Anabolic Steroids Drug Facts | A Center for Addiction Recovery

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Information provided below is courtesy of the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Anabolic Steroids Overview

Steroids Addiction Treatment Anabolic steroids—more specifically anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS)—are synthetic compounds that have muscle-building (anabolic) and masculinization (androgenic) effects. Medical uses include prevention of tissue wasting in some diseases. People also use AAS to boost athletic performance or look more muscular. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) categorizes AAS as schedule III controlled substances (substances with accepted medical uses, which may cause moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence). Awareness is growing that steroid use can cause significant physical and mental harm and may be life threatening. Some studies have identified steroids as gateway drugs to other substance use, including opioids. People who inject steroids risk diseases passed by needle sharing.

Anabolic Steroids Signs of Abuse

Initial signs of anabolic steroids abuse may include rapid weight gain and unusual mood swings. Emotions may include increased aggressiveness. Acne is almost always seen.

Effects of Anabolic Steroids  Abuse

Anabolic steroids work very differently from other drugs of abuse, and they do not have the same acute effects on the brain. The most important difference is that steroids do not trigger rapid increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the rewarding “high” that drives the abuse of other substances.

However, long-term steroid use can affect some of the same brain pathways and chemicals—including dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems—that are affected by other drugs, and thereby may have a significant impact on mood and behavior.

Abuse of anabolic steroids may lead to aggression and other psychiatric problems, for example. Although many users report feeling good about themselves while on steroids, extreme mood swings can also occur, including manic-like symptoms and anger (“roid rage”) that may lead to violence. Researchers have also observed that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.

Steroid use commonly causes severe acne and fluid retention, as well as several effects that are gender- and age-specific:

For men—shrinkage of the testicles (testicular atrophy), reduced sperm count or infertility, baldness, development of breasts (gynecomastia), increased risk for prostate cancer

For women—growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice

For adolescents—stunted growth due to premature skeletal maturation and accelerated puberty changes, and risk of not reaching expected height if steroid use precedes the typical adolescent growth spurt

In addition, people who inject steroids run the added risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

Anabolic Steroids  Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals who abuse steroids can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them—including mood swings, fatigue, rest-lessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and steroid cravings, all of which may contribute to continued abuse. One of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms is depression—when persistent, it can sometimes lead to suicide attempts. Research has found that some steroid abusers turn to other drugs such as opioids to counteract the negative effects of steroids.

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