When people talk about performance enhancing steroids they are referring to synthetic testosterone which is referred to as “anabolic steroids” or “androgenic steroids.” Anabolic refers to the muscle building qualities and androgenic refers to the qualities that cause male sexual characteristics.
There are three types of naturally occurring steroids in the body:
- Corticosteroids (cortisone)
- Female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone)
- steroids (testosterone)
Synthetic steroids come in three basic forms; pill, liquid and topical cream. The liquid form is injected. Steroids are typically taken in “cycles” which involve using the drug for several weeks, tapering down, stopping for several weeks, and then starting the process over again. Steroids are also usually taken in “stacks”. Stacking refers to the practice of using several types of steroids together. Sometimes this stacking includes other drugs such as anti-inflammatory, stimulants, and opiates making the practice dangerous.
Steroids and Addiction
In the past, there was much controversy over whether or not steroids are addictive in the same ways as other drugs. There is less controversy today. More and more professionals are now agreeing that steroid abuse does meet the criteria for substance abuse and addiction.
The DSM-IV Substance Dependence Criteria is as follows:
Addiction (or “substance dependence” per the American Psychiatric Association) is defined as “a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress”, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring any time in the same 12-month period:
- Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
- A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect, or
- Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
- The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance, or
- The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms, or
- The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period that intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of the substance use.
- The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (for example, an individual continues to use steroids despite apparent mood changes and physical deterioration).
- Individuals who suffer from the effects of steroid use have been known to falsify prescriptions on the internet, steal to obtain the drug, let relationships fall apart, use despite physical problems and mood changes, and use more than intended or for longer periods than intended. Steroid use like other drugs can clearly destroy an individual’s life.
Adverse Effects of Steroids:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Lowers good cholesterol
- Infection at injection site
- HIV and hepatitis (related to injection and needles)
- Rage, mania, aggression and delusions
- Decrease in height and stature
- Ruptured tendons
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cystic acne
- Painful joints
- Premature male-pattern baldness
- Breast shrinkage in women, development in males
- Fluid retention
Men may also experience:
- Prostate cancer
- Shrinking of the testicles
- Reduced sperm count
Women may also experience:
- Excessive growth of body and facial hair
- Enlargement of the clitoris
- Eating disorders
- Lower and deeper voice
- Changes in menstrual cycle
More and more rehabs are seeing individuals enter listing steroids as one of their drugs of choice. Many addicts also struggle with stimulant addiction along with steroid abuse. As with alcohol and drug addiction, therapy, 12 step programs, support groups, treatment centers and education can be very helpful in recovering from steroid abuse and addiction.