Anabolic Steroid Addiction

Anabolic Steroid Addiction

Anabolic Steroid Addiction

Anabolic Steroid AddictionIt took over 60 years for the United States government to recognize that anabolic steroids are addictive. These synthetic male hormones do not cause a “rush” or intense feelings of euphoria, relaxation, or energy like heroin or cocaine, and people do not sell their children to get money to buy them. However, drug cravings, drug-seeking behaviors, and withdrawal are all medical criteria for a diagnosis of addiction, and anabolic steroids cause all three. People risk getting arrested to obtain these drugs, and they have undergone difficult withdrawal syndromes that require hospitalization and medical assistance.

In 1991 and 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice classified anabolic steroids as either Schedule III or Schedule IV Controlled Substances, which means they have a potential for addiction and are available legally only through a doctor’s prescription.

Since then, anabolic steroid abuse has declined, although most experts believe it is vastly underreported. The tragedy is that despite warnings and new research about the dangers of steroids, young men in particular are still willing to risk heart attacks, strokes, liver cancer, and the inability to father children in order to keep abusing them.

Steve Courson, a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, needed a heart transplant by the time he was 33 years old in 1988. He observed that his generation did not have the benefit of making an informed choice about anabolic steroids. The new generation does, and they are still choosing anabolic steroids. As Courson warned before he died in 2005, “Weigh the risks carefully or you may pay with your life.”

What Are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are man-made male hormones. Like their natural counterparts, anabolic steroids enhance male sexual characteristics such as muscle mass and baldness.

Anabolic steroids work in the hypothalamus, an organ of nerve cells at the base of the brain involved in the regulation of appetite, blood pressure, mood, and sex. Steroids disrupt the function of the hypothalamus and throw the entire hormonal/endocrine system out of balance.

Athletes have been using drugs to improve their performances since the time of the ancient Greeks. However, synthetic male hormones are more recent, having first been discovered in the 1930s. By the 1950s, competitive weight lifters were taking them to build muscle mass and gain weight quickly, and professional athletes in a variety of sports have been using them ever since. The first steroid ban was during the 1973 Olympics, and by 1988, most professional sports organizations were requiring mandatory tests for steroid use.

Athletes typically use ten to 100 times the medically-recommended dosages for anabolic steroids.

What Are The Medical Uses Of Anabolic Steroids?

Synthetic anabolic steroids were originally developed to treat men with hypogonadism or low testosterone as a form of male hormone replacement therapy to restore sexual function and build muscle mass.

Steroids also were prescribed for depression until scientific studies proved they actually increase depression.

Today synthetic anabolic steroids are prescribed to boys with delayed puberty and to treat impotence and certain body-wasting diseases like AIDS and cancer. People with anemia, breast cancer, hereditary angioedema, certain severe injuries or infections, blood clotting diseases, Turner’s syndrome are also sometimes prescribed steroids.

Drug companies like GTx, Ligand, Pfizer and Amgen are currently developing drugs that could function like anabolic steroids but have fewer serious side effects. One potential use could be to slow the aging process. Common anabolic steroids used medically and injected by needle are Deca-Durabolin (nandrolone decanoate), Durabolin (nandrolone phenpropionate), Depo-Testerone (testosterone cypionate), Equipose (boldenone undecylenate), and Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). Common steroids in pill or tablet form are Anadrol (oxymetholone), Osandrin (oxandrolone), Dianabol (methandrostenoione), Winstrol (stanozolol), Sustanon, and Anavar. The most popular steroid Deca-Durabolin is made by Organon and sold in vials. Human Growth Hormone is the most expensive steroid, usually sold in vials under the trademarked names of Ansomone, Mygetropin, Protropin, and Jintropin. Equipose is actually a medication approved only for animals.

Erythropoietin is popular in the bicycling community and recently was implicated in the deaths of 18 cyclists. Androstenedrine and Creatine are sold as food supplements, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned their use and the “dietary” use of any substance that the human body can convert to an anabolic steroid in 2004. Creatine damages the liver and kidneys.

Who Should Not Take Anabolic Steroids?

No one should take anabolic steroids without a doctor’s prescription.

Anabolic steroids cause prostate cancer, certain kidney and liver diseases, and they worsen certain blood or blood vessel diseases. They affect the progress of diabetes and breast cancer, and since they increase the amount of calcium in the blood, they should not be used by those who already have too much calcium in their bodies.

Anabolic steroids should not be used by pregnant women because they endanger the sexual development of their babies. They are not usually prescribed to the elderly or to children.

What Drugs Interact With Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids increase sensitivity to drugs that prevent blood clotting, and interact with acenocoumarol, anisindione, bupropion, dicumarol, phenindione, phenprocounon, and warfarin. Doctors usually advise patients on anabolic steroids not to use alcohol or tobacco.

What Are The Side Effects And Dangers Of Anabolic Steroids?

Some minor side effects can be unusual bleeding, weight gain, vomiting, acne, insomnia, headaches, muscle cramps, depression, oily scalp, dark urine, yellow eyes and skin, purple and red spots on the body, sore throat, fluid retention, cysts, chills, swollen feet, and bone pain. Anabolic steroids promote male traits such as increased facial hair, baldness, and deepened voices in both men and women. Anabolic steroids interfere with the natural production of testosterone, the male sex hormone. At first a person using steroids may have an increased sex drive but eventually it will actually decrease.

Anabolic steroids impair glucose regulation leading to higher levels of “bad” cholesterol and lower levels of “good” cholesterol.

Men can experience shrunken testicles, impotence, pronounced nipples, enlarged penis, painful erections, and breast development. Men abusing anabolic steroids can lose their capacity to father children because of low sperm counts. In one study, men who had stopped using steroids, even for twenty years, fathered children with birth defects.

Women can experience enlarged clitoris, menstrual problems, miscarriage, stillbirths, and excessive growth of body hair.

If pre-teens or younger teens abuse anabolic steroids, they may not reach their adult height because having a high amount of male hormones in the body will signal their bone plates to close prematurely and stop growing.
Since polydrug users commonly abuse anabolic steroids, they run an increased risk for HIV/AIDS and other diseases contracted by sharing contaminated needles.

Anabolic steroids cause legendary moods swings, irritability, and behavioral changes similar to those associated with bipolar disorders or even psychoses. The person can have impaired judgment and delusions due to feelings of invincibility. Every year “roid rage” contributes to domestic violence, murders, assaults and other crimes, both reported and unreported, as well as preventable suicides.

If steroids are abused for a long time or taken in large amounts, they cause serious and permanent damage to the body or even sudden death. Anabolic steroids are carcinogens linked to liver cancer and other cancerous tumors, kidney failure and high blood pressure. They cause heart attacks and strokes; in fact, one American athlete under 30 years old dies every three days of a heart attack, partly because of anabolic steroid abuse.

How Do Anabolic Steroids Show Up In Blood And Urine Tests?

Anabolic steroids do not show up in standard urine tests. However, specialized urine tests that detect these drugs are already in use today in sports organizations, schools, and even by parents. These kits detect up to 50 kinds of anabolic steroids used within two or three days, and can test for a few used up to several months before the test was administered.

Blood tests are much more accurate and harder to beat by “masking” methods, such as by taking diuretics (water pills). Blood tests can detect steroids in food supplements that athletes may not have been aware they were using. New technology is now being developed at George Mason University that will be even more accurate and test within a larger time frame of days or even months.

“Designer” steroids are drugs specifically engineered so they do not show up on blood or urine tests. They are illegal, unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration, and usually made in secret labs in the United States or imported from foreign countries. They are particularly dangerous because they are not subject to regulation.

Why Do People Abuse Anabolic Steroids?

Athletes in all kinds of sports use anabolic steroids in order to enhance their performance, gain weight quickly, and build muscle mass. These drugs also enable athletes to recover more quickly from workouts and to work out harder and more often.

Other people abuse anabolic steroids for reasons related to self-esteem and body image.

In the past few decades, the American ideal male body changed from a normal size (think Robert Redfield or Dustin Hoffman) to a buffed-up muscular version. Young men today grow up not only looking at comic superheroes, but “real life” images of chiseled athletes like Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong, and buffed-up actors in movies like “The Avengers.” These TV and Hollywood images can lead to a psychiatric condition called muscle dysmorphia in which the person perceives his body in a distorted way.

Even if a boy with dysmorphia works out, he still sees himself as weak and an adequate compared to his new ideal of manhood. Such boys experience dysmorphia in the same way anorexics who are dangerously thin experience themselves as fat and overweight. Dysmorphia in adolescent boys is associated with steroid use, disordered eating habits, and Anorexia Athletica (exercising too much or obsessively). Recent studies are indicating that dysmorphia and worry about body image among boys is increasing. For example, a study published in the November 2012 journal Pediatrics found that of 1307 middle and high school boys in St. Paul, MN, 40% were exercising to increase muscle mass, 38% were using protein supplements and 6% were using anabolic steroids.

Risk factors for steroid use are being male, participating in competitive sports, coming from a high socio-economic status, and having a past history of physical or sexual abuse and/or a family history of drug abuse, low self-esteem, and/or bad grades at school. One study of male weightlifters found that 25% had been physically or sexually abused, and that female weight lifters were twice as likely to use anabolic steroids if they had been raped.

Anabolic steroid use increases the risk to abuse other drugs, partly because it causes irritability and insomnia. In one study of 227 men who entered treatment for heroin, 9.3% had been addicted to steroids first. Anabolic steroids are typically abused in conjunction with diuretics, acne medications, marijuana, and cocaine.

An annual U.S. government survey, Monitoring the Future, estimates that 2% of middle school and high school students have experimented with anabolic steroids, a rate that translates to over a million students. The rate among student athletes is much higher. For a long time it was thought that this kind of drug abuse was confined to urban areas; however, recent major anabolic steroid drug busts have occurred in remote rural counties. Only three states have mandatory drug testing for high school athletes because the tests cost between $200 and $300 each, and because research has shown that tests do not necessarily deter drug use.

Anabolic steroid users typically have several patterns of use. “Stacking” steroids means using two or three different ones, stopping use, and then “stacking” more drugs again. “Pyramiding” is about starting with a low dose of steroids, building up to a high dose and then falling back to low levels again. “Cycling” is taking multiple doses of steroids, stopping them, and restarting. Professional trainers and coaches often help create these detailed regimes that can last for months, sometimes recommending powders to sprinkle on top of food and “dietary supplements” that the athletes do not realize contain anabolic steroids.

Since anabolic steroids are relatively easy to buy over the Internet, even on social network websites like MySpace, or through bodybuilding magazines, gymnasiums, and mail order catalogs, most people do not bother with street dealers. However, this is slowly changing for, as the government increasingly cracks down on steroids, the black market for them increases. Street names for anabolic steroids are juice, gym candy, pumpers, Arnolds, roids, stackers, weight trainers, and winstrols.

What Is An Anabolic Steroid Overdose?

Symptoms of an anabolic steroid overdose can be convulsions, coma, collapse and sudden death. The person’s body temperature and blood pressure will increase, and this in turn can lead to heart attack or stroke. Since it is hard to monitor dosages when you use anabolic steroids, especially in liquid form, these overdoses are not particularly unusual, although they are more likely to occur when the person is using other drugs along with steroids.

What Is Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal?

It is possible to become physically dependent on anabolic steroids and to have to undergo a withdrawal syndrome when you stop using them. Symptoms are extreme mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, headaches, depression, loss of appetite, reduced sexual drive, and insomnia. Some people turn to opioids like heroin or OxyContin to deal with insomnia and restlessness on their own.

The main danger of anabolic steroid withdrawal is suicide. Clinical depression after withdrawal can last a year or more, and people just give up trying.

The safe way to withdraw from steroid abuse is to enter a hospital or drug treatment center. A psychologist or other medical professional will screen you for depression and tell you exactly what to expect during withdrawal. Doctors can prescribe painkillers, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and drugs to restore your hormonal system and ease your symptoms. You may need to be on suicide watch for a while.

What Treatments Are Available For Anabolic Steroid Addiction?

People who abuse steroids often have deep-seated psychological problems such as low self-esteem, dysmorphia, eating disorders, and histories of physical abuse, rape or incest. They have been participating in a certain lifestyle, usually one that involves sports and gym time, and have difficulty giving it up because of their low-self esteem and body image issues.

If you enter a residential treatment center for drug addiction, you can get professional help on a 24/7 basis to break through the old lifestyle habits and develop newer, healthier patterns of working out. You may need to acquire a deeper level of self-acceptance about your inherited height and body type, and find new ways of appreciating yourself as you are. You may need to work through psychiatric issues and problems from your childhood with a professional counselor on a one-on-one basis. Physical fitness experts and nutritionists at your center can teach you about a healthy natural approach to eating, sports and working out.

Living for a few months in a rehabilitation center can be fun and life-changing. Many clients change careers, work through relationship issues with family and couples counselors, and develop exciting new hobbies. It is never easy to achieve a radical lifestyle change if you remain in your old environment with your drug-using friends and family members, which is why your chances of success are better if you enter a rehab center.

Signs You Are Addicted To Anabolic Steroids

If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, you should consult your physician or local mental health center for help with your addiction to anabolic steroids.

  • Do you believe that your self-worth depends how you look physically?
  • Do you think you work out too often or in an obsessive way?
  • Have you been using anabolic steroids illegally?
  • Do you use protein supplements and other dietary aids to increase your muscle mass?
  • Do you think you have to “beef up” to defend yourself physically?
  • If you are a woman, are you trying to be unattractive to men by using anabolic steroids?
  • Are you moody because of your anabolic steroid use?
  • Do you have trouble controlling your anger because of anabolic steroids?
  • Do you realize that anabolic steroids are causing you physical problems but yet you continue to use them?
  • Are you afraid that anabolic steroids will eventually ruin your health?
  • Do you think you need anabolic steroids to be a competitive athlete?
  • Have you tried to quit using steroids on your own and failed?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches and insomnia when you stop using steroids?
  • Are you afraid of getting in trouble with the law because of your steroid use?
  • Do you use steroids along with other drugs, whether legal or illegal?
  • Have you been using anabolic steroids for more than a month or so?
  • Are pyramiding, stacking or cycling anabolic steroids?


Grinnell, Esther, MD. Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008, pg. 35.

Longman, Jere. “High Schools Take on Doping With No Consensus on Strategy,” The New York Times, November 28, 2008.

Monkovic, Toni. “Steve Courson From the Heart, and From the Grave,” The New York Times, July 4, 2008.

“Mind Over Matter: Anabolic Steroids,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse,

Nelson, Elizabeth. Coping With Drugs and Sports.New York: Rosen Publishing, 1999, pg 4.

Ibid, pg. 7-8.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Performance Enhancing Drugs: Know the Risk,” The Mayo Clinic, see

“Anabolic Steroid Use: A Research Report,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see

Grinnell, Esther, MD. Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008, pg. 35.

“Anabolic Steroids (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see

Pollack, Andrew. “Drug Makers on the Trail of an Alternative to Steroids,” The New York Times, August 30, 2010.

“Anabolic Steroid Use: A Research Report,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see


“Anabolic Steroids (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see


“Anabolic Steroids Warnings,” The RX List, see

“Anabolic Steroids (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see

Nelson, Elizabeth. Coping With Drugs and Sports.New York: Rosen Publishing, 1999, pg. 59-62.

“Anabolic Steroids (Oral Route),” The Mayo Clinic, see; and “Anabolic Steroid Use: A Research Report,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see


“Anabolic Steroid Use: A Research Report,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see

Emmett, David and Graeme Nice.  Understanding Street Drugs.  London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006, pg. 209.

Grinnell, Esther, MD. Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008, pg. 3536.

Stenson, Jacqueline. “Kids on Steroids Willing to Risk It All,” MSNBC News, March 3, 2008, posted at

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Performance Enhancing Drugs: Know the Risk,” The Mayo Clinic, see

Benjamin, Johnny (MD). “With steroid and HGH testing, is blood or urine best?” USA Today Sports, September 1, 2009.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Performance Enhancing Drugs: Know the Risk,” The Mayo Clinic, see


Pisetsky, E.M. et al. Disordered eating and substance use in high-school students: Results from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. International Journal of Eating Disorders 41(5):464-470, 2008.

Quenqua, Douglas. “Muscular Body Image Lures Boys Into Gym and Obsession,” The New York Times, November 19, 2012.

“Anabolic Steroid Use: A Research Report,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see

“What Are Anabolic Steroids?” Research Report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health, see

Grinnell, Esther, MD. Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008, pg. 36.

Longman, Jere. “High Schools Take on Doping With No Consensus on Strategy,” The New York Times, November 28, 2008.

“Anabolic Steroid Use: A Research Report,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see

Grinnell, Esther, MD. Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse, New York: Infobase Publishing, 2008, pg 35.

Kaplan, Thomas, “Steroids Sold on MySpace, Official Says,” The New York Times, September 27, 2007.

Emmett, David and Graeme Nice.  Understanding Street Drugs.  London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006, 207-212.

Ibid, pg. 211.

“Anabolic Steroid Use: A Research Report,” The National Institute on Drug Abuse, see


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