Finding Rehab Facilities for Steroid Abuse Treatment

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Though there are legitimate medical uses, anabolic steroids are commonly used to improve physical appearance and enhance athletic performance. While the short-term effects of steroids may produce rewards in terms of body image, people often ignore or may not even know the potential dangers of these substances. In fact, long-term effects of steroid use can include serious and persistent health consequences such as heart attack, stroke, liver tumors, and psychiatric problems.

Although steroids are not used to get high like other illicit drugs, people who use steroids may develop an addiction to them and continue using them despite serious negative consequences. When people suddenly stop using steroids, they may feel depressed, tired, or restless.2 Professional substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation can help those struggling with steroid addiction get clean and learn effective ways to cope with the pressures that led to substance abuse and addiction.

What Are Steroids?

steroid pills and needles on wood tableAnabolic steroids are man-made versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. They are technically called anabolic-androgenic steroids because of the effects they have on the body: anabolic means that they stimulate protein synthesis and muscle growth, while androgenic means they promote the development of male characteristics by mimicking the effects of endogenous male hormones like testosterone. People take anabolic steroids to improve their athletic performance, increase muscle mass, and alter their physical appearance.

Slang names for anabolic steroids include:3

  • Gear.
  • Juice.
  • Roids.
  • Stackers.

Steroids are classified as Schedule III substances, meaning that they have accepted medical uses but may cause physical or psychological dependence. Commonly abused oral steroids include:4

  • Anadrol.
  • Oxandrin.
  • Dianabol.
  • Winstrol.

Commonly abused steroid injections include:4

  • Deca-Durabolin.
  • Durabolin.
  • Depo-Testosterone.
  • Equipoise.
  • Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG).

People sometimes use anabolic steroids in certain ways that are believed to maximize the drugs’ effects and minimize side effects:3

  • Stacking: Combining different types of steroids at the same time.
  • Cycling: Alternating between periods of using steroids and not using them.
  • Pyramiding: Gradually increasing the dose amount or frequency until a peak is reached, then tapering back off the drug slowly.

Side Effects

While people generally take steroids for what they perceive to be positive effects, such as increased strength, improved athletic performance, or a more muscular physique, the numerous side effects of steroid misuse can have extremely detrimental effects on their physical and mental health.

Negative behavioral and psychological side effects of anabolic steroids can include:5,6

  • Dramatic mood swings.
  • Hostility.
  • Impaired judgment.
  • Increased aggression.
  • Depression.
  • Paranoia.
  • Irritability.
  • Delusions, including irrational fears or false beliefs or ideas.

The following physical side effects of anabolic steroids have been observed in both men and women, but they vary based on a person’s age, duration of drug use, and dosage:5,6

  • High cholesterol.
  • Acne.
  • Fluid retention.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headaches.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Problems with sexual functioning.
  • Increased muscle size.
  • Increased blood pressure.

In men, steroid use can cause:6

  • Early sexual development.
  • Shrinkage of the testicles.
  • Stunted growth.

Women may experience the following physical side effects:6

  • Deepening of the voice.
  • Increased facial and body hair.
  • Irregular menstrual periods.
  • Lengthening of the clitoris.
  • Male pattern baldness.

It is important to note that some of these physical changes may be permanent.6 When abused in high doses or over a prolonged period of time, steroids can cause potentially serious and deadly effects, including:5

  • Blood-clotting problems.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Liver damage.
  • Stroke.
  • Heart attack.

Youth and Adolescents

Steroid use among young people has seen a slight decline in recent years after reaching peak levels in the early 2000s.7 In a 2016 survey, just 1% of 12th graders, 0.7% of 10th graders, and 0.5% of 8th graders reported using anabolic steroids within the past year.7

muscular male youth sits on bleacher steps

It has commonly been thought that teenagers and adolescents use steroids to mimic their favorite professional athletes. Recently, however, increasing attention has been paid to the relationship between body image and steroid use, especially in adolescent boys.

One study found that approximately two-thirds of young men are not satisfied with their bodies, either because they feel they need to lose weight or gain muscle.8 Boys who were dissatisfied with their own bodies were more likely to hold lenient attitudes toward steroid use in sports.8 Although the study found similar rates of body dissatisfaction between boys and girls, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that high-school aged boys use steroids at higher rates than girls (4% vs. 2.7%).9

Body dissatisfaction could be due to a condition known as muscle dysmorphia, which causes people to have an unrealistic view of their bodies and see flaws that are not truly there.10 Young people who have experienced physical or sexual abuse may also turn to steroids. By becoming bigger and stronger, they may think they are better able to fend off future attacks.10

Steroids in Professional Sports

Professional athletes have used steroids for decades to enhance performance. First developed in the 1930s to help people with growth, sexual functioning, and development issues, steroids were later used in World War II to help undernourished soldiers gain weight and increase strength.5 In 1956, Soviet Olympic athletes used steroids to help them perform better, and other countries followed suit until the substances were officially banned from the Olympic games in 1975.5

By the mid-1970s, steroids were widespread in the professional athletic community.5 In 1988, federal regulations were enacted that placed high penalties on people who sold or possessed steroids, and in 1990 Congress passed the Anabolic Steroid Enforcement Act, which made steroids illegal for the use of performance enhancement.5

Despite regular testing for anabolic steroids by all professional sports organizations and the Olympics, athletes continue to use these drugs to enhance their performance, and there have been a number of high-profile athletes whose careers have been marred by steroid use, including:

  • Jose Canseco.
  • Mark McGwire.
  • Ken Caminiti.
  • Sammy Sosa.
  • Barry Bonds.
  • Alex Rodriguez.
  • Floyd Landis.
  • Lance Armstrong.

Many young people look up to professional athletes and hope to become as successful or admired as they are at some point in their lives; unfortunately, they are likely to be influenced by athletes’ steroid use. In a survey conducted on teenage steroid users, 57% of students in grades 8 through 12 said that professional athletes were an influence on their drug use.11 Furthermore, 63% said that professional athletes influenced their friends to begin taking steroids, while 80% of steroid users and 35% of non-users thought that steroids could help them become a professional athlete.11

Signs and Symptoms

If you are concerned that a friend or loved one may be using oral steroids, there are certain signs and symptoms that you might notice.

Anabolic steroids are widely abused, and there is some evidence that people who misuse them go on to develop an addiction.Physical changes may be the easiest to spot because they are difficult to conceal. Many of these are short-term effects of steroids, meaning they can manifest after just a short period of use. Some of the observable negative effects of steroids include:2,3

  • Increased facial hair.
  • Rapid weight gain or muscle growth.
  • Severe acne.
  • Dramatic changes in appetite or energy levels.
  • Excessive breast development in men.

Some of the behavioral, social, and emotional symptoms to be aware of include:2,3

  • Severe mood swings.
  • Aggression and irritability (such as lashing out at friends for no apparent reason).
  • Withdrawal from family and friends.
  • Depression.
  • Paranoia.
  • Excessive desire to work out.

Mixing Steroids with Alcohol and Other Drugs

Research has found a correlation between steroid use and both the use of other illicit substances and the consumption of high amounts of alcohol, especially in young people.12,13 Other drugs frequently abused by steroid users include alcohol, heroin, amphetamine, cannabis, and smokeless tobacco. Many study participants also use human growth hormones along with anabolic steroids.12

steroid pills and needles next to a glass of alcohol

Because steroids interfere with sleep, many users turn to sedative drugs, including alcohol and opioids, to help them sleep.4 These drugs carry health risks of their own, including liver disease and heart attack, that may be dangerously compounded when used in conjunction with anabolic steroids.14

Polysubstance abuse can also exacerbate mood disorders such as depression that are associated with steroid use. Steroid users may turn to other drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate their psychological issues, but these substances in fact make the problem worse.

Is ‘Roid Rage’ Real?

Steroids disrupt a person’s mood and can cause heightened levels of irritation and aggression. There is scientific evidence to support the existence of “roid rage,” a behavioral condition that can develop when people use increasing amounts of steroids over an extended period. As the term indicates, people may display unusual and excessive displays of aggression.15

The elevated aggression associated with steroids can be more than just disruptive to personal relationships. In research studies, some subjects have admitted to physical acts of violence, fighting, vandalism, robbery, and other crimes while using steroids.15 While the extent of the correlation between violent crime and steroid use is not exactly known, studies in animals have confirmed a correlation between aggressive behavior and steroid administration.15

Are Steroids Addictive?

Anabolic steroids are widely abused, and there is some evidence that people who misuse them go on to develop an addiction. Because of their potentially devastating health effects, widespread efforts are being made to raise awareness of this issue and improve treatment options for those who have developed a steroid addiction.3 Clinical studies have even demonstrated that animals will self-administer steroids if they are offered the opportunity, as they do with illicit drugs more commonly associated with addiction.3

People who are addicted to steroids may:16

  • Take the substance over longer periods and in larger amounts than intended.
  • Spend a large majority of their time trying to obtain the substance.
  • Have a strong desire, or craving, to use the drug.
  • Give up important social, recreational, and other activities to use the drug.
  • Continue to use despite serious negative legal, medical, and social consequences.

If you or someone you know are exhibiting two or more of these behaviors, a professional addiction treatment program can help you detox from steroids, address any psychological issues you may have, and break free from addiction.

Detox and Withdrawal

People who abuse steroids may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using the substance. Withdrawal is a sign that the body has become dependent on a substance, and the person may feel like they need to keep using that substance to function normally. This process can lead users to develop a tolerance to the drug—meaning they need increasingly large or frequent doses in order to achieve the same effects—and eventually to addiction.

man portraying steroid withdrawal sits on edge of bed stressedSome of the common withdrawal symptoms of steroids include:4

  • Mood swings.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Restlessness.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Cravings to use steroids again.
  • Depression and thoughts of suicide.

Withdrawal symptoms may cause significant distress for the individual and can interfere with a person’s social and occupational functioning, but detox is a necessary first step in the process of treating steroid addiction.

Treatment and Recovery

The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises evaluation for suicidal thoughts, supportive therapy, and education as the main types of therapy for the treatment of steroid addiction.18 Some people may require medication and/or hospitalization, depending on the extent of their withdrawal symptoms.18 Specific medications to help restore hormonal balance and alleviate depression may also be helpful for steroids treatment.18

There are several types of rehab programs available, and people seeking treatment for steroid addiction should consider their personal needs and situation when selecting a facility. Program options include:

  • Inpatient treatment: Patients live at a residential treatment center for a period of 30 to 90 days, potentially longer if needed. While there, they participate in a variety of treatments such as individual psychotherapy with a professional therapist, group counseling with other members of the addiction program, 12-step programs, and education. Many facilities offer alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation, or luxury amenities such as spa services.
  • Outpatient treatment: Patients attend treatment sessions at the rehab facility but continue living at home. Outpatient facilities offer many of the same therapies as those offered at inpatient centers, but treatment is less intense. Patients often continue working, attending school, and completing their other obligations. Treatment may be scheduled one to several times per week, for one to several hours per day.
  • Partial hospitalization program: Also known as an intensive outpatient program, this model allows the patient to live at home, but they must attend outpatient treatment at the rehab facility for several hours a day, most days of the week. This intense form of outpatient treatment is beneficial for people who require intensive support but are unable to fully live in an inpatient facility.

During addiction treatment, you will work with your counselor to identify the various factors that led you to abuse steroids. Through psychotherapy, you will learn positive strategies to address unhealthy body image issues, improve self-esteem, manage competitive drive, modify your behavior, and manage certain people or situations that may trigger you to want to use steroids again.

A key component of treatment is development of an aftercare plan—the roadmap for you to avoid relapse once you have completed treatment. Recovery from addiction is an ongoing, often life long process, and your aftercare plan will include regular check-ins with your individual therapist, plus attendance in group counseling sessions or 12-step meetings.


References:

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Anabolic Steroid Abuse: Letter from the Director.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2017). Anabolic Steroids.
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). Corticosteroids overdose.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are anabolic steroids?
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). What are steroidal supplements?
  6. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Anabolic Steroids.
  7. Drug Enforcement Administration. Steroids.
  8. Johnston L., O’Malley P., Miech R., et. al. (2017). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2016: 2016 Overview: Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
  9. Yager Z., O’Dea J. (2014). Relationships between body image, nutritional supplement use, and attitudes towards doping in sport among adolescent boys: implications for prevention programs. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 11:13.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2015.
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). Why do people abuse anabolic steroids?
  12. Hoffman J., Faigenbaum A., Ratamess N., et. al. (2008). Nutritional Supplementation and Anabolic Steroid Use in Adolescents. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 40(1):15–24.
  13. Skarberg K., Nyberg F., and Engstrom, I. (2009). Multisubstance Use as a Feature of
    Addiction to Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids.
    European Addiction Research.15:99–106.
  14. DuRant R., Rickert V., Ashworth C., et. al. (1993). Use of Multiple Drugs Among Adolescents Who Use Anabolic Steroids. New England J. Med. 328(13):922–926.
  15. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.) Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.
  16. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). What effects do anabolic steroids have on behavior?
  17. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  18. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006). What treatments are effective for anabolic steroid abuse?
  19. Medras M. and Tworowska U. (2001). Treatment strategies of withdrawal from long-term use of anabolic-androgenic steroids. Pol Merkur Lekarski. 11(66):535–538.
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