Steroids and Addiction

Brief Description
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are a group of drugs that mimic the role of the male hormone testosterone.  This substance can be prescribed by doctors to treat people with some blood disorders, some types of breast cancer, stimulate bone growth and appetite, as a treatment for low testosterone, or to treat people who are slow to reach puberty. However, steroids are often used non-prescribed and illegally.

Methods of Ingestion
Steroids can be ingested in four different forms – oral pill form, injected form, as a liquid gel applied to the arms or stomach, and skin patches.  Orally, the substance is rapidly absorbed.  When it is injected, steroids are usually injected into the muscle, not the vein.  In liquid gel and patch form, a steady dose is released through the skin and into the bloodstream.   Typically, when anabolic steroids are being used for non-medical purposes, it is injected.  Steroid users will follow various types of dosing routines such as cycling – alternating between periods of use and non-use; stacking – combining different steroids in different forms; and pyramiding – peaking then tapering doses.

The body is affected in two different ways by this substance; they build muscle by increasing protein synthesis within cells (anabolism); and they develop and maintain masculine characteristics (androgenic).

Short-Term Effects
There seem to be many adverse impacts of varying degrees.  Adverse impacts are dose-dependent.  Some of the short-term effects of steroid use include acne, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and sexual problems. With higher doses, a person’s mood begins to alter. Feelings of euphoria, aggressiveness (“roid rage”), irritability, anxiety, insomnia, depression, mania, paranoia and delirium can begin to emerge. Symptoms of nausea and vomiting may occur from oral doses.

Steroids and Addiction
Long-term use of steroids can additionally result in symptoms of dependence and withdrawal.  When a person ceases chronic steroid use, withdrawal symptoms affect both physical and psychological realms. Symptoms may include nausea, headaches, sweating, dizziness, irritability, and depression.

Gender and Age Trends
Teens using high doses of steroids may permanently stunt their growth by prematurely stopping the lengthening of bones.  There are sex-specific effects of steroid use as well.  Females often experience increased facial and body hair, increased clitoris size, reduced breast size, irregular periods, deepened voices, and male-pattern baldness with many of these effects being irreversible.  Males experience shrinking testicles, painful enlarged breasts, decreased sperm count – including temporary infertility and difficulty achieving an erection.  For both sexes, taking high doses for a long period elevates the risk of rupturing tendons, developing blood clots, stroke, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, liver disease and cancer.