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, although how frequently this occurs isn’t clear at this time.
What Is Steroid Withdrawal?
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 use of steroids. This occurs because the body becomes physically dependent on the substance and must then readjust to the absence of steroids.
Typically, this withdrawal is less severe than withdrawal associated with more addictive substances, but it can still make quitting steroid use more difficult. In some cases, withdrawal can cause serious mental health symptoms that may be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Steroid Withdrawal
A person going through steroid withdrawal may feel some or all of the following symptoms to varying levels of severity:
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss because of reduced appetite
- Decreased strength
Depression is typically considered the most severe of these symptoms, as many people who misuse steroids already struggle with mental health issues, such as depression and low self-esteem.
It is possible for a person to begin considering self-harm because of steroid withdrawal. This needs to be addressed quickly with the help of a mental health professional. 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.
Duration of Withdrawal Symptoms
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 as long as four months for a person’s body to completely reach a “normal” state after they cease steroid use.
It should be noted that withdrawal isn’t going to be equally 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.
The Detox Process From Steroids
The detox process for a person quitting anabolic steroids is going to be different depending on the length of their past use, severity of that use, other mental health issues they may be struggling with, and their body.
Because dependence is only estimated to occur in 32 percent of people who misuse steroids, some people may not experience a notable “detox” stage of their recovery, although their body will likely still need time to reach normal levels of testosterone production again.
For those who experience serious withdrawal symptoms, especially depression, addiction treatment can maximize their chances of successfully quitting anabolic steroids. Even those who don’t go through withdrawal can benefit from the counseling and advice mental health professionals specializing in addiction treatment can offer.
It is important for a person to identify what draws them to abuse drugs and how to deal with those feelings in a healthier way in the future, which addiction treatment professionals can help with.
How Can Steroid Withdrawal Be Treated?
While some people may need to stay at an addiction treatment facility for some of their detox process, most people going through anabolic steroid withdrawal can get through the process with a combination of individual and group therapy. Key features of this therapy include being able to talk about why you use drugs, your cravings for drugs, how you may avoid drug abuse in the future, and how to build a supportive network for yourself of people who can aid in this process.
It is worth noting that the type of treatment a person needs isn’t any kind of moral or value judgment. Needing to stay at a facility for a portion of your withdrawal so you get the support you need doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you are experiencing particularly bad withdrawal and related mental health symptoms.
Quitting drug use is an individual process, and you should avoid comparing yourself to others. Instead, focus on maximizing your chances of recovery and sustaining your drug abstinence.
Prolonged Recovery From Anabolic Steroid Abuse
Recovery from problems with drugs is a long-term process. Even once the body returns to a normal state, a person will often still feel drawn to use drugs, especially in times of stress or if similar situations that drew them to use steroids in the first place occur. They may also have other important mental health issues to work on related to their steroid use, such as an unhealthy body image or a damaging relationship with exercise.
While you may need to go less frequently as you recover, regularly seeing a mental health professional can help you avoid drug abuse and improve your overall quality of life. Even if a person is doing well, therapy can help them confront potential issues before they cause serious problems in their life. While the type of therapy a person can benefit from may change, even people in good mental health can greatly benefit from talking with a therapist on a regular basis.
If a person who struggled with steroid abuse does use steroids again, this doesn’t have to represent a total reset of progress. It’s important to remember that recovery from addiction and drug use is a journey.
Relapse is merely a sign that you need to adjust your treatment approach somehow. As soon as possible, reach out to your therapist or addiction treatment team. Talk about how to tweak your treatment approach to address the present relapse and better fortify against future relapse.
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