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Can You Overdose on Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroid overdose is more commonly called anabolic steroid toxicity and doesn't refer to an acute, life-threatening event—rather, anabolic steroid toxicity occurs over time, with chronic misuse.

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No, you cannot overdose on anabolic steroids in the way that we typically think of overdoses on drugs like opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines—in those situations, someone takes a toxic dose of a drug and immediately experiences life-threatening consequences such as stopped breathing and heartbeat or coma. 

With anabolic steroids, the negative effects on a person’s physical and mental health are caused by chronic steroid misuse. Consequently, an anabolic steroid overdose is more like a slow-moving health crisis that can affect your liver, heart, and brain. [1]

Signs & Symptoms of Anabolic Steroid Overdose 

Anabolic steroids mimic the male hormone testosterone. People who abuse anabolic steroids take doses that are 10 to 100 times stronger than the approved therapeutic dose. They do this in order to enhance athletic performance, improve physical appearance, or build muscles. [1] 

Again, anabolic steroid use isn’t associated with acute toxicity or overdoses; however, it is associated with toxicity, including neurotoxicity, and dangerous effects over time. Long-term anabolic steroid abuse can cause many harmful effects on a person’s health. 

Neurological and Psychiatric Signs of Steroid Toxicity

Common neurological and psychiatric issues associated with long-term anabolic steroid use include: [1],[2]

  • Major depression
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Significant brain cell death, comparable to Huntington’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dependence on anabolic steroids, resulting in withdrawal symptoms

Cardiatric Signs of Anabolic Steroid Overdose

Damage to the heart caused by anabolic steroid “overdose” may include: [1],[2]

  • Hypertension
  • Thrombosis (blood clot)
  • Heart attack or heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy (swelling and weakening of heart muscle)
  • High cholesterol
  • Coronary artery disease

Liver and Kidney Problems

Liver and kidney issues associated with chronic anabolic steroid abuse include:[1],[2]

  • Liver damage
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Abnormal enlargement of the liver
  • Acute kidney problems caused by liver damage

Endocrine System Issues

Chronic anabolic steroid abuse can cause many endocrine issues, such as:[1],[2],[3]

  • Prostate cancer
  • Shrunken testicles
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Gynecomastia (enlargement of male breast tissue)
  • Sterility
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Facial and body hair growth in females

Few people take too many steroids and immediately experience an overdose. Instead, these problems tend to build up very slowly until it becomes a medical crisis. 

How Anabolic Steroid Overdose Is Treated

The treatment you need depends on the symptoms you have. The first step is to stop using anabolic steroids immediately. Meanwhile, your treatment team will provide you with medical care and support while waiting for a full diagnostic report. Your treatment for anabolic steroid toxicity will be tailored to address your particular medical issues or complications.

Your plan might involve the following:[2]

  • Fluids: Kidney damage and some kinds of heart problems respond to fluids. They can also help flush toxins out of your system. 
  • Aspirin: People having a stroke can respond to aspirin if it’s provided early enough in the process. 
  • Blood pressure medications: If you have hypertension or high blood pressure, these medications can help manage the condition.
  • Cholesterol medications: If you developed high cholesterol from anabolic steroid misuse, these medications can help control it.
  • Multivitamins, including B1, B6, B12: These vitamins can protect liver cells from anabolic steroid overdose effects.
  • Psychiatric medications: Antidepressants, anxiolytics, or mood stabilizers may be prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder.

Some types of damage can’t be reversed with medications and fluids. But time spent in the hospital can start you on the right path to healing. 

It’s critical that you don’t use steroids again. It’s clear that these medications aren’t safe for you. 

Treatment for Anabolic Steroid Use Disorder

Many people who abuse anabolic steroids have developed a psychological dependence on and addiction to these drugs, which may make it difficult for them to stop. Once a person has been treated for medical complications due to anabolic steroid toxicity, they may need to attend comprehensive addiction treatment, including behavioral therapy or counseling. 

Various treatment settings include:

  • Inpatient rehab: You live at the facility for the duration of treatment, which involves 24/7 supervision and monitoring.
  • Partial hospitalization program: You live at home and attend a high-frequency of care, up to 30 hours of therapy per week.
  • Intensive outpatient program: You live at home and attend between 9 and 20 hours of counseling per week.
  • Standard outpatient: You attend therapy for a few hours per week while living at home.

If you are looking for a quality rehab center, contact us at Boca Recovery Center. We can treat anabolic steroid addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders like eating disorders or body dysmorphic disorder. 

Updated May 7, 2024
  1. Steroids Drug Enforcement Administration.
  2. Anabolic steroid toxicity. Middlebrook I, Schoener B. StatPearls. Published November 14, 2022. Accessed August 25, 2023.
  3. Anabolic Steroids. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Published June 1, 2021. Accessed August 25, 2023.
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