Some people seeking treatment for anabolic steroid addiction have found a combination of behavioral therapy and medications to be helpful. In certain cases of addiction, patients have taken medicines to help treat symptoms of withdrawal. For example, health care providers have prescribed antidepressants to treat depression and pain medicines for headaches and muscle and joint pain. Other medicines have been used to help restore the patient's hormonal system.
This publication is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Drug Topics. More Drug Topics. Quick Links. About NIDA. Anabolic Steroids DrugFacts. What are anabolic steroids? Points to Remember Anabolic steroids are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. Health care providers can prescribe steroids to treat various medical conditions.
But some athletes and bodybuilders misuse these drugs to boost performance or improve their physical appearance. People who abuse anabolic steroids usually take them orally, inject them into the muscles, or apply them to the skin with a cream or gel. People misuse steroids in a variety of doses and schedules. Misuse of anabolic steroids might lead to short-term effects, including paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability and aggression, delusions, impaired judgement, and mania.
Continued steroid misuse can act on some of the same brain pathways and chemicals that are affected by other drugs, including dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems. Anabolic steroid misuse might lead to serious long-term, even permanent, health problems.
Several other effects are gender- and age-specific. Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, they can lead to addiction. Some people seeking treatment for anabolic steroid addiction have found behavioral therapy and medications to be helpful.
Medicines can help treat symptoms of withdrawal in some cases. Anabolic steroids are usually injected into the muscle or taken by mouth as tablets, but they also come as creams or gels that are applied to the skin. Many people who use anabolic steroids are aware of the dangers of taking them, and believe that by taking the drugs in certain ways they can avoid side effects.
But there is no evidence that any of these methods actually reduce side effects from taking anabolic steroids. Users tend to exercise more when they're taking high doses to make the most of their improved performance during this time. Regularly taking anabolic steroids can lead to physical and psychological changes in both men and women, as well as potentially dangerous medical conditions.
In addition, both men and women who take anabolic steroids can develop any of the following medical conditions:. Misusing anabolic steroids can also cause the following psychological or emotional effects:. Anabolic steroids accelerate bone growth, so if they're misused by adolescents who haven't yet had the growth spurt associated with puberty , the drugs can cause premature ageing of the bones and restricted growth.
As anabolic steroids are often injected, there are risks associated with sharing needles. These are the same risks associated with recreational drug use, and include:. Like many other substances, anabolic steroids are addictive.
This means you can crave the drug, require more to get the same effect, and have withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking them. A person who is addicted to anabolic steroids will want to keep using them despite experiencing unpleasant physical side effects. When doctors prescribe steroid medication, they always advise coming off the medication slowly by gradually reducing the dose.
Coming off anabolic steroids suddenly can result in withdrawal symptoms that include:. You should see your GP if you think you're addicted to anabolic steroids. Treatment for an addiction to anabolic steroids will be similar to that of other types of addiction. Your GP may refer you to a specially trained drugs counsellor.
They'll discuss your addiction with you, how to safely stop taking steroids, and any obstacles you may face when trying to stop, plus strategies for dealing with those obstacles. Page last reviewed: 30 August Next review due: 30 August Anabolic steroid misuse. Are anabolic steroids illegal? Why people misuse anabolic steroids Anabolic steroids can be used as performance-enhancing drugs that increase muscle mass and decrease fat, as well as causing many undesirable effects.
How anabolic steroids are taken Anabolic steroids are usually injected into the muscle or taken by mouth as tablets, but they also come as creams or gels that are applied to the skin. Users might: Take the drugs for a period of time and then stop for a rest period before starting again. This is known as "cycling". Taking more than 1 type of anabolic steroid at a time, known as "stacking" — which they believe makes them work better.
Do a combination of both stacking and cycling known as "pyramiding" — where they start off taking a low dose of 1 or more anabolic steroids, and then increase the dose over time up to a maximum dose.