People abuse anabolic steroids to appear fit, build muscle and strength faster, and enhance athletic ability. However, these individuals can also become addicted to steroids, making it challenging for them to discontinue use. Steroid abuse has been known to cause extreme psychiatric conditions, including aggression, hostility, mania, delirium, depression, and psychosis.
The cause of steroid-induced psychosis, also referred to as steroid-induced mania or delirium, is not well-researched or understood. However, it has been established that people who misuse anabolic steroids are more likely to experience irritability, anxiety, aggression, depression, mania, and hypomania. However, it should be noted that these facts may be related to other factors, including those that are genetic or environmental in nature.
What Are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic drugs intended to simulate testosterone, a male sex hormone. They activate DNA components in muscle cells that boost the production of proteins that produce muscle fibers and tissue. This activity can build muscle and increase body mass and bone minerals in a brief period.
Anabolic steroids can be garnered with a prescription and have several notable medical purposes. Health providers may prescribe anabolic steroids to treat many medical disorders, including delayed onset of puberty and hormone imbalances in males, and muscle loss related to disease, among others.
Anabolic steroids essentially alter the way in which the body builds muscle. During exercise, small tears are incurred in the muscles, and when these heal, the tissue becomes stronger than before. Anabolic steroids accelerate the healing process, helping people exercise harder and more frequently and achieve greater results.
Anabolic steroids are commonly found in pill form and as injectable liquids or topical gels and creams. Street names for steroids include juice, roids, and stackers. Some of the most common steroid brands include the following:
What Constitutes Steroid Abuse?
Any use of anabolic steroids without a legitimate prescription, in doses higher or more frequently than prescribed, or for any non-medical purpose is considered abuse. Those who abuse anabolic steroids often ingest excessive amounts, perhaps up to 100 times the recommended allowance.
Some people who abuse anabolic steroids for an extended period eventually build a high tolerance, leading to the abuse of multiple types of steroids concurrently, also known as “stacking.” This use pattern places people at a much higher risk of adverse side effects and severe health complications.
People abuse anabolic steroids primarily to improve physical appearance and athletic performance, especially if they feel pressured to be competitive in athletic activities. However, many individuals who use steroids merely wish to enhance their appearance. Counter to common belief, it is believed that most steroid users do not engage in competitive athletics and instead want to get leaner and build muscle.
There are three ways individuals commonly abuse anabolic steroids:
1) Stacking, which involves using multiple types of steroids simultaneously or combining oral and injectable forms.
2) Cycling, or a process of using multiple doses for several weeks, discontinuing use for several more weeks, and then recommence using steroids again.
3) Pyramiding, or a cyclical method of use that begins with a low dose that progressively increases to a maximum amount in the middle of the cycle.
Anabolic Steroid Addiction
Anabolic steroids are often illegally obtained by individuals who want to get stronger and build muscle in a relatively brief amount of time, often contributing to increased confidence and self-esteem. Although steroid use is not associated with euphoria or a “high” like many other addictive substances, those who regularly abuse these drugs are still at risk of developing an emotional addiction.
Anabolic steroids’ addictive potential is often related to the obsessive-compulsive behavior that a person may engage in to improve their physical appearance and bodily strength in a short period. Just like an individual attempting to lose weight can become psychologically dependent on diet pills, a person who uses steroids may continue to do so for fear of losing muscular gains or not achieving new ones.
People with a history of substance abuse and mental health disorders may be at a higher risk of using anabolic steroids excessively. This may be especially true of those who suffer from body dysmorphia—a condition in which the individual has an unreasonable obsession with the appearance of one or more aspects of one’s body and focuses on a defect that others do not notice.
People who become dependent on steroids may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue use, which may include mood swings, low sex drive, loss of appetite, depression, fatigue, and insomnia. Other signs of dependence and addiction include the following:
- Spending a substantial amount of time and money obtaining and using steroids
- Neglecting obligations at home, school, or work
- Continuing to use steroids despite the incurrence of unwanted side effects
- Having persistent conflicts with loved ones
People who abuse steroids for a prolonged period interfere with the natural hormonal balance in their bodies. When an individual dependent on steroids abruptly stops using them, they can experience deep depression and even become suicidal due to these hormonal imbalances.
Although rare, people who use large amounts of anabolic steroids may overdose, leading to coma, heart attack, and stroke.
Dangerous Drug Combinations
Anabolic steroids can decrease the pleasurable effects of drugs and alcohol, which may prompt some users to ingest higher amounts of such substances than they would normally. This behavior significantly increases the risk of overdose.
Substances commonly abused by anabolic steroid users include alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, meth, opioids, and marijuana. Steroid users who use other drugs often choose stimulants to increase energy further and reduce appetite. Unfortunately, mixing stimulants and steroids can increase aggression and put a tremendous amount of strain on the heart.
Excessive alcohol use while using steroids can also lead to severe aggressiveness and increase the likelihood that a person may commit a violent crime. Using these substances in combination may ultimately have a long-term effect on behavior and worsen an addiction.
Furthermore, some individuals accidentally become addicted to other intoxicating substances in an attempt to self-medicate undesirable steroid side effects, such as aggression, agitation, and insomnia. For example, one study of heroin-addicted men found that 9 percent started using the drug due to steroid use.
Other Possible Side Effects of Steroid Use
- High blood pressure
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Artery damage
- Short stature in adolescents
- Tendon injury
- Aggression or mania
- Psychosis and delusions
- Severe acne and cysts
- Oily scalp and skin
- Abscesses at injection sites
Men who abuse steroids also face risks specific to their sex, including decreased sperm production, enlarged breasts, testicle shrinkage, male-pattern baldness, and testicular cancer.
Women who abuse steroids may experience a deepening of their voice, smaller breast size, coarse skin, and excessive body hair growth.
Getting Help for Addiction
Many people don’t realize that anabolic steroids have properties that can encourage addictive behaviors and be challenging to discontinue use without professional help. Like persons addicted to other substances, many steroid users who attempt to quit without treatment end up relapsing.
For this reason and others, individuals affected by addiction to steroids, other drugs, or alcohol are encouraged to undergo an intensive treatment program, such as one offered by Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers. We provide each individual with all of the research-based methodologies and services required to facilitate the recovery process, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, peer support, mindfulness therapy, aftercare planning, and more.