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Anabolic steroid abuse – Health implications & How to withdraw

Steroid abuse has been on the high increase in society today. Inappropriate use of Steroids can produce so many Adverse drug reactions which can be life-threatening on a long term use. The problem of steroid abuse affects different strata and ages of the society ranging from professionals, Business people, Athletes, fitness trainers, and even school-age children.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2018 estimated that several teens in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades have been using Anabolic Steroids for bodybuilding while some have admitted using them for the past 1 year.

A 10-year assessment of 550 athletes in Puerto Rico from 2000-to 2009 confirmed that 62% of male athletes and 38% of female athletes use Anabolic steroids to enhance performance.

Steroid abuse is different from Opioid abuse since it does not give a Euphoria feeling of highness like Cocaine, Marijuana, or Morphine. Hence, they are classified as Appearance and Performance Drugs (APIs).

However, they are the same as Opioids because they tend to give withdrawal symptoms when stopped. Some of these withdrawal symptoms of steroids include; Depression, Mood swings, tiredness, loss of appetite, insomnia, and Apathy. The depression caused by Steroids can lead to suicidal attempts.

What is Anabolic Steroid?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of the male Androgenic hormone – Testosterone. They can bind to receptors of the male sex hormones. Therefore, they help to develop the male secondary characteristics such as sperm production, increase in muscle mass, and strength.

Anabolic steroids are used in the management of some health issues such as Hypogonadism (a condition in which the body cannot produce enough testosterone), Muscle wasting as in Cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Androgenic steroids are also prescribed to correct hormonal imbalances.

Nevertheless, Anabolic steroids are abused when they are used without a prescription from a Doctor. They are used illegally to burn fat, increase muscle mass, enhance athletic performance, increase strength and improve appearance. Some, however, like every other drug of abuse are used due to peer pressure from friends.

Common Anabolic steroids of abuse

There are many anabolic steroids in circulation but this list is the most commonly available steroids for recreational use.

  • Oxymetholone (Amador)
  • Oxandrolone (Anavar)
  • Methandrostenolone (Dianabol)
  • Trenbolone-Acetate (Fina)
  • Boldenone-Undecylenate (Equipoise)
  • Fluoxymesteron (Halotestin)
  • Stanozolol (Winstrol)
  • Testosterone Mixture (Sustanon-250)

Ways to use steroid

Cycling: Steroidal cycling means using steroids periodically. Steroid users usually use the “on-cycle” and “off-cycle” to indicate their periods of taking steroids and when they are not. The on-cycle usually lasts from 6-12 weeks while the off-cycle can last up to weeks. cycling is used to reduce the side effects of steroids.

Stacking: Stacking is when users combine several steroids to get a synergistic result from them. They mix oral and/or injectable types.

Pyramiding: Pyramiding is a term used to refer to a gradual increase of the dose of the Steroid to a peak level, then, the dose is gradually reduced till it reaches the zero level.

Side effects of steroids

Long-term use of Anabolic steroids has so many detrimental side effects. For girls, it is common to develop male characteristics such as deepening of the voice, shrinking of breasts, development of facial hairs, and menstrual cycles disorders.

For boys, reduced sperm count, infertility, breast development, testicular shrinkage, and impotency.

Generally, both genders experience the following side effects in addition;

  • acne
  • hair loss (Alopecia)
  • weight gain
  • high blood pressure
  • fluid retention
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin); liver damage
  • stunted growth
  • difficulty sleeping
  • mood swings
  • increased risk of developing heart disease, blood clots, stroke, and some types of cancer

Long-term use of steroids can lead to serious Liver damage, Heart diseases, and abnormal distribution of fats. Bone marrow depression is also common which can lead to decreased production of the red blood cells.

How to withdraw from Anabolic steroid

As mentioned earlier, steroids are addictive and present withdrawal symptoms when stopped. The symptom includes both physical and psychological symptoms. The physical symptoms include;

  • fatigue
  • restlessness
  • Lack of sleep
  • decreased sex drive
  • loss of appetite

The psychological symptoms of withdrawal include;

  • aggression
  • violence
  • Mania
  • depression
  • suicidal attempts

Research in 2010 suggests the treatment of withdrawal symptoms of Anabolic steroids based on the 3 etiologic mechanisms of dependence.

First Mechanism; Those with the body-image disorder, depend on steroids because of the “Anabolic effect”. Stopping steroids for them is difficult because they believe they will go out of shape. This class of drug users will benefit from both Psychological and Anabolic treatments.

Second Mechanism; Users that are addicted because of the “Androgenic effect”. withdrawal of steroids usually comes with hypogonadism. This class will require treatment with human chorionic gonadotropin or clomiphene to reactivate neuro-endocrine function. Those who are depressed because of the condition will benefit from antidepressant treatments.

Third Mechanism; Addiction in this class is due to the “hedonic effect“. This class depends on steroids because of the pleasure they get from using them. Treatment of the class just like Opioid users will require pharmacological and psychosocial treatments.

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