Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Abuse
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Anabolic steroid abuse comes with a range of side effects, such as aggression, hallucinations, mood swings, paranoia, and mania.
Serious side effects include harm to the heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and liver. Men may experience hair loss, acne, shrinking testicles, and breast development. Women may experience menstrual issues, odd hair growth, and acne.
Why Do People Take Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids mimic testosterone. For men with hormone issues or delayed puberty, and people of any gender with muscle loss, steroids are incredibly helpful.
But some bodybuilders and athletes take 100 times the recommended dose of steroids, and they do so without a doctor’s approval or supervision. These people hope the drugs will give them a competitive edge and deliver the body they’ve worked hard to build in the gym.
People who take steroids believe these drugs can do the following:
- Increase lean body mass
- Boost strength
- Shorten workout recovery times
- Enhance endurance
- Build muscle size
Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause significant short-term and long-term side effects. And people who abuse steroids for long periods may find it hard to quit without help.
Side Effects of Steroid Abuse: Short-Term & Long-Term Problems
Prescription medications like steroids are safe and effective when used under a doctor’s supervision. But people who abuse these drugs rarely ask for a doctor’s help. They may take so much at one time that experts aren’t exactly sure about the consequences.
These are a few side effects experts are sure of.
Short-Term Steroid Problems
Unlike heroin, Vicodin, and other commonly abused drugs, steroids don’t cause a high. People don’t feel a huge boost of pleasure or calm when taking steroids. But they may experience unintended emotional issues.
Steroid abuse causes the following issues:
- Mood swings
Long-Term Steroid Problems
One dose of steroids won’t cause dramatic body changes. People who abuse them often take doses repeatedly to get the results they want.
Long-term abuse can damage your:
- Blood vessels
Boys who abuse steroids can experience the following:
- Breast development
- Hair loss
- Shrinking testicles
Girls who abuse steroids can experience these issues:
- Menstrual problems
- Unusual hair growth
Steroid abuse is very common in professional bodybuilding circles. The habit has also been connected to high-profile deaths within the sport. In most cases, these bodybuilders died due to enlarged heart muscles.
Signs of Anabolic Steroid Abuse to Watch For
Some people who use anabolic steroids talk openly about the habit. They explain how they cycle through use and sobriety, and they may line up their pills and powders on kitchen counters so they remember to take their doses.
Some people try to keep their use a secret, but telltale signs may appear.
- Mood changes: Irritability or aggression is common. Some people may swing between anger and sadness.
- Intense focus: People abusing steroids to boost performance may give up virtually all non-workout activities, skip meals, and otherwise spend all their time and energy on bulking up and slimming down.
- Obsession with use: People may lie, steal, and cheat to get the drugs they need.
- Inability to quit: When people try to stop using steroids, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as depression.
Since anabolic steroid use damages organs, people with a habit may also seem physically ill. They may look yellow or jaundiced, and they may have swollen hands and feet.
With persistent use, they may complain of nausea or dizziness. And they may be covered with acne, stretch marks, and other skin issues.
Doctors can use liver function tests to diagnose steroid abuse. And doctors may know to run those tests on patients who appear visibly changed from one appointment to the next.
How Is Steroid Abuse Treated?
People rarely start abusing steroids on a whim. In most cases, deep psychological problems entice people to turn to drugs. Dealing with those issues is a core part of treatment.
Some people misuse steroids due to body image issues. When they look in the mirror, they see a body that’s too thin, too weak, and too frail.
In therapy, these people can learn to accept their bodies as they are right now. And they can learn how to develop a healthy relationship with eating and workout plans.
Researchers have found that many people who abuse steroids have been sexually assaulted in the past. They are using muscle mass to help them feel safe in a dangerous world.
Therapy can help them to discuss and process these feelings so they won’t lean on unhelpful solutions like drugs to address a very real mental health issue. Without dealing with the underlying issue, it’s likely that the substance use disorder won’t be successfully managed.
Anyone abusing steroids should consider enrolling in a comprehensive treatment program. Drugs only mask problems.
Therapy can deliver real healing, so the person can stop abusing drugs for good. The end result is a happier, healthier person.
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