Anabolic steroids are commonly abused by weight lifters, bodybuilders and athletes and there have been huge issues with steroid abuse in sports like baseball and athletics, but also in gyms around the world. But are anabolic steroids addictive, do they produce withdrawals, what are the side effects and dangers and how big of a problem is this in the United States?
Nicknames for anabolic steroids include Juice, Gym Candy and Roids, and there are also nicknames for the many different drugs that fall into this group. There is no one “anabolic steroid”, but rather a group of drugs that aim to increase the levels of hormones like testosterone, which has a significant impact on everything from aggression to muscle building and repair.
It is a naturally occurring hormone and is also prescribed as a first course treatment for issues such as delayed puberty in men and breast cancer in women. Much like melatonin, it is a hormone that can be safe and does have beneficial users, but unlike melatonin anabolic steroids tend to be used in large quantities, well over the safe limits. This can lead to all kinds of side effects and, potentially, steroid addiction.
Are Anabolic Steroids Addictive?
In a way, yes. It is possible to develop an addiction to anabolic steroids and this addiction can be both physical and psychological, similar to drugs like heroin. A steroid addict will crave the drug and do everything within their power to attain it, they may also suffer withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.
There is no defined timeframe in which steroid addiction will occur, but occasional users are unlikely to be at risk of this providing the doses are low and they are not using on a continuos basis.
Anabolic Steroid Withdrawals
Withdrawals can last anywhere from several weeks to up to a year, with the psychological effects being the ones that stick around the longest. Symptoms of steroid withdrawal can include:
These withdrawals occur from abuse as well as cessation and are the body’s way of trying to regulate normal hormonal flow after being accustomed to a flood of testosterone entering the body for so long. Hormonal supplementation may be prescribed to help with steroid withdrawal. Antidepressants may also be able to help with the depression side of things, with drugs like trazodone offering both an antidepressant effect and a sedative effect to help with insomnia.
Painkillers may also be prescribed to reduce muscle/joint pains, although prescribing physicians should avoid addictive opiates and opioids and instead opt for NSAIDs which are both more effective in such instances and also don’t have any risk of addiction.
Types of Anabolic Steroids
We have multiple guides to many of the different anabolic steroids here on AddictiveAddiction. So if the list of steroids below contains a link, just click-through to learn more about them. If it doesn’t then the guide is still in production.
The most commonly used and abused anabolic steroids on the market right now include:
Are All Anabolic Steroids Illegal?
Anabolic steroids fall under Schedule III in the United States, which means you can serve as much as a year in prison and be hit with a fine of as much as $1,000 if you are caught in possession. The terms for trafficking them are considerably bigger.
This classification puts anabolic steroids in the category as opioids like oxycodone and Methadone.
In the UK anabolic steroids are classified as Class C and it is not an offense to possess them (although it is illegal to supply and manufacture). This means that in the UK they are the same classification as benzodiazepines like Valium, as well as drugs such as ketamine.
Anabolic steroids can be legally prescribed for the treatment of a number of hormonal issues (but not for bodybuilding). This means they have a legitimate purpose, which in turns means it is harder to control the availability and sale of them.
Is It Possible to Gain Muscle Without Anabolic Steroids?
Of course! Steroids certainly help the process and they can also push the body beyond its natural limits, but you can still get very big without them. In fact, people doing bodybuilding for the first time are usually quite pleasantly surprised at how quickly they grow bulk, as it only takes a few weeks to notice a change and a few months to start noticing significant alternations in muscle mass. Assuming, that is, that you eat right and train hard.
Steroids don’t grow your muscles automatically. You can’t inject today and bulk up like Popeye tomorrow. You still need to lift a lot, even more in fact. What steroids do is basically reduce the amount of time that the body needs to recover. Every time you workout, your muscles begin to break down and then rebuild and it is this process that causes them to come back bigger and stronger.
If you don’t give them time to repair then they won’t grow sufficiently and because you need to give them time, it means that you can really only work the same muscle group 1 to 3 times a week (depending on intensity). Steroid users do not need to wait this long and can push their bodies further, for longer and with few breaks in between, which allows them to grow muscle at a greater rate.
Side Effects of Steroid Use in Men
One of the main side effects of steroid use in men is acne, which can be quite severe. The skin and the hair can also become very oily and hair loss can be a big problem as well. These are typically very common side effects, especially in users taking high doses over extended periods of time. There are much worse side effects associated with steroid use though, including problems with the liver, kidney and heart.
Gynecomastia is also a major problem for male users of anabolic steroids. This involves the abnormal enlargement of mammary glands, which basically means they are growing breast tissue.
A longer list of side effects can be found below. This is for both men and women, but we have focused more on female side effects in the section that follows this one:
- Liver Disease (Tumors, Cysts)
- Kidney Disease
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Altered Mood
- Reduced Sperm
- Testicle Shrinkage
- Stunted Growth (in those still growing)
Side Effects of Steroid Use in Women
Facial hair growth and increased hair growth in general is a major concern for female users of steroids. There are other side effects for women that use steroids though, including problems with infertility, menstrual irregularities and a deeper voice.