Steroids Addiction and Abuse

Modified: 22nd Jul 2019

Last updated on July 22nd, 2019 at 02:48 pm

Steroid addiction and abuse is a common problem facing many Americans today. Before taking a deeper look at the nature of the problem, we have to first understand what addiction and abuse means.

Addiction to any drug has both physical and psychological aspects. Many people understand it in different terms. We can best understand it by using a definition commonly accepted in the addiction treatment community. The continued use of a substance despite the considerable harm it is causing is called addiction.

Within the addiction treatment community, the word “abuse” is also defined by the effects caused by the way it is being used. Steroid abuse occurs when the use of steroids has harmful results of a physical, psychological, social, or other nature. It’s also considered abuse when steroid use has gotten out of control.

The medical and addiction treatment communities are in agreement. Abuse can be determined by the definition above, or in any of these scenarios:

  • Someone takes steroids without a prescription
  • Steroid use exceeds the prescribed amount
  • Buying the drug illegally or through illicit means (lying to a doctor)

Read on to better understand the problem of steroid addiction and abuse through statistics, signs of abuse, and the dangers associated with both. 

Steroid Addiction Statistics

Steroid addiction and abuse can start with prescription use that becomes excessive, out of control, and very harmful. However, often times steroid use begins with abuse of the drug. 

General Statistics on Addiction to Steroids

According to the NIDA (U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse), the great majority of people who abuse steroids and become addicted are not athletes. They are not using steroids to improve athletic performance, but rather to achieve a muscular aesthetic. Most are male weightlifters in their 20s and 30s.

About 22% of steroid users began taking the drug as teenagers.

Women are less likely to abuse steroids because it is less common for women to desire results that are generally considered to be masculine. 

Signs Of Steroid Abuse

Steroids don’t affect the brain in the same way as other drugs do. They don’t stimulate the reward center of the brain and produce high levels of dopamine, for instance.

However, steroids do affect brain function. Negative effects on the brain from steroid abuse are often noticeable. You may notice someone abusing steroids exhibiting some or all the following characteristics:

  • Paranoia (often extreme and unreasonable jealousy)
  • Manic, high-paced behavior
  • Aggressive and irritable attitude (this is what people call “roid rage”)
  • Impaired judgment
  • Generally delusional thinking

Some people will also use other drugs like Xanax and benzodiazepines to counteract the side effects like mania and irritability. This can exacerbate the problem, though.

People who become addicted to steroids will develop a tolerance and chemical dependency to the drug. A chemical dependency means that your body becomes reliant on steroids to perform normal functions.

When a steroid addict stops taking them or drastically reduces the quantity, they will often have withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cravings
  • Mental and physical fatigue
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite loss
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Depression

Depression is the most serious withdrawal symptom. Suicide attempts are more common among people addicted to steroids than the general population.

Am I Addicted to Steroids?

All the information above is a good starting point to answer this question.

You have likely developed an addiction to steroids if you have developed a tolerance to them. This means that you are taking steroids in larger quantities or more frequently than you once were in order to achieve similar results.

If you have ever stopped taking steroids after a period of regular use, and noticed symptoms of withdrawal, that’s a sign of addiction.

Remember that the effect steroid use has on your life is the primary sign of addiction. Aside from experiencing withdrawal symptoms or uncharacteristic attitudes and behavior, have you noticed your life being negatively affected in any other ways?

Steroid addiction can affect your life socially. Has your use of steroids damaged relationships?

Professional consequences can occur. Has your productivity at work suffered? Have you failed to meet any professional responsibilities?

Personal changes can happen. Have your interests changed since your use began? Have you lost any hobbies, or stopped any activities you used to enjoy?

Financial difficulties are another sign of addiction.

Have you had any legal trouble that could have even a peripheral connection to your use of steroids?

If any of these apply to you, you should consider speaking with an addiction treatment professional. 

Dangers of Steroid Addiction and Abuse

The DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) identifies a number of dangers associated with steroid addiction and abuse. Here are some of the physical and psychological dangers the DOJ gives.

Some of the physical dangers:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Liver damage
  • Extreme acne
  • Hair loss
  • Risk of contracting HIV
  • Risk of fetal development during pregnancy
  • Sexual and reproductive disorders

Physical dangers specific to men:

  • Atrophy of testicles
  • Low sex drive
  • Low sperm production and sterility
  • Breast and prostate enlargement
  • Low hormone levels

Physical dangers specific to women:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Infertility
  • Enlarged clitoris
  • The growth of body hair
  • Deepening voice
  • Development of other “masculinizing” features

Some of the psychological dangers:

  • Mood swings and violent tendencies
  • Impaired judgment (overconfidence and a feeling of invincibility)
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation and aggravation, which can lead to hostile behavior 

Especially in the cases of more long-term and extreme use, there are very serious and life-threatening effects to be aware of:

  • Kidney damage and failure
  • The growth of tumors in the liver and liver failure
  • Enlarged heart
  • Increased risk of blood clots

The effects of long-term abusive steroid use can lead to heart attack, stroke, and death.

Steroid Addiction Help

Are you or someone you know struggling with a steroid addiction or steroid abuse? Feel free to contact us by phone or send us a message for information on how we can help you with your steroid addiction and abuse.

Article Reviewed by Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPA

Dr. Keerthy Sunder, MD, DFAPADr. Keerthy Sunder, MD is an accomplished and internationally recognized expert in the field of addiction. He has earned diplomates from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the American Board of Addiction Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.