Laboratory manufactured anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are commonly used to supplement male sex hormones. Their effects are similar to those of testosterone and increase skeletal muscle. A wide variety of medical conditions are treated with AAS. Available by prescription, they’re often used in treating cancer and AIDS patients.
Adverse effects have been documented when anabolic steroids are used illicitly and for long periods of time by athletes. Some of these adverse effects can be permanent. Most involve changes in cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, heart damage and liver damage.
The Desire to Improve Performance
The use of anabolic steroids in sports is highly controversial, primarily because of the fact that most athletic governing bodies consider their use to be cheating. Athletes take them to increase muscle strength and mass and decrease time recovering from injuries. The number of athletes who use AAS is unknown. Very few have ever admitted to using them. It’s not just football players, baseball players or weightlifters who take steroids; users cross all demographics, but share the common desire to look and/or perform better. Surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of AAS users aren’t professional athletes. Most appear to be both male and female noncompetitive body builders who use steroids for cosmetic reasons.
How They Are Taken
AAS are ingested in four basic ways. Many are taken orally in the form of pills. They might also be injected with a needle. Some are used to treat joint inflammation and come in the form of a cream to be applied to the affected area. Others are administered with adhesive patches. How they’re administered doesn’t appear to influence their efficacy. One form of administration seems to work as well as any other.
Popular Anabolic Steroids
Testosterone is the male hormone responsible for male sex characteristics. Testosterone boosters permit the body to produce more of the hormone than usual. Increased testosterone results in increased muscle mass, strength and less body fat. Nandrolone has the same effects as testosterone, but in its natural amount, only shows in the body in minute quantities.
Boldenone is synthetic and similar to testosterone. It’s not permitted for human use in the United States, and is ordinarily used by veterinarians in treating horses. Stanozolol has been approved for human use. Athletes will use it illicitly to increase muscle mass and strength. Androstenedione and androstenediol are two food supplements that convert to testosterone. Androstenedione was sold until 2004, when it was withdrawn from the market by the Food and Drug Administration because of health hazards associated with it. Human growth hormone has the anabolic effect of increasing muscle mass and strength. It’s available by prescription and injected with a needle.
Consequences of Using Anabolic Steroids
The most common adverse physical effect of AAS use is high blood pressure. This can be particularly dangerous for those with preexisting elevated blood pressure, as steroid users tend to take such high doses of AAS. For both men and women, severe acne is a common objective sign of steroid use, as is pattern baldness. Both sexes can develop irreversible heart and circulatory problems. Men develop protruding breasts while their testicles shrink. Impotence is also common.
Anabolic steroid use actually inhibits growth in teenagers. Because AAS focus on skeletal muscles, tendon damage is frequent. In users of all ages, bad cholesterol is increased while good cholesterol is decreased. Decreased liver function and tumors have been noted. Perhaps more worrisome than the physical effects of AAS use are the psychiatric effects. These are well-known and include, but aren’t limited to, high levels of aggression, violence and suicide. Such adverse effects are commonly called “roid rage.”
Researchers are split on whether “roid rage” is a direct result of anabolic steroid use. Those who support the existence of “roid rage” attribute it to a spontaneous lack of impulse control when a user reacts drastically to an event that wouldn’t ordinarily be bothersome. They bolster their position with studies that show connections between high testosterone levels and aggression. Other studies point to a predisposition for violent behavior that’s triggered by anabolic steroids. Notwithstanding these studies, anybody using these substances risks the possibility of violent and extreme mood swings.
Some users might be so predisposed that their behavior could blemish their reputation for life through criminal behavior. Some researchers have connected AAS use and suicide. Both anecdotal evidence and interviews with AAS users and their families point to AAS withdrawal being strongly linked to attempted and completed suicides.
Should an individual continue to use steroids while ignoring evidence of individual physical and psychological problems, it’s fair to say that the person is experiencing addiction issues. Although AAS aren’t physically addicting, a one to two week detox period is necessary to allow the user to withdraw and pass the drug completely through the body. The most dangerous withdrawal symptom is depression. If not treated, depressive symptoms can last up to two years from the time of cessation.
Like most addiction treatment, AAS addiction rehab focuses on the behavioral aspects of the user’s addiction. Because users don’t get high from AAS, the addiction is based largely on the visible results they have on the body. With this in mind, AAS addiction treatment consists of behavioral therapy. This ordinarily begins immediately after admission into a rehab program.
Treatment professionals focus on uncovering the reasons behind AAS addiction. By revealing and addressing those reasons, the user can maintain a physical and psychological balance and cope with the reasons for using AAS. When those reasons cease to exist, the addiction ceases to exist, too. If you believe you or somebody close to you is addicted to anabolic steroids, call the helpline at 800-447-9081. Anything you say will be held in the closest confidence while trained operators get you pointed in the right direction.