Substance abuse and addiction affect millions of Americans every year. Addiction is not a problem that only effects and individual, instead it hurts all of those around them. Families, friends, and whole communities can be negatively affected by an addiction. When people are questioned about addiction they often think about alcohol and hard drugs. They often skip over or are unaware of the many other things that people become addicted to. Exercise, sex, gambling, and steroid use are all addictions that plague thousands, even millions, of Americans. Steroid use and abuse is normally spoken in the context of athletes. What most do not know is that steroid use is equally dangerous across all age groups and continues to be a problem for young adults and teenagers. The pursuit of a perfect body or complete domination over opponents is pushing your adults towards a dangerous practice.

What are Steroids?

Steroids, anabolic steroids or anabolic-androgenic steroids are synthetic compounds that are similar to the male hormone testosterone. Mimicking the male hormone testosterone, steroids promote skeletal muscle growth and the growth of male sexual features. The anabolic effect of the compound promotes muscle growth; whole the androgenic part promotes sexual characteristic changes. Steroids were first created in the 1930’s to treat a plethora of problems. The drug has been used to treat hypogonadism, which is the condition in males when the testes do not produce sufficient testosterone. These drugs have also been used to treat delayed puberty, impotence, and muscle wasting as a result of degenerative diseases. Over the next several years, scientists discovered that steroids were capable of increase sing muscle in lab animals. Quickly afterwards, body builders and weight lifters become the first people to use and abuse the drugs. It quickly became a popular drug to use to gain an edge in competition; and it is also used recreationally.

Dangers of Steroid Abuse

The dangers and risks of steroid abuse are both mental and physical. Some of these consequences from abuse can be reversible when use is decreased, but other consequences can be permanent. The word synthetic means artificial. Anabolic steroids are synthetic compounds that mimic the work done by the body’s natural hormone testosterone. When an individual takes anabolic steroids they are injecting unnatural compounds into their natural bodily system. This disrupts the natural hormonal balance of the body. When steroids are used properly to treat a certain condition they are safe, but when they are not used as recommended they can cause damage to the parts of the body they were created to help. Steroid abuse can cause men to have a reduced sperm count and testicular atrophy. When steroid use is stopped these effects usually reverse, but male pattern baldness and male breast development can still occur.

When women abuse steroids they can expect to gain more masculine physical features. Their skin becomes coarser, reduction in body fat, decrease in breast size, thickening of body hair, and male pattern baldness can develop. Many of these consequences can become irreversible if the steroid abuse continues.

Steroid abuse is dangerous on the cardiovascular system. Continued steroid abuse can lead to an increased risk of heart disease or stroke. It can also result in increased risk of blood clot formation, which can lead to more damage to the heart. Internal bleeding risk is increased from steroid abuse because the drug causes liver tumors and cysts. Steroids also cause poor skin health resulting in oily and acne riddled skin. Depending on the delivery method of consuming steroids, infectious disease is possible through needle sharing.

Addictive Properties of Steroids

As previously stated, when people think about addiction the first thing that comes to mind is hard drugs like heroin. It is commonly known that heroin is an incredibly powerful drug that often creates an addict after its first use. The intense high and euphoria that is created is hard for most to resist. As science and professionals gain a better understanding of how addiction works, we are able to understand that it consists of more than the physical compulsion to continue to abuse substances. The same behavioral and withdrawal symptoms found in drug addicts can be witnessed in steroid addicts as well. Steroids can be considered addicting because they create behavioral issues as well as withdrawal symptoms. Most individuals begin using steroids to increase muscle mass or gain a competitive edge. The desire to increase muscle mass could be a result of a condition called muscle dysmorphia, which people see themselves as thin when in actuality they are very muscular. This condition is similar to eating disorders in those who want to be thin, but are already very thin. Steroid abusers continue to use and abuse the drug because they want to be different or feel better. Those who use the drug to increase their happiness are very similar to drug addicts who use to feel better. They continue to abuse these drugs even though they know the danger; a textbook sign of addiction. In addition, steroids are illegal and therefore these individuals are putting themselves in legal danger. This places them in both legal and monetary danger. The high risk and high consequence aspect of steroid use classifies it as an addiction. Steroid abusers also experience withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop using. Steroid withdrawal symptoms include low sex drive, loss of appetite, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia and depression.

Getting Help

Getting help for an addiction can be difficult, but it is not impossible. If you or someone you know could be addicted to steroids look for the symptoms of abuse (consequences of use from above). Irritability and anger are often easy signs to detect in a steroid abuser. If abuse or addiction is the case it is best to speak for a professional. Addiction specialists can help create a plan to confront the addict and their issue. Intervention specialists can also be involved in getting an addict to see the damage they are causing themselves and those around them.