Anabolic Steroid use, Addiction and Treatment Options

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People may not realize that it is possible to have an anabolic steroid addiction. When most people think about anabolic steroids, they probably see images of bodybuilders or professional athletes. Those are not the only categories of people that may misuse anabolic steroids.

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Unfortunately, teenage athletes may also use anabolic steroids. They may see using steroids as a quick way to improve performance. Using anabolic steroids in this way is illegal. Sport participants can be disqualified if they are caught using steroids.

Those that have a poor body image may also use anabolic steroids to build self-confidence. Sometimes people who have been bullied or attacked may use steroids. They might see it as a way to build strength, so they are no longer a target.

There is not a lot of data as to how many people use anabolic steroids. Questions about anabolic steroid use are not usually included in surveys about drug use. The Monitoring the Future Study did have some data for teen steroid use in 2020. According to the study the percentage of teens that had used steroids in their lifetime was:

  • 2.0% of 8th grade students had used steroids
  • 1.7% of 10th grade students had used steroids
  • 2.0% of 12 grade students had used steroids

Getting and staying sober is very challenging, but with the right support network and tools, it's completely attainable.

What are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are lab-created copies of the hormone testosterone. Testosterone creates male characteristics like a deep voice, facial hair, and bigger muscles. Women do have some testosterone in their bodies but in smaller amounts.

Steroids are available in many different forms, including:

  • Tablets and capsules
  • Liquid drops
  • Sublingual-tablets
  • Subdermal implant pellets
  • Gels
  • Creams
  • Transdermal patches
  • Injectable solutions

Approved Medical Uses for Anabolic Steroids

There are some FDA approved uses for anabolic steroids. Some doctors have prescribed them for other uses, but not for improved athletic performance. Steroids can only be obtained legally by prescription. Medical uses include:

  • Primary hypogonadism-failure of the testes in men and ovaries in women to function properly
  • Delayed puberty in boys
  • Conditions that lead to muscle loss including cancer and HIV
  • Bone marrow stimulation in leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia- a rare condition where the body stops producing needed new blood cells
  • Kidney failure
  • Growth failure- when a child is below the third percentile, meaning 97% of children the same age and gender are taller than that child

Are Anabolic Steroids Illegal?

Anabolic steroids are Schedule III substances under the Controlled Substance Act. Getting them without a prescription from a doctor is illegal. If someone is convicted of having anabolic steroids they could be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, a $2500 fine, or both. If someone is convicted of manufacturing or selling anabolic steroids, they could face 5 years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, or both.

Anabolic Steroid Street Names

Since using anabolic steroids for sports performance enhancement or for other non-medical uses is illegal people have to find other sources. Steroids have been smuggled into the US from Mexico and European countries. Sometimes they are stolen from legal sources. They can be bought through the internet, at gyms, bodybuilding competitions, or from coaches and trainers.

Street names for anabolic steroids are:

  • Arnolds
  • Gear
  • Gym Candy
  • Juice
  • Pumpers
  • Roids
  • Stackers
  • Weight gainers

The History of Anabolic Steroids

Synthetic testosterone was created in Germany in 1935, they used it to treat depression. Anabolic steroids were first used in sports in the 1954 Olympics when they were given to Russian weightlifters. By the 1980’s they were being used by the general public for better athletic performance or to change one’s personal appearance. They were made a controlled substance in 1990, they can only be obtained legally with a medical prescription.

How are Anabolic Steroids Misused?

When a substance is used in a way outside of the legal or medical guidelines it is considered drug misuse. When a person uses anabolic steroids for an athletic advantage or to improve their body image it is considered misuse. Anabolic steroids are most often misused by men. Doses taken by those who are misusing the drug are often 10 to 100 times higher than what would be prescribed by a doctor.

Steroids can be used topically in a cream or gel form. Others are taken orally or injected directly into muscles. Oral steroids clear out of the body faster making it harder to detect. Those who misuse steroids may take two or more different steroids at a time. This is known as stacking.

Other ways steroids can be taken include cycling, pyramiding, and plateauing.

  • Cycling- This is taking multiple doses over a specific period of time, stopping for a while, and then starting again.
  • Pyramiding- This is a time period of six to twelve weeks. They start with a low dose, build up to the highest dose, then taper back down to zero steroids.
  • Plateauing- Steroid doses are staggered, overlapped, or switched to a different steroid to avoid building up a tolerance.

What is the Difference Between Anabolic Steroid Abuse and Addiction?

When someone is misusing or abusing a substance, they are using it in a way other than what it was intended for. When they continue to use a substance even when there are negative consequences it has become an addiction. People do not get high when using anabolic steroids.

Someone who is consistently using anabolic steroids can build up a tolerance leading to dependence on the drug. If they stop using, they go through withdrawal symptoms. At this point, it is an anabolic steroid addiction.

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The Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Addiction

People start using anabolic steroids to become faster, stronger, and to build muscle. There is a large number of side effects. Some of the side effects are irreversible. In addition to side effects, withdrawal symptoms occur when someone stops using. There are some different side effects for men and women.

Some side effects specific to men:

  • Loss of sexual drive
  • Decreased sperm production
  • Decreased hormone levels
  • Enlargement of breasts

Side effects that are specific to women using anabolic steroids:

  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Permanent deepening of the voice
  • Shrinking breasts
  • Increased facial and body hair

There are some common short-term and long-term side effects. Some can be annoying, but many can be dangerous. They include physical and psychological effects.

Psychological side effects include:

  • Nervousness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired judgment, thinking they are invincible
  • Depression
  • Delusions
  • Hostility and aggressive behaviors

Physical side effects of anabolic steroid addiction can be serious. Problems with the cardiovascular system, liver, and skin can occur. These are beside the hormonal effects for men and women mentioned earlier.

Cardiovascular side effects include:

  • Artery damage
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks (even in athletes under 30)
  • Blood clots

Liver side effects include:

  • Tumors
  • Peliosis hepatis- random blood-filled cavities throughout the liver

Skin related side effects include:

  • Jaundice
  • Severe acne
  • Cysts
  • Oily scalp and skin

How to Tell if Someone is Addicted to Anabolic Steroids

There are physical signs of anabolic steroid use and behavioral signs of steroid addiction to watch for. Physical signs can include severe adult acne, quickly building muscle, breast enlargement in men. If women are using steroids, they may show signs of excessive facial and body hair, severe acne, and shrinking breasts.

Behavioral signs that can be linked to addiction include:

  • Using steroids even though the are negative health consequences
  • Craving steroids or spending large amounts of time thinking about them
  • The overwhelming urge to use more steroids when trying to quit
  • Obsessing over how to get more steroids
  • Spending large amount of time and money to get more steroids

Anabolic Steroid Addiction Treatment

Even though anabolic steroids do not get someone high, quitting can be difficult. Often someone has been using anabolic steroids to feel better about how their body looks. While they are using steroids, they feel good about their body, this can make quitting unappealing.

There are some withdrawal symptoms that occur when quitting steroids. When someone is trying to quit on their own, they may start using again to avoid the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression

Detoxing off Anabolic Steroids

The physical withdrawal symptoms of anabolic steroids are not a severe as some other drugs. However the depression that may happen can lead to serious suicidal thoughts. If this happens someone should seek help from a professional immediately.

There is the possibility that a person was using opioids or alcohol along with anabolic steroids. The withdrawal symptoms from those drugs can be very dangerous. Quitting opioids or alcohol should be done under medical supervision. There are a few different types of detox available.

Types of Detox

Holistic detox– A holistic approach uses natural methods to support the body while it empties of drugs or alcohol.  The method combines nutritional therapy, emotional support, and exercise programs to assist recovery.

Medication assisted treatment- Medication assisted treatment combines medication and behavioral therapy.  This treatment uses FDA approved medications that do not impair a person’s mental state. The medications can be different depending on what drug was being abused.

Anabolic Steroid Rehab Programs

If someone using anabolic steroids and went through a detox program, they are not finished yet. The psychological aspects of addiction still need to be addressed so they do not start using again. One of the most serious withdrawal symptoms of anabolic steroids is severe depression that could lead to a suicide attempt. That may need longer treatment to overcome. There are various styles of rehab available to those who need help.

Types of Drug Rehab Programs

Inpatient treatment is when someone lives at a facility full time for treatment. this can be the best course of action for someone who has been using drugs for a long time. It is the highest level of support. They have twenty-four-hour support for the length of their stay.

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) may also be known as a day treatment program.  This type of program has the most support without having to live in a facility.  These programs can meet five to seven days a week for several hours a day. Afterward, the patient returns home.

An Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) usually meets three to four times a week for approximately three hours at a time.  IOPs are usually group-based and often meet in the evening hours. This also allows for someone to meet work obligations while recovering.

Traditional outpatient therapy uses individual therapy sessions or group sessions. This style of treatment can help people who have not been using for a long time. It is also great for someone who has finished an inpatient stay and wants more support to stay clean.


Our treatment programs are custom tailored to your specific needs. One phone call is all it takes to start your recovery from drug & alcohol dependency

SpringBoard Recovery Offers Treatment for Anabolic Steroid Addiction

At SpringBoard Recovery everyone is important. The potential medical issues that can be caused by anabolic steroid use are serious and getting clean can save a life. Everyone has a different situation, and we focus on meeting each person’s individual needs.

We can help those with anabolic steroid use issues and co-occurring disorders. A co-occurring disorder is a substance use issue and a mental health issue that happens at the same time. There are a lot of possible co-occurring disorders, we put together treatment plans specific to each person.

SpringBoard Recovery has a variety of outpatient treatment available to everyone.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients recognize negative thought patterns, stop the thoughts, and replace them with healthy thoughts. 
  • Group counseling – It provides the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others facing the same issues. Group therapy remains confidential and occurs in a structured environment.
  • Individual counseling  – This is one on one with a trained therapist. It allows for in-depth counseling on any topic needed at the time.

SpringBoard is serious about your success. We have achieved The Joint Commission’s National Quality Approval. This is a benchmark in the healthcare industry given to those who go above and beyond the standards. You deserve the best available treatment options.

If you are concerned about treatment costs, know that at SpringBoard Recovery we accept most major insurance plans. You can call and talk with one of our representatives to check what your insurance plan will pay for.

Learn More About Anabolic Steroid Addiction and Treatment Options

Do you need more information about anabolic steroid treatment options? Please contact us today.


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