In Drugs & Addictions, Health Professionals

Steroid Abuse: Read about Signs and Symptoms

steroid abuse

Anabolic steroids are illegal performance-enhancing drugs. They are used to help young people bulk up and get stronger. Due to their addictive nature, people easily abuse them and suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Steroid abuse is characterized by a series of  short-term, physical and psychiatric changes. These changes take the form of distinct symptoms. Steroid abuse came to public attention with the emergence of expressions like “roid rage” and when steroid scandals rocked the sports scene. Here you are going to find out the most common signs and symptoms of steroid abuse.

Signs of Steroid Abuse: Physical Changes:

These are the major, short-term side effects that are not easily hidden by novice steroid abusers. They are very obvious to relatives and outside friends who closely monitor a suspect of abuse or see him/her on a regular basis.

– High blood pressure (Hypertension).

Abnormal liver values. This is only indicated through a blood test done, however there are some significant signs of elevated liver enzymes. A person with elevated liver enzymes would suffer from abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and jaundice (yellowing of skin). When the levels of liver enzymes reach a threshold in blood, this could mean a serious liver disease like cancer. If left untreated, this will subsequently lead to death.

– Small red or purple acne breakouts on the back and the shoulders. This gives way to other skin eruptions and infections like abscesses and cysts.

– Persistent bad breath.

– Extreme hunger or drastic appetite loss.

– Greasy hair and oily skin (even for those with natural dry hair). Sometimes people who suffer from steroid abuse might experience thinning hairline or severe hair loss.

– Rapid weight gain. Typically when people work out on a regular basis they will experience minor weight gain because their bodies are converting stored fat into muscle mass. However, in case of steroid abusers, they will notice unexplained, sudden weight gain. The dramatic effect will be especially apparent to people who have not seen them in quite a while. Apart from the weight gain there is also increased muscle size which results in massive bulking up. This is caused via two ways: increased muscle protein production and blockage of the effect of cortisol (stress hormone) on muscle tissue.

– Abnormal development of breast tissue in males (gynecomastia). This is very difficult to get rid of and might consequently lead male steroid abusers to be bullied.

– For male steroid abusers they would encounter significant shrinking of testicles (testicular atrophy) and decreased sperm count.

– In females, swelling of the clitoris occurs (might be a permanent physical change).

Learn more from the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Signs of Steroid Abuse: Psychiatric or Personality Changes:

These signs are not commonly noticed by people. They happen suddenly and without visible triggers.

– Extreme changes in energy. Some people experience hyperactivity while others end up being lethargic. Some steroid abusers panic because despite being too tired to work out, they are rapidly gaining muscle mass. Others find out they cannot rest due to feeling mysteriously hyper.

– Memory loss. People keep forgetting some of their basic daily information like plans, dates and major events.

Hallucinations. People start seeing and hearing things that are not present, and also have problems in focusing and concentrating.

– Aggression and irritability. Normally calm and decent individuals suffer major changes in personality, even the calmest pacifists become physically and verbally abusive.

Disruption of sleeping patterns. People might sleep too much or not at all. Steroid abusers might take more naps than usual or sleep in class or at work which would have a negative effect on their job performances.

– Extreme mood swings.

steroid abuse

Steroid Abuse Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are abnormal physical and psychological manifestations that follow the abrupt discontinuation of anabolic steroids.

Most of these symptoms occur due to changes in the natural hormonal balance in the body. The abuser’s body would need some time to regulate its biological functions after complete dependence on synthetic steroids.

The most common steroid abuse withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Weakness, fatigue.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhea which might lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Low blood sugar levels which would lead to dizziness and fainting.
  • Joint pain and muscle aches.
  • In females: menstrual changes.

Steroid use should be stopped through a process called tapering. This process depends on gradual discontinuation or reduction of therapeutic dose of steroids over a prolonged period of time. Tapering steroids gives the adrenal glands time to regulate their normal hormone secretion. Unfortunately, even with tapering, steroid abusers would still experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms, of which some might be fatal.

Are there Legal Steroids?

Many websites around the internet promise pro-athletes and body builders worldwide a variety of “legitimate steroid products”. This is mostly phishing scam where companies give drugs pseudo-names to hide their illegitimacy and promote them as harmless supplements.

In the United States, anabolic steroids are controlled substances classified as Schedule III drugs by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). To obtain a prescription and buy anabolic steroids you must have a viable medical condition (such as muscle wasting disease, burns, hormone replacement therapy, AIDS, certain types of cancer, etc.) and your drug administration will be monitored and tapered by a certified doctor.


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