Identifying Signs of Steroid Use in a Loved One

Anabolic steroids are a class of drugs that mimic the human body’s natural hormones produced by the adrenal glands. When used medically and short term, steroids help the body fight inflammation and shut down certain parts of the immune system. Long term recreational use, however, will destroy the body’s natural endocrine system and can lead to severe and permanent damage. 

Steroids are known for their ability to make the body physically stronger and faster, and the common reason for starting steroids recreationally is to improve your physique. Understanding how steroids work, and the side effects they cause will help you identify if someone you love is using steroids and needs to be treated in a professional addiction treatment clinic to ensure all a full and complete recovery.  

How do Steroids Work?

Steroids are used to treat a wide variety of illnesses that cause severe inflammation in the body. When the chemicals enter the bloodstream and muscle fibers, their specific makeup encourages the cells to reproduce and promote faster growth. This process causes muscles to build at an extremely high rate, making bodybuilding or weight loss goals easier to achieve.

The other function of steroids for recreational use is their ability to enhance athletic performance and recovery. Typically when muscles are used, overused, or strained, they take a certain period of time to recover and rebuild. This is why athletes typically incorporate rest days, stretching days, or take long periods of time off after an injury. Steroids enable the muscles to require less recovery time, enhancing the stamina of the athlete. 

The mental addiction to steroids tends to stem from the desire to be stronger and faster than others. At the same time, the ability to achieve bigger goals with less effort. When someone comes off steroids, the body’s natural abilities are weaker since they have been depending on the steroids for strength, therefore many people find it difficult to quit using.

How are Steroids Taken?

There are a few ways steroids can be taken recreationally. While many drugs come in one form (pill, liquid, etc) steroids come in many forms. They also come in different grades depending on if they are from medical clinics or off the street. Typically, steroids are abused through:

  • Injecting liquid steroids directly into the muscles
  • Taking oral steroids in pill form
  • Rubbing steroidal gel or cream onto the skin for absorption 

Additionally, there are different patterns of steroid abuse that are typically followed. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes these four main patterns of steroid use as: 

  • Cycling: alternating periods of time taking and stopping steroid use (ex: one week on, one week, etc.)
  • Stacking: Taking different types of steroids at one time
  • Pyramiding: slowly increasing the dose over time 
  • Plateauing: alternating between different types of steroids to avoid tolerance to one

If you suspect steroid use in a loved one and notice mood and behavior changes following a specific pattern, they may be following one of these steroid use models. 

Side Effects of Steroid Use:

Steroids affect every aspect of the individual using drugs. From mental to physical, to emotional- steroid use will change the person you love. Recognizing the signs and symptoms is a key resource for identifying if your loved one may have an addiction and require treatment. 

Emotional Side Effects: 

The emotional side effects of long term steroid abuse include moodiness, irritability, manic depressive behavior, severe anger and “tantrums”, and an overall inability to control emotions Since hormones have a direct effect on the mood and emotion, taking synthetic hormones are going to directly affect this part of the individual. 

Physical Side Effects:

Steroids create obvious physical changes that you should keep an eye out for if you suspect a loved one is abusing them. Some of these changes include:

  • hair growth and clitoral enlargement in women
  • breast growth in men
  • severe acne
  • skin rashes
  • stunted growth
  • sexual reproductive issues

Apart from the side effects, you can visibly see, steroid use can cause liver, kidney, and heart damage. They can also cause permanent infertility. 

Mental Side Effects:

Steroid use can affect mental health is very severe ways. Long term use of these synthetic hormones can cause mania, paranoia, hyperactivity, ADD, ADHD, and other mood disorders. Although typically these mood disorders are reversible with proper treatment, long enough use of steroids has the potential to leave permanent damage. 

Approaching Your Loved One About Their Addiction

If you suspect your loved one is abusing steroids, and you’ve noticed the above signs and symptoms apply to them, it may be time to speak to them about their addiction. Depending on the severity, it might be appropriate to approach them one on one with understanding and non-judgment. Explain your concerns, your observances, and make sure they know you are offering a safe space for talking about it. 

In severe cases, bringing in an interventionist may be necessary. If you worry your loved one won’t talk to you or you don’t feel comfortable approaching the situation yourself, asking a qualified interventionist is a great resource. 

Treatment Options For Steroid Addiction

There are many different treatment options available for anyone suffering from a steroid addiction. Recovery plans will differ from case to case, but will typically consist of some combination of the following:

  • Detox
  • Talk Therapy 
  • Physical Rehabilitation (nutrition, etc.)
  • Support Groups
  • Holistic Services (acupuncture, art therapy, massage, etc.)

Get Your Loved One the Help They Deserve

Trained clinical professionals understand all aspects of addiction. 

The goal is to address each and every client with empathy and personalize a treatment plan to match their specific needs. If you or a loved one is suffering from steroid addiction, addiction treatment specialists have the tools and resources to ensure a safe and successful recovery. 

Individuals suffering from substance use disorder should find a recovery plan that works for them. Recovery is about overcoming addiction with the health, confidence, and resources to maintain a life of sobriety. For more information or on your treatment options, please contact us.