey, casein, or plant-based options can boost protein intake for muscle repair and growth.
  • Creatine: This natural compound aids energy production during workouts. It can help increase muscle mass, strength, and performance.
  • Branch-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): These include leucine, isoleucine, and valine support. They support muscle protein synthesis, potentially reducing fatigue, promoting recovery, and aiding muscle growth.
  • Resistance training: Regular weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, or resistance bands stimulate muscle growth. Aim for consistent training with increasing resistance.
  • Nutrition and rest: Consume sufficient calories and nutrients for muscle growth. Prioritize adequate sleep for optimal muscle repair.

How to Prevent Steroid Misuse

Learning how to avoid steroid misuse is crucial for physical and mental health. Here are some strategies to resist the urge to use steroids:

  • Educate yourself: Understand the serious health risks of steroid use, including physical and mental issues, to deter their use.
  • Seek support: Join groups or programs with others facing similar challenges for community and encouragement.
  • Build a supportive network: Surround yourself with people who support your decision to stay steroid-free.
  • Avoid triggers: Identify and avoid situations, places, or people that tempt you to use steroids.
  • Focus on safe methods: Invest in learning proper nutrition and training for safe, sustainable progress.
  • Set realistic goals: Set achievable fitness goals, celebrate your progress, and remember natural improvement takes time.

Steroids are not a shortcut to a better body. They come with serious risks⁠—both physical and mental⁠—that can mess up your life long-term. If you're addicted to steroids, it's time to get help.

A professional can help you tackle the reasons behind your steroid use, manage the withdrawal safely, and build a healthier future. You don’t have to go at it alone.

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Updated on April 4, 2024

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