October 10th, 2023
The promise of enhanced performance, rapid muscle growth and a naturally unattainable physique has enticed countless people to experiment with steroids. While these benefits can be appealing, steroid misuse can lead to significant physical and mental health problems and the serious threat of steroid addiction. The line between use and steroid abuse is thin, and the consequences of crossing it can be dire.
What are steroids?
Steroids are organic compounds that play crucial roles in the body. They are broadly categorised into:
These are medications often prescribed to reduce inflammation in the body. They treat conditions like asthma, arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Corticosteroids include tablets, oral liquids, inhalers, nasal sprays, injections, lotions, gels and creams. Their long-term use requires careful monitoring due to potential side effects.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS)
These are the ‘performance-enhancing’ drugs. They can increase muscle mass, reduce fat and enhance athletic performance. AAS are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone. They treat conditions like delayed puberty, muscle wasting diseases, and chronic low testosterone levels. However, their misuse outside these medical confines is widespread, especially among athletes and bodybuilders seeking physical advantages.
On a molecular level, steroids mimic certain hormones in the body. AAS, for example, behaves like testosterone. When introduced, it can promote muscle growth and enhance male sexual traits. The euphoria of rapid physical changes leads many down the path of abuse.
Why and how are steroids abused?
AAS are the most commonly abused steroids, with their appeal lying in their exercise and performance benefits. Bodybuilders may use them to bulk up and recover quicker from workouts, while athletes misuse them to gain an edge over competitors. However, what starts as an occasional boost can quickly become dependent, with users taking higher doses to achieve the same effects.
What is steroid addiction?
Steroid addiction arises when someone continuously uses steroids, especially AAS, despite evident harm to their health and well-being. Unlike other recreational drugs, steroid use does not lead to an immediate ‘high’. Rather, the satisfaction derived from enhanced physical appearance or performance can create a psychological hook. Common routes to steroid addiction are:
- Recreational use: Many people use steroids recreationally to enhance their physique or sports performance. Over time, the dosage often increases, leading to dependency and steroid addiction.
- Prescription misuse: Some people may also become addicted to steroids prescribed for valid medical reasons. This misuse, even with genuine prescriptions, can lead to addiction, particularly if they are taken in greater quantities or longer than prescribed.
Commonly misused and addictive steroids
Some of the most common steroids responsible for addiction include:
- Dianabol: Often used for muscle building and performance enhancement.
- Anadrol: Popular for its capability to increase red blood cell count, which aids oxygen transport to the muscles.
- Deca-Durabolin: Known for muscle building and improving endurance and can also provide therapeutic joint relief.
- Trenbolone: Often chosen for its fat-burning and muscle-building properties and can deliver significant results when used for an extended period.
- Winstrol: Used for cutting phases in bodybuilding to help preserve lean muscle mass while promoting fat loss.
Am I addicted to steroids?
Recognising steroid addiction isn’t always straightforward, particularly if surrounded by other people who use the drugs regularly. To break through the “normalisation” of steroid use and identify whether you need help, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I using steroids in larger amounts or for longer than intended?
- Do I have a persistent desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down?
- Do I spend significant time obtaining or using steroids?
- Have I continued using steroids despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm?
- Have I developed a tolerance, needing more steroids to get the same effect?
- Do I experience withdrawal symptoms without steroids?
- Have I given up essential activities or responsibilities due to steroid use?
If you answered yes to these questions, it may indicate an addiction to steroids requiring professional help.
What causes steroid addiction?
Steroid addiction doesn’t occur in a vacuum, with multiple factors contributing to the initiation and perpetuation of steroid use and abuse. These include:
- Peer pressure: In sports or bodybuilding circles, peer influence can be a powerful driver towards steroid use. When surrounded by people who normalise or glamorise their use, it can become difficult to resist the urge.
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): Some people may misuse steroids due to dissatisfaction with their bodies. BDD is a psychological disorder where a person becomes obsessed with perceived “flaws” in their appearance, which can lead to the misuse of steroids to achieve the “perfect” body.
- Competitive sports: The world of sports is fiercely competitive, and the margin between victory and defeat can be razor-thin. This can lead some to seek any advantage, including using performance-enhancing drugs like steroids.
- Previous substance abuse: A person with prior drug misuse or addiction may have an underlying vulnerability, making them more likely to seek out and become dependent on other substances, including steroids.
- Mental health issues: Anxiety, depression, or other disorders can lead to misuse as a coping mechanism. Steroids can temporarily escape these mental health challenges, giving a false sense of confidence and well-being.
- Accessibility: When steroids are readily available, and acquisition barriers are low, the temptation to try or misuse them grows. Online marketplaces, black markets and even some unscrupulous gyms can be sources.
- Societal pressure: Today’s society, driven by social media, celebrity culture, and advertising, often promotes a particular body ideal. The pressure to conform to these unrealistic standards can drive people to seek shortcuts, with steroids appearing as an attractive option.
What are the health effects of steroid abuse and addiction?
Steroid abuse can wreak untold havoc on the body, leading to:
- Liver disorders, including tumours and cysts
- Kidney ailments
- High blood pressure and changes in cholesterol, increasing cardiovascular disease risks
- Severe acne
- Oily skin and hair
- Hair loss
- Changes in sexual drive
- Menstrual irregularities in women
- Risk of viral diseases (if injecting with shared needles)
- Stunted growth in adolescents
- Roid rage and other emotional instability
How does steroid addiction affect your life?
Beyond the physical toll, steroid addiction can lead to:
- Damaged relationships due to mood swings and aggression
- Financial difficulties due to purchasing steroids
- Legal consequences, especially if acquiring steroids illicitly
- Job loss due to erratic behaviour or time spent obtaining steroids
- Low self-esteem and other mental health issues
- Disqualification, bans and other penalties for illegal steroid use in sport
How can you recover from steroid addiction?
Overcoming an addiction, especially to something as potent as steroids, requires immense courage, dedication and the right support system. Here’s a comprehensive look into the recovery process:
Detox is the foundational step towards breaking free from addiction. The aim is to rid the body of steroids and manage the potential withdrawal symptoms that may arise. The steroid detox process should always be undertaken with medical monitoring so that detox professionals can monitor any physiological or psychological symptoms and ensure safety and comfort during this phase.
Once steroid detox is complete, rehab can address the root causes of the addiction and equip you with the tools to maintain sobriety. Effective steroid rehab includes a range of different therapies, including:
- Group therapy: Group sessions offer a space to share your experiences, challenges and successes. Knowing that you are not alone on your journey can be a tremendous source of strength with group sessions designed to foster mutual support, understanding and camaraderie.
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): DBT is integrated into steroid rehab to help individuals manage cravings, cope with withdrawal, and improve emotional regulation. It combines cognitive-behavioural techniques with mindfulness, fostering self-awareness and healthier relationships for those in recovery.
- Family therapy: Addiction affects the entire family and not just the individual. Family therapy addresses the broader family dynamics, mends strained relationships and educates loved ones on how best to support you during recovery.
- Aftercare: Recovery is an ongoing process, and the initial days post-rehab can be particularly challenging. Aftercare is designed to provide continuous support during this transition. At UKAT, aftercare includes one year’s free weekly group therapy sessions, creating a supportive environment where you can share your post-rehab experiences, seek advice and continue your personal growth in sobriety.
How to get help for steroid addiction
UKAT offers dedicated programmes for steroid addiction recovery if you or someone you know is struggling. Recovery is a journey, one that is often beset with challenges, but with the right approach and resources, it’s entirely achievable. Contact our admissions team today to learn how we can help you overcome steroid addiction and start a new life.