It’s incredibly easy to get hooked on steroids, if you’re not careful. The temptation to want to increase your performance, run faster, get stronger, look slimmer, and in general feel more energized can lure you into an addictive cycle. And if you’re an athlete, then you might even feel pressure from the media, the Internet, friends, competitors, coaches, and parents to perform at optimal levels.  This can make anyone vulnerable to an addiction to steroids.

The problem with steroids is that at first they seem harmless. And they have a reputation for being harmless. Plus, when you’re on them, you feel good and strong. You feel healthy. Yet, because of these feelings, the use of steroids can easily spin out of control and an addiction can develop. In fact, there is a large problem with steroids around the country among high school and college students, as well as professional athletes.

Steroids are sometimes described as anabolic (meaning muscle building) or androgenic (meaning increased male sexual characteristics). The full name for this drug is anabolic-androgenic steroids, sometimes abbreviated as AAS. Steroids are drugs that mimic the male sex hormone testosterone, such as promoting the growth of cells, particularly in the muscles, and enhancing certain masculine characteristics.

Steroids can either be taken orally or injected directly into muscles. Other forms can be applied to the skin as a cream or gel. When abusing the drug, athletes might take doses that are 10 to 100 times greater than medically prescribed doses. However, it’s important to know that it’s a felony to take steroids without a prescription. Plus, the effects of abusing steroids can be severe. Severe abuse of steroids can lead to joint pain, depression, hallucinations, fertility problems, impotence, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart and liver abnormalities.  Males might experience their testes shrink and growth in breast tissue, while females might experience irregular menstrual cycles and the growth of facial and body hair. Both genders could experience acne, mood swings, and aggression.

If an addiction is alive for an athlete, body builder, or anyone who requires the use of steroids for their health, he or she may have to enter medical treatment for withdrawal and detoxification. Recovering from steroids first includes a detoxification process, and during detox there might be some uncomfortable experiences that come from weaning off the drug. Symptoms of steroid withdrawal will vary depending on the intensity of the addiction, the frequency of use, and one’s physical characteristics. However, in general, there are some common withdrawal symptoms which include:

–Weight loss
–Low blood pressure
–Muscle aches

Furthermore, a withdrawal from steroids might also affect one’s psychological health. For instance, symptoms of anxiety, depression, and paranoia might develop. As in most other detox processes, you will be prescribed medication to facilitate the detoxification of steroids from the body. In the case of steroids, medication prescribed will often be endocrine medication because an addiction to steroids typically affects the endocrine system and its functioning. Other drugs that are prescribed during steroid detox includes anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory, and clonidine.

Along with detox, recovery from steroids will likely also include drug counseling, psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and assessment for other psychological disorders. For those with a severe steroid addiction, there is usually other psychological illnesses underneath, including body dysmorphic disorder or an eating disorder.  When someone wants to take steroids to change their appearance, there is frequently underlying beliefs about one’s body that might be dysfunctional. Therefore, it’s essential that recovery from steroids include a psychological component to address any mental illnesses that accompany the addiction.

Lastly, full recovery also includes careful re-entry to working out or sports performance. During this time, it’s essential that an athlete maintain sobriety. Some athletes may find this difficult because the pressure to perform from external sources won’t go away. For this reason, recovery might also require staying at a residential treatment center or a sober living home. It might also require participating in support groups to be in a community of other athletes who have faced the challenge of steroid addiction and have healed from it.

If you’re struggling with an addiction to steroids, recovery is absolutely possible. To begin, contact a mental health professional today.

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