Anabolic steroid abuse – Health implications & How to withdraw

Steroid abuse has been on the high increase in the 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 age of the society ranging from professionals, Business people, Athletes, fitness trainers and even the school-age children.

Anabolic steroid abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2018 estimated that a number of teens in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades have been using Anabolic Steroids for body building while some have admitted using it for the past 1 year.

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

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

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

What is Anabolic Steroid?

The Anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of the male Androgenic hormone – Testosterone. They have the ability to 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 is 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 (Anadrol)
  • 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 steroid 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 with steroids.

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

Pyramiding: Pyramiding is a term used to refer to 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 have so many detrimental side effects. For girls, it is common to develop male characteristics such as deepening of 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, the 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 presents withdrawal symptoms when stopping. The symptom includes both physical and Psychological symptoms. The physical symptoms includes;

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

The psychological symptoms of withdrawal includes;

  • aggression
  • violence
  • Mania
  • depression
  • suicidal attempts

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

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

Second Mechaism; Users that are addicted because of “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 “hedonic effect“. This class depends on steroid because of the pleasure they get from using them. Treatment of the class just like Opiod users will require  pharmacological and psychosocial treatments.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. P Acevedo, JC Jorge, A Cruz-Sánchez, E Amy, JL Barreto-Estrada (2011, October). A Ten-year Assessment of Anabolic Steroid Misuse among Competitive Athletes in Puerto Rico [NCBI]
  3. Trenton AJ, Currier GW. (2005). Behavioral manifestations of anabolic steroid use. source;[PUBMED]
  4. Gen K, Kirk J. B, Ruth I. W, James I. H, and Harrison G. P, Jr. (2010).Treatment of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Dependence: Emerging Evidence and Its Implications. accessed (March 16, 2019). source. [NCBI]

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