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Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

Steroid withdrawal doesn’t happen to everyone who stops anabolic steroid use after a period of misuse, but it is relatively common. Withdrawal can sometimes cause serious depression and thoughts of self-harm, which is why professional care is so essential.

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What Is Steroid Withdrawal?

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Anabolic steroid withdrawal, which is estimated to occur in about 32 percent of people who misuse steroids, is when the body begins to experience physical symptoms as a result of stopping anabolic steroid use.[1] This occurs because the body becomes physically dependent on the substance and must then readjust to the absence of steroids.

Typically, steroid withdrawal is less severe than withdrawal associated with more addictive substances, but it can still make quitting steroids difficult. In some cases, withdrawal from anabolic steroids can cause serious mental health symptoms and side effects that may be life-threatening.

Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms

A person going through steroid withdrawal may feel some or all of the following symptoms to varying levels of severity:[1],[2],[3]

  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Weight loss because of reduced appetite
  • Decreased strength
  • Depression
  • Steroid cravings
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain

Depression is typically considered the most severe steroid withdrawal symptom, as many people who misuse steroids already struggle with mental health issues, such as depression and low self-esteem. And some people going through withdrawal from anabolic steroids have reported suicide attempts, so it’s important to seek emergency psychiatric care if you are experiencing suicidality or depression. [1]

Left untreated, people feeling this way may be at risk for suicide, although limited data is available on how frequently withdrawal causes a person’s mental health to reach these unsafe levels.

One of the biggest risks of anabolic steroid withdrawal is severe depression and suicidal ideation.

Withdrawal Timeline

Research on the length of time anabolic steroid withdrawal tends to occur is limited, although the general consensus is that it can last a few weeks to months for a person’s body to completely reach a “normal” state after they cease anabolic steroid use. [4],[5]

It should be noted that withdrawal isn’t going to be continually severe the entire time. A person will experience a peak in their symptoms and then a decline in symptom severity as their body normalizes.

An important part of this recovery is a person’s body restoring its ability to maintain natural, normal testosterone levels. This takes time. There isn’t much a person can do to accelerate this process beyond avoiding anabolic steroids and other substances that may affect their testosterone production.

How Long Does it Take to Get Over Steroid Withdrawal?

Quick Answer

Some anabolic steroid withdrawal symptoms may last longer than others. Research indicates that hypogonadism symptoms, such as sexual dysfunction, fatigue, anxiety, and depression, may linger for several months. These symptoms may contribute to continued anabolic steroid use to alleviate them, leading to a cycle of compulsive use. [5]

How is Anabolic Steroid Withdrawal Treated?

Because withdrawal from anabolic steroids can be distressing and difficult to manage alone, professional treatment is often needed in the form of detox.

Steroid detox can occur in many different settings, including:

  • Acute care or psychiatric hospital: In a hospital, medical detox involves 24/7 supervision and monitoring to ensure your safety and comfort while you detox from anabolic steroids.
  • Freestanding detox center: Freestanding detox centers often offer around-the-clock medical detox services for anabolic steroid withdrawal.
  • Inpatient rehab center: Some inpatient rehab programs offer detox services upon admission.
  • Outpatient detox program: If your anabolic steroid addiction or withdrawal syndrome is mild, you may be able to manage your symptoms on an outpatient basis by visiting a facility during scheduled treatment sessions.

Regardless of the detox setting, management of anabolic steroid withdrawal includes medications and supportive therapy. The goals of treatment include: [3]

  • Restore hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal functioning
  • Alleviate withdrawal symptoms
  • Ensure patient comfort and safety
  • Address any complications
  • Achieve a medically stable, drug-free state

Endocrine medications may be used to improve functioning, such as: [3]

  • Human chorionic gonadotropin
  • Testosterone esters
  • Synthetic analogs of antiestrogens and gonadotropin-releasing hormone

The detox team may also prescribe antidepressants like Zoloft, Lexapro, or Paxil to relieve depression and anxiety associated with steroid withdrawal. Clonidine and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also be used symptomatically.[3]

Post-Detox Treatment for Anabolic Steroid Addiction

Treatment doesn’t end when you’ve completed steroid detox—recovery is a lifelong process that requires comprehensive anabolic steroid addiction treatment, which can occur in many settings like:

  • Inpatient treatment: The most intensive treatment option, you live at the facility for the duration of the program and receive around-the-clock support and care.
  • Partial hospitalization programs: The most intensive outpatient option, you live at home and attend up to 30 hours of therapy per week.
  • Intensive outpatient treatment: A step down from partial hospitalization, you reside at home while attending treatment for between 9 and 20 hours each week.
  • Standard outpatient: The least intensive option, you attend a few hours of counseling per week. This option isn’t recommended for those with severe addictions, polydrug addictions, or co-occurring mental health conditions.

Once you’ve completed steroid detox, rehab is so important because that is where you will address the underlying factors that caused your anabolic steroid use in the first place, such as mental health issues, body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, low self-esteem, trauma, or beyond. 

Treatment for anabolic steroid addiction may include:[1]

  • Psychological therapies for muscle dysmorphia
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Continued endocrine therapies after detox
  • Psychotherapies and pharmacological therapies for patients who are also dependent on opioids, which is common among anabolic steroid users

If you are struggling with anabolic steroid withdrawal or addiction, reach out for help. At Boca Recovery Center, we offer a range of services, including medical detox and residential treatment to help you recover from steroid misuse. We accept a variety of insurance plans and providers—verify your insurance and get started on the road to recovery today.

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Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated January 19, 2024
Resources
  1. Anabolic Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs. (May 2023). National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  2. Anabolic Steroids. (March 2021). Better Health Channel.
  3. Treatment strategies of withdrawal from long-term use of anabolic-androgenic steroids Medraś M, Tworowska U. Postepowanie przy odstawianiu długotrwale stosowanych preparatów androgenno-anabolicznych. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 2001;11(66):535-538.
  4. Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Dependence: An Emerging Disorder. (December 2010). Addiction.
  5. Investigating anabolic-androgenic steroid dependence and muscle dysmorphia with network analysis among male weightlifters Scarth, M., Westlye, L.T., Havnes, I.A. et al. BMC Psychiatry 23, 342 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-023-04781-1
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