Synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone are known as androgenic-anabolic steroids (AAS). They have powerful impacts on the human body that may help athletes perform better.
Overview Of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Abuse (AAS)
Steroids are synthetic substances similar to testosterone hormones that are often used to induce body building and making a bulky body. It is a medical drug that is prescribed for anemic patients or men who can’t produce enough testosterone. Sometimes, doctors also prescribe a different type of steroid called corticosteroid that helps to reduce swelling.
This drug is not prescribed to young healthy people to build muscles. These are illegal, if they are consumed without a prescription. Some of the popular steroids that are prescribed are:
- Deca- durabolin
The typical AAS users are male, aged between 20 to 40, and who lift weights. Reports 1 found that lifetime AAS use is highest among men with stimulants of around 55.8%. These substances are cheap and can be easily obtained via the internet or local suppliers when it is illegal. It is used in cycles with a duration between six and eighteen weeks. Steroid users begin with modest dosages and progressively escalate to greater amounts at the start of the cycle. In the second half of the cycle, they gradually lower the doses again.
Some users have pills while others use hypodermic needles to inject it directly into the muscles. When users take drugs over and over again they are called abusers. Abusers have been found to take doses that are10 to 100 times higher than the amount that is usually prescribed.
Steroids can cause hormonal imbalances. Hormones are responsible for the development of a girl’s feminine traits and a boy’s masculine traits. It can cause shrinkage of testicles in boys and reduced sperm count. It may also cause enlarged breasts, which is a condition called gynecomastia. Girls tend to become more masculine as a result of steroid abuse. They have voice deepening, excessive hair growth, and decreased breast size. Teens may be at risk of a decreased growth spurt. Steroid abuse can also be fatal. People with this addiction may develop a condition called peliosis hepatis where blood-filled cysts sit on the liver which can rupture and cause internal bleeding.
There may be various reasons why people use steroids. The majority of people do it to improve their body’s performance and looks. They usually do so due to their fear that normal training will not be enough to succeed. People who use these drugstry to enhance their appearance by increasing muscle and decreasing fat. They tend to suffer from dysmorphia or abnormal perception of their own body.
Steroids also interfere with the brain and may cause aggressiveness and homicidal rage. Non-violent people are found to commit murder under the influence of these drugs. Moods and emotions may also be influenced by it and cause irritability and mild depression. Eventually, it can cause manic episodes, delusions, and violent aggression.
A 2002 study found that 2.5% of 8th graders, 3.5% of 10th graders, and 4% of 12th graders ever tried steroids. Reports 2 found the prevalence rate to range between 4% to 12% in male adolescents and 0.5% and 2% in female adolescents.
Read More About Drug Abuse Here
Effects Of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Abuse
There may be several effects and possible health risks 3of steroid abuse. They are as follows:
1. Male Specific Side Effects
The male specific side effects are as follows:
- Enlarged breasts for men
- Decreased sperm production
- Shrinking of the testicles
- Male pattern baldness
- Testicular cancer
- Lower back pain
- Water retention
2. Female Specific Side Effects
The female specific side effects are as follows:
- Extreme clitoral enlargement
- Menstrual irregularity
- Voice deepening in women
- Decreased breast size in women
- Coarse skin
- Excessive body hair growth in women
3. Physical Side Effects
The physical side effects include:
- Decreased libido
- Deepened voice
- Kidney pain
- General skin infections and skin tearing
- Severe acne on the face and back
- Liver disease
- Kidney damage
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Increased heart size
- Liver tumors
- High blood pressure
- Blood clots
- Heart attacks
- Artery damage
- Oily scalp and skin
- Peliosis hepatis
4. Injection Side Effects
Common side effects of AAS via injection include:
- Neurovascular energy or damage to blood vessels and nerve clusters
- Bacterial infection
- Hepatitis B or C
- HIV infection
5. Psychological Side Effects
The psychological effects of this condition include:
- Psychological dependence and addiction
- Mood swings
- Short term personality changes due to increased usage
- Increased aggression
- Delusions of grandeur
- Irrational thoughts and behavior
- Memory loss
- Panic Attacks
- Violent or angry rampages
Read More About Mood Disorders Here
Diagnosis Of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Abuse
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified this condition under “other substance-related disorder”.
The International Classification of Diseases has laid down the following diagnostic criteria for this condition. The individual must experience at least three of the following during the past year:
- A strong desire to take steroids
- Difficulty in controlling the usage
- Withdrawal syndrome when cut back
- Evidence of tolerance
- Neglecting other interests and persistent use despite harmful consequences
The doctor will examine and evaluate the patient to diagnose this condition. He may ask questions about their physical and family history. After diagnosis, they will devise a treatment plan.
Read More About Withdrawal Here
Treatment For Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Abuse
Studies4 suggest that the main form of treatment is therapy. If you see the symptoms of the condition, it is important to seek medical attention. The doctor can help diagnose and treat the condition. Steroid addiction treatment usually involves:
- Detox: This requires removal of any steroids from the body and to manage withdrawal symptoms.
- Therapy: This is used to address any underlying conditions related to the condition and work through the issues that may be triggering them to abuse drugs.
- Medications: They are prescribed to ease the withdrawal symptoms or address any other mental health issues.
- Aftercare: This is provided to continue support after treatment in order to prevent any relapses.
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
This therapy helps to understand and evaluate the thoughts and feelings that govern their negative and addictive behavior. These negative thoughts and patterns are then replaced with positive thoughts and patterns to attain the desired outcome. The doctor may help the patient to develop coping strategies to ease the symptoms of the condition. Studies 5 have proven effective in treating patients with steroid abuse.
Read More About Cognitive Behavioral Therapy ( CBT ) Here
2. Lifestyle changes
If a user wants to stop using steroids, it can be helpful to withdraw from environmental situations such as the gym or steroid using training partners. Routine health checkups may also be recommended to keep the symptoms at bay.
3. Outpatient Recovery Program
It usually takes place a few times a week for a few hours in an institute. This program includes group therapy, group counseling, and withdrawal symptoms management. The patient has to come in for a few hours to complete the session. These sessions are also used to develop coping skills in order to ease the symptoms.
4. Inpatient Recovery Program
This program occurs 24/7 in a rehab center. It offers 24/7 vigilance on patients with steroid addiction. These are live-in facilities where the person receives group counseling and therapy as well as continuous medical supervision. These programs offer more intensive care for mental or physical problems. Reports 6 found that inpatient programs are more effective than outpatient programs.
Medications such as antidepressants may be prescribed to treat associated conditions such as depression or anxiety. They may also be prescribed pain medications for headaches and muscle and joint pain. If there are associated conditions such as HIV or hepatitis they may also be prescribed medications.
Read More About Antidepressants Here
Can It Be Prevented?
The best way to prevent it from developing into a condition is to completely abscond it. It is possible to gain the desired body performance with proper training and diet. Unfortunately, there are only limited studies 7 on drug abuse prevention strategies.
Recovery From Steroid Abuse
It is important not to wait for a steroid addiction. The side effects of long term usage can have lasting complications such as liver damage, heart disease, and infertility. This can be extremely detrimental to one’s health. Some people are hesitant to quit because they are concerned about how they will seem without steroids. With treatment, it is possible to regain control of the condition and lead an addiction free life.
Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Abuse Abuse At A Glance
- AAS have various medicinal uses but they are most commonly abused to enhance athletic performance
- AAS are synthetic substances similar to testosterone hormones that are often used to induce body building and making a bulky body.
- The typical AAS users are male, aged between 20 to 40, and who lift weights.
- It can cause hormonal imbalances.
- It also interfere with the brain and may cause aggressiveness and homicidal rage.
- The best way to prevent it from developing into a condition is to completely abscond it.
- The side effects of long term usage can have lasting complications such as liver damage, heart disease, and infertility.
- Havnes, I. A., Jørstad, M. L., McVeigh, J., Van Hout, M. C., & Bjørnebekk, A. (2020). The Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Treatment Gap: A National Study of Substance Use Disorder Treatment. Substance abuse : research and treatment, 14, 1178221820904150. https://doi.org/10.1177/1178221820904150
- Bahrke, M. S., Yesalis, C. E., & Brower, K. J. (1998). Anabolic-androgenic steroid abuse and performance-enhancing drugs among adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 7(4), 821-838. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1056-4993(18)30214-1
- What are the side effects of anabolic steroid misuse? (2021). National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-are-side-effects-anabolic-steroid-misuse
- Kanayama, G., Brower, K. J., Wood, R. I., Hudson, J. I., & Pope, H. G., Jr (2010). Treatment of anabolic-androgenic steroid dependence: Emerging evidence and its implications. Drug and alcohol dependence, 109(1-3), 6–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.01.011
- Morgenstern, J., Blanchard, K. A., Morgan, T. J., Labouvie, E., & Hayaki, J. (2001). Testing the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral treatment for substance abuse in a community setting: within treatment and posttreatment findings. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 69(6), 1007–1017. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-006x.69.6.1007
- Finney, J. W., Hahn, A. C., & Moos, R. H. (1996). The effectiveness of inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcohol abuse: the need to focus on mediators and moderators of setting effects. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 91(12), 1773–1820.
- Yesalis, C. E., & Bahrke, M. S. (1995). Anabolic-androgenic steroids. Current issues. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 19(5), 326–340. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-199519050-00003