The use of steroids is illegal, and longtime use is dangerous both physically and mentally and may have serious legal repercussions.
Steroid misuse by professional athletes appears on our radar when news reports link these athletes with steroids in relation to scandal, suicide, murder, legal hassles and loss of careers. Yet the athletes have been role models for young people who aspire to be more competitive in sports. Users of all ages misuse anabolic steroids to build muscle mass, reduce fat, and enhance physical endurance or attractiveness.
Long-term steroid use is often concurrent with opioid use, because steroid use can cause chronic pain. The user may turn to opiates to treat pain, and then become addicted to the opioids. In rehab, steroid use and the opioid addiction must both be addressed.
What are steroids and how are they used?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of androgens, male hormones. Medically, they are used for serious medical conditions such as muscle-wasting diseases or to correct actual testosterone imbalances. Steroids are not used to get high.
Steroids commonly used include oxandrol, dianabol, deca durabolin, and equipoise.
People often use steroids illegally by intramuscular injection, orally in pill form, by pellet implantation or application in gels or skin patches. Taking pills is the most preferred method of consuming the drug. In professional sports, there have been elaborate blood transfusion methods designed to escape detection.
In an attempt to produce a greater effect on muscle mass, users “stack” (or mix) oral and/or injectable drugs, often as high as 100 times the strength of a medical dose. They may “pyramid”the doses in cycles of 6-12 weeks, starting with a low dose and slowly increasing it, then decreasing the dose slowly, with the belief that this allows the body to safely adjust, and the person can safely engage in periods of exercise. Neither stacking nor pyramiding has any scientifically proven benefits.
Where are users getting steroids?
The most common source of steroids for non-medical use is the Internet. Steroids are also obtained from countries where they are legal, and from illegal laboratories that manufacture them. “Health supplements” that claim to act as effectively as anabolic steroids also flourish on the Internet and may be dangerous because their effects or ingredients are not monitored.
What are the effects of steroid use?
Steroids don’t cause euphoria but do cause actual physical changes. While some of these include the desired results, the risks are serious.
Physical adverse effects may include:
- High blood pressure
- Tendon rupture
- Heart attacks and other circulatory problems
- Liver cancer
- Growth in stature may be halted if taken before puberty is complete.
- Kidney tumors and cancer
- Internal bleeding caused by peliosis cysts on the liver
- In males: shrinking of testicles, balding, breast development, infertility, and prostate cancer
- In women: adverse effects may include growth of facial hair, deepened voice, and menstrual cycle cessation or irregularities.
Mental and emotional adverse effects may include:
- Anger, rage and violence
- Suicidal ideation
- Mood swings
- Long-lasting depression
- Impaired judgment
- Nervousness and tremors