Steroids have many medical uses, but certain types are used to enhance athletic performance. Non-anabolic steroids, or corticosteroids, are used medically for a number of health and growth issues. Anabolic steroids are occassionally used medically, but their main abuse relates to athletic performance enhancement.
Steroids have a significant potential for abuse, and heavy users may require recovery in an inpatient setting. When considering treatment, it is important to consider:
- Why do people use steroids?
- Why is steroid abuse dangerous?
- What does abuse entail?
- What kind of treatment is there?
What Are Steroids Used For?
A steroid is any compound that contains a specific arrangement of four carbon rings. This includes a large number of chemicals such as cholesterol, sex hormones, and anti-inflammatory drugs. There are two main types of steroids:
- Corticosteroids, which are similar to hormones and affect the body’s inflammation and immune response.
- Anabolic steroids, which are man-made chemicals that mimic male sex hormones.
Steroids are used for numerous reasons. Non-anabolic steroids have many different medical uses:
- Autoimmune diseases.
- Skin conditions (like eczema and rashes).
- Some forms of cancer.
Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, are a class of steroids that include testosterone. They can increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance when combined with a proper diet and exercise program, but the use of steroids is prohibited in professional sports as well as amateur events. Anabolic steroids are sometimes used to treat hormone problems in men, delayed puberty, and disease-related muscle loss.
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Adverse Effects of Steroid Use
Steroids are powerful chemicals, and prolonged use of them may lead to harmful side effects. Corticosteroids, while generally less risky than anabolic steroids, may weaken bones and cause a person to develop cataracts.
Anabolic steroids may cause many adverse effects, depending on the dosage and period of use. An increase in blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems that lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack are the most common side effects, especially when the user already has hypertension.
Other side effects include:
“Steroids have many medical uses, but certain types are used to enhance athletic performance. They have a significant potential for abuse, and heavy users may require recovery in an inpatient setting.”
- In men: breast growth and testicle shrinking.
- In women: voice deepening and facial hair.
- Heart problems.
- Liver disease/cancer.
- Kidney damage.
- Aggressive behavior.
Corticosteroids have a very low risk of dependence, but anabolic steroids can be reinforcing and lead to addiction. Only a small percentage of anabolic steroid users seem to experience dependence or withdrawal effects. Animal studies have shown that animals will self-administer these drugs just as they do other addictive substances.
Anabolic steroid abuse can also lead to withdrawal effects when use is stopped. Withdrawal can include mood swings, depression, exhaustion, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, and reduced sex drive.
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The first phase of steroids addiction treatment is detoxification, which generally involves tapering off these drugs gradually. An endocrinologist should provide medical management over this process in order to minimize the effects of changing hormone levels in the body.
The most common psychological side effect during the detox phase of treatment is depression. Users may experience withdrawal symptoms as their dosage of anabolic steroids is reduced.
“Support groups are a common part of aftercare, which allow patients to interact with other people who have abused anabolic steroids.”
The psychological problems underlying steroid abuse, such as the loss of self-esteem, can be addressed in a 12-step program or behavioral therapy.
Therapy typically follows the detox phase for the treatment of anabolic steroid addiction. This phase attempts to determine the underlying causes for the patient’s drug abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the patient identify and cope with high-risk circumstances that are likely to result in a relapse.
Aftercare is the next phase of treatment, which is usually performed on an outpatient basis. Support groups are a common part of aftercare, which allow patients to interact with other people who have abused anabolic steroids.
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. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. (2014). Steroids.
. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. (2014). Anabolic steroids.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). DrugFacts: Anabolic Steroids.