Some people believe that performance-enhancing drugs are a preserve of the professional class, used by sports stars to gain an illegal competitive advantage over their competitors. However, just like any other drug and alcohol problem, being addicted to steroids is not an exclusive struggle. It can happen to anyone, and for a considerable amount of time, local gyms across the country have grappled with steroid users.
In short, steroids appear to improve the physical body, helping to build muscle mass and sharpen reflexes, but improvements in athletic performance often come at the expense of long-term health problems. Steroid abusers are at greater risk of heart attack, mood swings and reduced sex drive, raising the need for awareness around treatment options for substance use disorders.
A brief history of performance enhancing drugs
Since time immemorial, people have sought completive advantages in whatever pursuit occupies their imagination. From Ancient Greeks conceiving a crossbow to aid their hunting efforts, through to millennials defining new apps to streamline life, humans seek the next great advancement with consistent reliability. We always want an edge over our rivals.
In physical endeavours, most notably professional sports, the will to win is heightened considerably. As such, performance-enhancing drugs have been part of the landscape since it first came of age. Even chariot racers of Ancient Rome drank herbal infusions for additional strength before big events, while strength-based disciplines such as weightlifting have a long history of anabolic androgenic steroid abuse.
In modern times, sports such as Major League Baseball, cycling and global athletics have endured particular problems with performance-enhancing drugs. Megastars such as Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have become avatars of the harm steroids can cause to sporting record books. However, the damage to their own bodies, and those of impressionable wannabe athletes who followed their shameful example, is of even greater significance.
Why do people take steroids?
Aside from legitimate medical treatment plans, people often take steroids to boost their conditioning regimen, aid muscle growth and stimulate perceived advantages in athletic performance. Anabolic steroids mirror the effect of naturally produced testosterone in the body, possibly improving endurance, strength and reactions.
Of course, increased strength allows people to complete more strenuous workouts, while increased endurance lets them sustain those workouts for longer and replicate those workouts more frequently. In turn, muscle growth is a classic characteristic of steroid use, giving rise to increased interest and popularity among self-conscious people who feel pressure to conform to social ideals of beauty and virility.
What are the side effects of anabolic steroids?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “people who misuse anabolic steroids usually take them orally, inject them into muscles, or apply them to the skin as a gel or cream. These doses may be 10 to 100 times higher than doses prescribed to treat medical conditions.”
Such abnormal quantities of anabolic steroids perpetrate a myriad of negative effects. Possible long-term consequences include:
- kidney problems and/or failure
- liver damage and/or failure
- enlarged heart
- high blood pressure
- raised cholesterol
- increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and blood clots
At a more granular level, being addicted to steroids can cause a range of health complications. Male steroid abusers often experience shrinking testicles, decreased sperm counts, premature baldness, the development of breasts and an increased likelihood of prostate cancer. Meanwhile, female steroid abusers also encounter negative side effects, including the growth of facial hair, decreased breast size, male-pattern baldness, changes in menstrual cycle and a deeper tone of voice.
Are steroids addictive?
Where addiction is defined as being physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, steroids certainly have addictive properties. Substance use disorder is not confined to one class or variety of drug, and therefore, misuse of anabolic steroids can cause many of the classic problems associated with addiction.
Studies suggest that around 32% of people who misuse anabolic steroids become dependent upon them, mentally and physically. The body-altering nature of steroids encourages dependence, while the common motivation for usage – to gain advantages over competitors – feeds repeated use. Abusers become reliant upon steroids to maintain their physique, massage their ego and manage their fragile self-esteem. That can be a hellish cycle to escape.
Among the negative effects of anabolic steroids, withdrawal symptoms can be particularly severe. When a steroid dependent pauses or quits a cycle of drug use, consequences can include fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia and cravings. The attendant effects on poor mental health are often overlooked, but rates of depression and anxiety disorders soar among those addicted to steroids.
Are steroids really so dangerous?
As if the health complications listed above are not to dissuade potential users, a toxic dichotomy of perception versus reality make steroids even more dangerous. In a culture that seeks instant satisfaction, people try to find shortcuts to success, particularly in areas relating to health, wellness and beauty. Therefore, steroids seem appealing and useful, but any positives are outweighed by negatives of greater importance.
The external results of steroid use – bulging biceps, chiselled chests and formidable forearms – are compatible with the notion of beauty perpetrated by modern societies obsessed with image. However, the internal effects of steroid use, as outlined in this article, are compatible only with shorter lives of greater pain and struggle. That trade-off is never worthwhile.
How those addicted to steroids can find help
Within the realm of substance abuse disorder, steroids are often overshadowed by more popular recreational drugs. Nevertheless, treatment options do exist, and detox techniques are improving with additional research. If you are struggling with steroid misuse, or if you are worried about somebody who is, do not be discouraged by stigma that may surround the substance. Get the support you need.
Here at Action Rehab, we are experienced in supporting people who are addicted to steroids. With tailored treatment plans and proven expertise, we will find the most efficient route to recovery for anybody enduring substance abuse disorder. Make contact with our trained team today, and we will take care of the referral process, kick-starting your journey to a healthier life.
Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2019 at 9:14 am in Addiction.