In our society today, there is a huge emphasis on physical health and being fit. Of course, it is important to be healthy, but how far is too far in the quest for physical perfection? A lot of the time, many people assume that steroid abuse only happens to professional or Olympic athletes, however, studies are showing that the prevalence of steroid abuse actually occurs more often in everyday people who want to get in shape fast.
When a person falls into a cycle of steroid abuse, this is usually a pretty good indicator that the obsession has gone too far. It has become very common for people to use steroids, as a way to increase muscle mass and gain strength in a short amount of time, but what they may not realize, is that taking steroids can be addictive and damaging to physical and mental health.
What do Steroids Do?
There are multiple different types of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs out there. In the case of steroid addiction, people are most commonly taking anabolic steroids to help them build muscle, become leaner, or lose weight quickly. The other type of steroids is corticosteroids.
These are the ones that are most often given by a doctor, in a localized injection from
- A sport or accident injury
- Chronic pain
Corticosteroids break down tissue and reduce inflammation. Over time, they actually have the complete opposite effect of anabolic steroids, and they result in muscle weakness.
Both men and women fall under the category of steroid abusers, and as our society’s obsession with physical perfection continues to permeate social media, magazines, television, advertisements, and pretty much everything else, the rise of steroid abuse continues with it.
What Are the Physical Side Effects?
For the most part, people who are buying and using anabolic steroids are purchasing them illegally, under the table from a friend, coworker, gym employee, etc. Hopefully, the people selling the drugs are informing the users of the side effects, the “correct” cycle in which to use the drugs, and how much to take.
However, not all drug dealers are created equal, so here is a quick breakdown of some of the short-term side effects of steroid abuse:
- “Roid Rage” – drastic mood swings
- Rapid muscle gain or bulk weight gain
- Excess amounts of energy
- Enlarged breasts in men
- Growth of facial hair in women
- Face and body acne
- Blood Clots
- Yellow Eyes and Skin
- Vomiting Blood
There is technically a “correct” way to use steroids, which people call cycling. This means they will go on and off the drugs, and vary the doses on a routine basis to help eliminate some of these physical and mental side effects of the steroids.
However, even the most precise cycling pattern does not always work for everyone, and there have been found to be serious long-term effects from steroid abuse.
The Dangerous Side of Bulking
We are all well aware of the legalities and trouble that professional athletes can get into from using and abusing steroid drugs, but that doesn’t ward some people away from continuing to use them.
In addition, reports of physically fit and healthy athletes suddenly collapsing due to heart failure from steroid use still do not keep people away. But what about the long-term effects, if you can get past the short-term effects, don’t have a heart attack, and continue to use anabolic steroids?
Research has shown that long-term steroid use has been known to cause:
- Liver cancer
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Stunted growth in adolescents
- HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis (through sharing needles)
- High Cholesterol
- Mental Disorders
What About Roid Rage?
This phrase wasn’t created as a joke. Most users experience real and severe mood swings and irritability, aggression, and agitation. Some users even experience the opposite effect where they are plagued by depression, sadness, and even suicidal thoughts.
In 2007, professional wrestler Chris Benoit was found dead in his home, along with his wife and son. The verdict was a murder-suicide, with Benoit first killing his wife and son, and then hanging himself. Anabolic steroids were found in the home.
While a majority of users don’t get to that extreme, most users do experience some form of behavioral or emotional change or unrest during their steroid abuse. Gary Wadler, MD, and spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine and member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, described roid rage as,
“Roid Rage, in many ways, I would characterize as a form of loss of impulse control. It provokes overreactions via a stimulus that normally doesn’t produce such a severe reaction… You may put your fist through a wall… that rage is precipitated by the brain being exposed to anabolic steroids.”
While Wadler states that roid rage doesn’t occur in all cases of steroid abuse, he does state that “it’s not rare by any means.” Wadler also goes on to point out that evidence of extreme cases of violence in people who abuse steroids may not only be due to the steroids but could be the result of a long-term mental disorder that has either been lying dormant or has been manageable for the individual. However, when the steroids are introduced to the brain and body, it can “unmask” this mental disorder, resulting in extreme and baffling emotional or behavioral outbursts.
Recovering From Steroid Abuse
For people who struggle with a steroid addiction, there has been extensive research indicating that there are other mental disorders at hand, as mentioned above. One of the most common of these is a type of Body Dysmorphia. This means that the user has a skewed image of their physical form, and they use the steroids, clean eating, and frequent exercise as tools to placate their mental disorder.
Recovery from steroid abuse and any potential underlying mental disorders is possible. If you are concerned that you or your loved one may be struggling with an addiction to steroids, it is possible to reach out to a doctor, a counselor, a therapist, or any other trusted loved ones for help.