Note: steroid use in recovery is predominately male.
The term “steroids” is used to describe a number of substances and body chemicals, ranging from natural testosterone, to over-the-counter itch creams, to powerful anti-inflammatory drugs, and even to illegal anabolic steroids. Because steroids describe an entire class of compounds, it can be easy to confuse safer steroids with more dangerous, anabolic steroids.
How Dangerous Is Steroid Use?
Under the direction of a trusted medical physician, the use of medical steroids, such as corticosteroids for treatment of inflammation, can be safe. On the other hand, the use of anabolic steroids can be very dangerous.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (also known as anabolic steroids) are synthetic or organic substances that are structurally similar to testosterone, a hormone often associated with men and male development. While everyone, male or female, carries some natural testosterone, the addition of anabolic steroids can create unhealthy changes in the body.
Some health and fitness websites discuss or even promote the use of newer anabolic steroids and their hybrids. Sometimes, these drugs are promoted as “safe” alternatives. Many of them are not even reviewed by the U.S. Food and drug administration, and may contain untested and unsafe compounds.
In some cases, anabolic steroids may be prescribed by a doctor—but this is only reserved for particular cases, such as genuine hormone deficiencies, delayed puberty, diseases that degrade lean muscle mass. More commonly, anabolic steroids are used illegally, and often in dangerous degrees.
The dangers of anabolic steroid use are varied and can be quite severe. Steroids can impact the body’s hormonal balance, and they may lead to changes in body hair, depth of voice, sexual functioning, genital appearance, body oils and acne, and more. It is concerning to note that these drugs are strongly linked to heart attacks and cancers, particularly liver cancer.
The Causes and Effects of Steroid Use
Steroid abuse does not happen by chance. Many people begin using these drugs to obtain or reach an ideal body image or athletic goal. Sometimes, these drugs offer a temporary spike in energy that some people crave. The effects of steroid use are not sustainable, and they may lead to a great deal of side effects.
In a medical setting, steroids are generally not intended for long-term use. These medications can be habit-forming and they are only prescribed or offered for short periods of time as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Over time, individuals who use anabolic steroids will require more and more of the drug to achieve the original results. As the person’s tolerance for this drug increases, the individual is more likely to become dependent on the medication. As doses increase, the dangers increase. It is important to seek addiction treatment and support for a fully healthy recovery.
Recovery from Steroid Dependence
Ending steroid use in a safe way can be life-saving. However, abrupt cessation of steroid use can cause some withdrawal symptoms. Some common withdrawal symptoms may include fatigue, mood swings, insomnia, cravings, and reduced sex drive. Depression and intense frustration or sadness is a dangerous side effect of sudden steroid withdrawal. Sometimes these moods bring on suicidal thoughts. It is very important to work with a treatment professional or program during this process. A little bit of support or alternate treatments can lead to a safer, lasting recovery.
Steroid abuse is just as dangerous as any other addiction. It can impact relationships, finances, safety, and health. Anabolic steroid use is often complicated by mental health concerns, such as depression or body image issues. No matter what caused a steroid dependence, it is important to also treat the emotional, relationship, or mental health concerns that occur alongside steroid use.
Written by Foundations Recovery Network